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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 09:34 
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G'day all

I've come across some discussion about when to use that "killer" serve which (for whatever reason) you think your opponent will have a lot of trouble against and which may earn you a cheap point.

There seems to be two basic positions.
Alois of pingskills advises, don't save that serve for 10-9. Instead, use it and use it often, and you might not have to worry about being only 10-9 up but win comfortably.

On the other hand, I read a book on table tennis once (I don't recall the name or the authors, but it was by fairly reputable coaches in Europe from memory) where they said, save that killer serve for 10-9!

My own view is that they are both right. It depends on why your serve is difficult for the opponent.

In my view, there are two possible reasons.

One is, the receiver has some technique-based problem with that serve. Maybe they can't handle a serve curling away on their FH, or something like that. They have a "gap" in their technique. In this case, it is unlikely they will fix this gap during the course of a match, and you can have a lot of success by repeating this serve often. If so, follow Alois' advice.

The other is some element of surprise. You have some serve whose action, you think, the receiver will not anticipate. Maybe you have a serve that you think you can fool your opponent with the heaviness of the topspin. In such a case, it is likely, after the first surprise, they will adapt very quickly. It might only work once or twice. In such a case, I think it is best to wait for the 10-9 point.

Any other views?

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 10:10 
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I have a particular serve that a lot of people struggle with, if they haven't seen it before. I use it early in the game, to see if they can read it; if they can't, and the game is tight, it will re-appear at 9-10 or 10-9... :D

If I know the player well, and know he can't handle it, I will use it a lot more, with different variations.


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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 11:38 
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This is a good question. I would agree with Alois. I've never played this game where I'm not thinking/tinkering every step of the way. To suggest that I hold something in reserve is to limit my thinking/tinkering/strategy during a game. Admittedly, I usually send my best serve to my opponent very early in a game to see how effective it is. It's amazing how often you discover that your killer serve just doesn't cut the mustard, especially against advanced players. With this is mind, it would be foolish to think that same serve would be effective at a critical stage (10-9).

My answer to this question would be that your killer serve should be the variety of serves you possess and, more importantly, how well you can deceive your opponent with variations that look to have the same serving action.

Also, when the scores are really tight, I can't count the number of times I tried that little bit too much and totally fluffed up my serve by sending it over the table, into the net or right into my edge of the table.

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 12:06 
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Im more likely to try my best serves at 7-7 and try and get a mini break

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 12:26 
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Really hard to execute a serve for the first time in a match at 10-9 or 9-9 and have it be exactly what you want it to be. You need to use it at least once before that just to make sure you are feeling everything and hit it exactly the way you want it. Remember, you may not be quite as relaxed as usual at 10-9 and maybe it goes a bit long, or a bit short, or in one way or another not you want it to be. And then instead of your "killer serve" you are just hitting a bad serve. In worst case, you miss the serve in the net or long!

So it sounds good in theory, it is often not so easy to actually do it. Which looking back, I see Oskar says much the same thing.

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 12:50 
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When I played at the Australian Vets, it was interesting to note that whenever I got close in a set, the opponent usually pulled out a tricky serve they hadn't shown before. But perhaps veterans are just more tricky by nature!!! ;)

I suspect, also, players will tend to do the tricky serve tactic to win a cheap point at a critical juncture against opponents they consider to be weak.

The most striking example of the killer serve late in game I've seen at the world class level is in the Korea Open finals between Seo Hyo Won and Kasumi. Seo Hyo Won had been doing the standard BH serve the whole match, and then, at something like 10-9 in the 7th game, she did a reverse BH serve and Kasumi misread it by a mile.

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Last edited by poor_knight on 04 Oct 2013, 12:57, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 12:56 
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Comes down to the opponent really. I test most of my serves on someone I haven't played before to see what they handle or struggle with. I rarely serve the same serve twice in a row so they don't get a chance to adjust to it, but then sometimes I do, just to keep them thinking :devil: :lol: It all comes down to what I think the serve's chances of an outright win or a good setup kill is. 90% of the time I am aiming for this as the outcome of the serve, even if the truthful result might be closer to between 0 and 60% :punch: (usually its a better player that scores the lower % of faults, but now and then a weaker player handles the serves I expect wins on, but then I get them in the gameplay).

At 10-9, you don't necessarily need a killer serve as much as you need a serve that will either catch them out and possibly take advantage of any nerves they may have that reduces their concentration a fraction. A slight variation (of either spin, direction, speed, bounce, length or a mix) to a serve the think they've seen several times in the game can be enough to do this.

And the example you just gave paints this picture nicely PK ;)

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 13:43 
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Also, I think a killer serve at a critical point is a short ball. Don't let your opponent attack first!

