What are good services for when playing doubles please Tom, given that there is not as much freedom for placement variation as there is when playing singles.
You are correct. You have less options when serving in doubles. I usually use three or four variations:
- Short backspin close to the middle of the table. This makes it harder for my opponents to attack. It also makes it harder for them to find a wide angle.
- Short no spin close to the middle of the table. If my opponent misreads the serve, then the ball will hopefully pop up giving my partner an easy attack.
- Long, fast backspin. As I usually serve short in doubles, when I do a long serve it can have a surprise factor and force a mistake.
- Long, fast topspin. I use this occasionally. This is a bit more risky. If my opponent reads the serve, he/she may attack aggressively, which my partner will not thank me for! So maybe I will use once or twice against an opponent who I think may struggle.
You also need to be considerate to your partner. What sort of rally does you partner prefer? Slow backspin rallies? Or fast topspin rallies? This should impact what kind of serves you do too.
And it is a very good idea to communicate to your partner what serve you intend to do. You can use a hand signal under the table, so your opponents can’t see. This will help your partner prepare for your opponent’s return of serve.