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PostPosted: 04 Jan 2016, 17:07 
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I've been wanting to have a go at this for a while and have been inspired by various videos by Next Level and Ringer.

Here's my first real attempt today. Note that before todays practice, I was lucky to even make contact with the ball. I'm absolutely sure that its probably nothing like a Pendulum serve but it is my starting point.

Inserted in the vids is the spin in an ice cream container to give you an idea of the spin I'm generating. Of course these aren't directly related to the serve that its inserted into, just thought it was more interesting this way. I don't usually use sunglasses, but was very bright out there today and very hot.



Happy viewing.

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PostPosted: 04 Jan 2016, 20:01 
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You're getting decent spin, so I think you're on the right track! It seems you've got the hand of mixing the sidespin with top/back spin as well (I hope that is intentional :lol: ), so you're doing really well!

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PostPosted: 04 Jan 2016, 20:15 
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Hey, Cobalt, saw this while suffering from my most recent bout of insomnia. Most people don't believe me when I say this but most of your serve practice should start away from the table. And the first step should be mastering the basic backspin serve with whatever grip you plan to use by practising on the floor or bed or even a towel laid on any flat surface. The reaction of the ball gives you feedback on your spin and you can practice good form and get your racket head speed faster and spin generation up without worrying about making the serve.

Without good racket head speed and spin, what your serve can do is capped. While some players skip this step and get lucky over time by having their broader TT skill influence their serving level, there are many reasons this is unwise, the biggest being that serving can transform your understanding of TT.

After getting good spin, you can then learn the tricks for reducing your spin while serving in largely the same way. Varying the amount of spin is the most powerful deception tool and is arguably more important than mixing up side top vs side back etc.

After the spin control is mastered, working at the table is more profitable. People who serve almost always at the table rarely develop high level serves relative to their overall game.

For your video: it's a decent attempt and it would help to know who you are modelling and what you want the serve to do. If you aren't sure, consider taking my advice and putting in the hours away from the table to improve spin generation and develop a well timed backspin motion with your grip. Learning to serve heavy backspin is a game-changing experience.

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PostPosted: 04 Jan 2016, 20:45 
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I'm not modelling on anyone but I have trouble myself with someone who has deception between top and backspin with this serve so I guess I'm trying to develop a serve which is similar looking and hard to pick.

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PostPosted: 05 Jan 2016, 02:39 
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Okay. IF you don't read the details below this paragraph, the single biggest technical improvement you can make right now is to make less of your swing visible to the receiver. The triangle you are forming when you finish your swing should not be visible to me as a receiver. So it should not be visible to the camera. The racket at ball contact must be, as well as the ball throughout the toss and serve, but the racket doesn't have to be visible before that and neither should the triangle.

Well, obviously, the basic model for pendulum serves is that your racket travels through a path that depending on where in that path the ball is contacted or what hemisphere on the ball is contacted in that path, different spins are generated. Right now, your racket path is too clearly large and the racket angles are too different throughout it to deceive a good player, though it might deceive someone who just isn't into reading serves at all and finds the racket angles largely meaningless. This is pretty rare once a player is trained in serve return even at the basic level. The size of your current swing as well as the speed make it too easy for a player like myself or haggisv to see that path and the resulting spin (and I am generally bad at reading spin, FWIW). The speed and trajectory of the ball have the same effect. Your ball is currently taking a fairly long time to get to the returner and that long flight path makes it easier to see what the ball is doing. If you change your body position to hid the triangle formed by your swing, the problems with the swing will be somewhat solved, but the ball quality problems, not so much.

That said, you do have the lefty advantage and that messes up a few people just by itself.

Racket head speed makes everything easier. The better loopers have it, the better choppers have it, the better servers have it - in short, playing better TT is often about racket head speed and controlling it. IT's hard to develop it while trying to make a serve at the table. The touch required to make a serve at the table is too hard to develop while trying to develop good racket head speed that generates spin if all your practice is at the table. It is best developed with countless repetitions away from the table. That way you can get good spin with a shorter racket swing with less follow through at the ball, your can practice hiding your backswing up until the final moment when you make contact with the ball. The shorter follow through gives your opponent less visual cues as to what spin is on the ball and the racket angle can be deceptive if you know how to get different spins off very similar looking racket angles.

That said, what you are doing will get better - it depends on how rapidly you want it to get better and what level you want to take it to.