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 16:42 
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Many interesting views here. I think a killer serve also can be a variation of the most common of your serve. Like if you do an ordinary FH back spin, like 50 % of your serving, then it could be a great ide to save the no spin version af that serve for an important point.
I have a slightly other approach to this. If I am down 6-8 or it is my serve at 9-9 I might pull out my two-step-serve. The first one is a sort ow tomahawk from FH side to opponents FH or body, carrying lots of backspin. If opponnet push it back I loop to body, if opponent try to loop, I chop or smash. Next one looks the same, but at the last touch I impart mostly sidespin like a tomahawk. Very often opponet misreads that spin and that gives me a great chance for a killer. I can also switch place with these two serves if I use the combination more than once in a match. But this serve is also gold since It looks completely different from most other serves I do. So when I get in position for the first serve like this most opponent get a little nerveous since they do not know what to expect. That I think is important! You win a lot by confusing :)
Otherwise I use the first set of a match to identify what kinds of serves causing troubles to my opponent. I can stick to one serve with slight variations for a whole match if that turns out to work fine.

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 17:33 
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Another thing to consider..
If you throw in a "killer" different serve in the final tight moments of a match... and your opponent gets it back awkwardly, it can leave you in a worse situation as you have probably not faced a return like this in the whole match!!
I tend to serve safe and predictable in a tense match now! :)


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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 17:48 
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I would use a rare short serve at 10-9 and prepare for a quick kill.. And I practice that serve to avoid bungling it up...

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 17:55 
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I have three sets of serves: pendulum, backhand and reverse pendulum. I tend to primarily serve variations of the pendulum because it's my most consistent serve but every so often I'll do a quick double of short->long backhand topspin serves to catch my opponent out.

My reverse pendulum on the other hand is essentially used for situations like this. Not always just 10-9 as I often use it when I'm trying to level the scores up (i.e. if I've been 5-1 down and I get to 5-4, I'll use it to bring me back on level terms) or trying to be "first to 5 points" in the fifth end (psychological advantage).

In my opinion the most important thing is to get your head into the mindset of "taking the opportunity to win". If you play a basic/passive/defensive serve you're much more likely to play it poorly (bit too high, bit too long, etc). If you tell yourself "I'm going to win this" - and really try to believe it - an offensive serve will be much more effective.

By offensive I don't always mean topspin, for the record. My highest point-winning serve in this situation is my reverse pendulum BACKSPIN serve. I do the action as quickly as I humanly can to make the contact difficult to read and I really try to brush the ball. It gets an incredibly high amount of nets, especially if I've served a topspin reverse pendulum at some point earlier in the game.

Really important to remember that a lot of opponents, in this situation, are feeling a bit panicky. Giving them a fast, long topspin serve down the line or a serve that they haven't seen at allwill invariably make their life more difficult than something they can just push back.

Just don't attempt a reverse pendulum if you've never used it in practice - these days I almost exclusively serve backhand and reverse pendulum in practice just to make sure they're good enough to use in tight situations.

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PostPosted: 04 Oct 2013, 22:57 
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I agree with PRW and Baal. Try many serves during the match and notice which one is "that killer serve" against that opponent and then use it at the end. What you think may be a killer serve may be handled well by your opponent. You have to find the serve that your opponent does not like. Plus Baal is very much correct, if you have not used it all match till 10-9 in the 5th game you are much more likely to make a service error.

If you play in the USA and are playing in the 1000-1600 range (ie not the upper levels) then it makes more sense IMO to "ride that serve" the entire match. Against players who can adjust it is not a good idea.


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PostPosted: 05 Oct 2013, 11:48 
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In general serve is probably the strongest part of my game. So I wouldn't say that I have hard and fast rules about what I do at 10-9 or any other particular part of the game--except for one. I don't want to beat myself. Often that means, keeping it simple. Not always, but often. No matter how stressed I am, the one thing I know I can execute is a very low and tight serve that is very safe. I know it really can't be attacked effectively, at least not by people at a level where I would be in a close match with them! So if I know I am nervous at a crucial point in a match, that is what I use. I refuse to beat myself if at all possible, and I want that pressure to be on the other guy. Before I serve I remind myself, get ready to hit the third ball after that very tight and low serve!!! I can make that serve blindfolded I think. After the serve, I am hopefully going to be able to open with a controlled aggressive shot, or I am going to try to push deep, depending on what the return turns out to me. A lot of the time, the nervousness of the situation causes the opponent to hit just a little higher than they want (the nervousness makes them subconsciously want to add a bit of extra clearance over the net). So there is a good chance a strong third ball will not be that difficult to execute. The whole idea is that in a really close match, every time the other guy has to play another ball, the more stressed he is likely to be, the more likely to make a mistake. And then if they play strong shots and beat me, well ok. They did what they had to do.

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