Jim Butler uses Nano Spin II rubber from JUIC


     A strong service game is a powerful tool for success in Table Tennis. I had very poor serves growing up. I moved to Sweden for the first time at 18  years old, and it was there that I was able to learn from some of the best Europeans in the world, how to execute world class serves. Sweden’s Peter Karlsson was an athlete I looked up to a lot. He was a former world #6, and kind enough to practice with me a lot. I could not tell from his service motion if he was going to serve deep or short. His serves always had me off balance. I decided to throw my serves out, and copy his service motion.

     There are a lot of different ways to become a good server. I am going to share a concept that worked very well for me. I developed my serves using a deep serve motion. I practiced 4 deep serves with different spins, and used that same motion for my short service game also. The goal I wanted to accomplish by doing this was to make everyone think I may be serving deep on every serve, while pulling up at the very end of the motion for all of my short serves. I copied the deep service motion of Peter Karlsson, and I practiced serves at least an hour or more a day for about 6 months. I had a deep no spin serve, a deep side chop serve, a deep heavy topspin serve, and a deep side topspin serve. These four serves can be learned by any player, young or old. Serving does not require athletic ability. Serving good requires good technique, and a lot of practice perfecting them.

     Many of the top athletes in the world had difficulties receiving my deep serves. The more skilled the athlete, the more careful you have to be serving deep. I developed early success in my deep serving game, because I had 3 to 4 different deep serves I could always go to, and I practiced putting speed on all of them. Skilled athletes will easily adjust to one good deep serve, or even two. They may miss it the first few times, but they will adapt, and punish you if you keep doing the same deep serves. I learned that you can serve deep often against many athletes, as long as you constantly vary the spin and placement on the deep serve. If you can get your opponent to think about 3 or 4 different deep serves coming, it’s difficult for them to anticipate what you are going to do. Because of this, it will be difficult for your opponent to attack your deep serve past you with power and speed. They may be good enough to attack your deep serve with spin, but it will be difficult for them to blow the ball by you, because they can’t be sure which spin is coming.

     Whether your deep serves are giving your opponent trouble or not, they will ultimately make all of your short serves much more effective. I never had great short serves. They were low to the net, and I could put them short wherever I wanted on the table, but I rarely fooled people with deception in spin. If I served short, my opponent could usually tell what spin I put on the ball. However, my short serves were still effective for me, because my opponent was always respecting the possibility of me serving deep every serve. I served deep so often, and so fast, that my opponents had to respect the fact that I may be serving deep at them every serve. This forced them to defend my deep serve first, and react to a short serve second. This receiving mentality makes it much more difficult to receive short serves. When you are in a stance with your legs expecting a potential deep serve, you tend to back off the table a bit. This is not an ideal stance to receive short serves. The idea of receiving short serves is to get your legs in and under the table, in order to flip or push the serve back. Having your legs away from the table makes receiving short serves very difficult. Serving deep often, will help make your short serves more effective.

     I was willing to serve deep often against opponents that had good attacks off of them. I was losing a fair share of points using my deep serves against these types of opponents, but it made them struggle against my short serves, and gave me an advantage there. If I abandoned my deep serves against opponents that attacked them well, they would anticipate my short serves, and I would get punished on those serves also. Serving deep, even when it’s losing you points, can make your short serves more effective. Without good deep serves, and a mentality to serve against opponents deep often, my short serves would not have had the same success. I find many athletes hesitant to serve deep. At the lower levels, deep serves are extremely effective. You will win many points outright. At the highest levels they can still be effective as well. Develop good deep serves, and use them as a weapon. This is one of the quickest ways to win easy points in Table Tennis, and improve your overall service game.

-jim Butler