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PostPosted: 05 Jan 2016, 14:13 
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I don't really believe the best servers start with a towel, enough said
you are getting good sidespin, remember to sometimes make the serve go straight ie down the line
also watch the recovery , I know you are just learning this serve , just don't get into the habit of watching it without thinking and preparing for your third ball

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PostPosted: 05 Jan 2016, 20:53 
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haggisv wrote:
You're getting decent spin, so I think you're on the right track! It seems you've got the hand of mixing the sidespin with top/back spin as well (I hope that is intentional :lol: ), so you're doing really well!


Errm :?: Not really, not that I can recall now.

Could you tell at which point in the vid you might have spotted some topspin and some backspin. Some of the backspin are quite obvious but looking at it I can't really spot any topspin.

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PostPosted: 05 Jan 2016, 22:56 
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rodderz wrote:
I don't really believe the best servers start with a towel, enough said
you are getting good sidespin, remember to sometimes make the serve go straight ie down the line
also watch the recovery , I know you are just learning this serve , just don't get into the habit of watching it without thinking and preparing for your third ball


rodderz, so what do you believe?

So how do the best servers start?

This guy is supposedly a good server and he is teaching people to serve. When does he recommend you use the table? BTW, the green mats do what a towel would do, but you can use a towel to avoid chasing the ball around at home on your bed or floor. That's what I recommend to my students.

I see people at my club and I can tell the people who don't put their serve through this process - they often can't serve pure heavy backspin short without lobbing it. The best ones have a serve like Cobalt. Then it gets a little faster and lower, but it never gets to the point where people stop processing it. They get so concerned with making the serve that they never develop the hand speed and touch for really heavy spin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V553uldm29w

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PostPosted: 05 Jan 2016, 23:15 
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Cobalt wrote:
haggisv wrote:
You're getting decent spin, so I think you're on the right track! It seems you've got the hand of mixing the sidespin with top/back spin as well (I hope that is intentional :lol: ), so you're doing really well!


Errm :?: Not really, not that I can recall now.

Could you tell at which point in the vid you might have spotted some topspin and some backspin. Some of the backspin are quite obvious but looking at it I can't really spot any topspin.


Many of the sidespin serves would be treated like topspin by advanced returners. The ones you sideswipe which kick out more rather than coming more across the bottom behave less like backspin than you think. 1:31 and 1:34 are obviously topspin tyoe serves, but there are others even earlier that I wouldn't treat as backspin.

That said, the other piece of advice I would give you in addition to hiding your triangle/swing is to contact the ball lower. A lot of these serves are pretty high because you contact the ball so far above the net and don't have the spin/touch to keep the ball straight and low. The lower, straighter and faster all your serves look, the more similar they look, the less time for the opponent to read, and the more deceptive they are.

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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2016, 14:52 
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Another thing to think about is to make contact with the ball closer to your body. Your contact with the ball at the moment is some distance from the body, this will make variation of placement and spin generation more difficult. You seem to reach a little for the serve which will make things a little harder in developing a good serving action and reaching optimum results.

Sorry if this has been covered above already.

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PostPosted: 07 Jan 2016, 10:06 
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In watching the video i could also see that i need to make contact closer to my body so thanks for confirming. Yesterday i was trying to work on that as well as hiring the ball lower. I guess to do this i either need to bend my knees or lean forward.
I did do some work on bat speed however i suspect better players will soon adjust to this so also worked on variety and the subtle differences between top and back spin. Won't post the vid as will wait until further down the track and need to take the next step.

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2016, 00:21 
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Cobalt wrote:
In watching the video i could also see that i need to make contact closer to my body so thanks for confirming. Yesterday i was trying to work on that as well as hiring the ball lower. I guess to do this i either need to bend my knees or lean forward.
I did do some work on bat speed however i suspect better players will soon adjust to this so also worked on variety and the subtle differences between top and back spin. Won't post the vid as will wait until further down the track and need to take the next step.


At least two world class servers I have listened to have made the analogy between high level serving with bat speed on one hand and magic tricks on the other. Their point is that when you know what causes the different spins and the racket is slowed down, most good players can see what is going on. But when the spins come out of fairly similar motions with no follow-through at contact, the racket is moving quickly and the ball trajectory is fairly quick and straight, a point comes when most minds can no longer process what is going on and the receiver is reduced to mere guessing.

I'm telling you this so that in general, you have an idea of what to aspire to if you want to serve well and you don't have to do this at a world class level for it to be effective on many people. While I have far from world class hand speed, I have found that when I made my pendulum contact motions smaller and more similar, I started consistently drawing errors from players USATT 1600 and below and even getting some easy points from players up to USATT 2000 (and this used to be my worst serve, by the way). I've had players miss my fast long serves outright because they fail to anticipate the trajectory change at the last second because the spin and the break is much heavier than they are used to.

While it is a good idea to work on serves away from feedback for a while in the hope of coming back with major improvements for criticism, do note the negative is that without consistent feedback, you may be developing habits that are hard to break. So looking for feedback for every hour or two of practice is reasonable. After about 5 hours or more, you are building things in that will be very painful to remove, especially if you are used to getting the ball on the table in a way you like. So finding the right balance between feedback and practice is important.

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2016, 02:14 
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I'll vouch for Brett being a "good server". Of the dozen or so serves I tried to get back, I didn't get a single one. They were totally unreadable. They either had very strong backspin (stronger than anything I'd ever encountered before), or topspin (in which case the ball just flew back over the end of the table), or a few went really fast and long over to my forehand corner. You could see the ball at the point of contact, but you couldn't see the racket before and darned if you could tell which way the racket was moving at the time of contact. According to him, the 2300 level Thai player he was practicing with couldn't read his serves, either (I noticed they would start out a practice rally by specifying the spin of the serve to be used to begin the rally). He said he varies the spin not so much with changing the point in the swing where the ball makes contact with the blade, but by varying where the ball actually touches the blade.

I've had a "pendulum serve" since almost the beginning - the first time I ever faced a 1700 level player (at the first tournament I attended) I couldn't get ANY of his serves back, I thought they were backspin when they were actually topspin, and I couldn't figure out why the balls were just flying off into space. After that was explained to me, I began to serve the same way, and had quite a bit of success with it, being able to fool players a great deal better than myself into putting the serve into the net or off the end of the table. It still works, especially at the level I play, but is nowhere as effective as it was in the day of the 38mm ball. I've been incorporating a lot of Brett's lessons into how I serve these days but it's hard to remember to do everything! (Keeping the waist bent, keeping the elbow up, timing the toss and swing properly to get the "whip", keeping the ball short - admittedly not as much of a problem where opponents can't loop!, using the right grip..)

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2016, 20:50 
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Today i did some more serve practice. As well as the pendulum serve, I did a few of my backhand and tomahawk serve which people around my level have trouble picking. I wanted to see why as I thought the actions between backspin and topspin, especially on the backhand serve were quite different. Seems to fool lots of people though.

In regard to the pendulum serve, tried to hit the ball lower and hit it closer to my body. Often I wasn't concentrating enough and did the opposite, when I did concentrate I noticed some improvement. One thing I picked up is I seem to be hitting the ball quite early in my stroke and if I let the ball drop a bit more as well as being lower, it would make contact with the bottom of the bat which is moving faster thereby creating more spin.

Here's the vid


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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2016, 23:42 
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So think through the information you are giving your opponent to read the serve. You are actually giving your opponent a lot of information on the pendulum serve. You also give information, but a little bit less on the backhand serve, and I am not sure that your tomahawk backspin serve fully deserves to be treated as backspin, though the tomahawk is just by is downward finish deceptive to people who can't see how the topspin comes from where the ball was contacted (I was one of them, so I know).

For the pendulum, you are revealing your full swing path still and contacting the ball too far from your body. Less of your swing path should be visible to the receiver. I am not saying you should copy my whole form with all its issues as in some ways, your form is better than mine, but I am saying that you should get that part right - the difference in information given to the receiver from that one change is massive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKOw5-3FoJs

There are other things but I will let others comment - my comments at this point must jade you a little ;).

Your backhand pendulum motions look superficially similar, but the key to what you fool people is that you go through the whole pendulum motion vigorously and give away all the information on the follow through, but by the time the ball has reached the opponent (and at your level, they are generally overwhelmed with processing anything), they are unable to see that the follow through has given away the spin and are concerned with trying to touch the ball. Better opponents will have time to process the follow through and they will have more reliable strokes, so they will get the ball back more consistently.

There are other ways of getting backhand deception and you could really raise your backhand deception level if you learned them.

But again, remember, the faster the serve goes through the table, the similarity of the ball trajectories created by the serve, the amount of spin, the less of the swing that is visible to the receiver, and the similarity of the swings to each other, and finally, the speed of the swing itself - these are all things that create deception. IF you go through this list and watch your serves, you will see why IMO, your backhand serve is the best and the pendulum serve is the worst.

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