How to return specific types of serves

Ask the coachCategory: Tactics & match-playHow to return specific types of serves
Brian asked 2 years ago

Regarding your video last month for a very effective backhand serve tactic, what are the options for returning such a backhand sidespin serve, which is served from your opponent’s forehand side to your wide forehand?

Also, how would you move to such a serve?

I hope you want to answer these questions because I know it’s a serve that you and even your viewers like to use, after watching that video, and it could lose its effect, if you give the answer to returning such a serve. I would like to know the answer because I have trouble returning this type of serve.

Also, if your opponent serves a backhand backspin or a backhand sidespin from his or her forehand side, deep to your middle forehand side, what are the options for returning these serves? Once again, the unusual angle for these serves makes it difficult to get these serves back low enough on the table.

Do you aim your returns on the middle of the table or even try to block these serves back or even experiment with the angle of your table tennis bat?

As you are expecting these type of serves to normally land deep to your middle forehand, what are the options for your return of serve stance?

Would you stand a step back from your middle forehand or a step back from the middle of the table?

1 Answers
Tom Lodziak Staff answered 2 years ago

I’m very happy to answer how to return this serve.
Let’s start with the very wide serve. So your opponent does a backhand serve from the forehand corner, which is aimed very wide to your forehand side.
To return this serve you need to get close to the ball. You can do this before your opponent even serves. When you see your opponent move to his forehand corner to serve, you can straight away move a little more to the middle of the table. You don’t need to defend your wide backhand position, as your opponent can’t find that angle from his service position. So by moving to the middle, you can get to the wide forehand serve a little easier.
Now you have a choice, when the serve cuts across your forehand, you can contact the ball at the peak of the bounce. The peak of the bounce is likely to be over the table, so you should use a forehand flick. You could also use a forehand push, if the serve has a little more backspin. If you take the ball at the peak of the bounce, you don’t need to move that much. Just take a short step into the table with your right leg and you should be in a good position to flick or push.
The other option is to let the ball drop off the side of the table and then topspin it back over the net. This options requires a bigger movement, as you will need to make contact with the ball off the side of the table. Either option can work, so it’s worth trying both.
For the deep serve to the middle of your forehand side, you need to make sure you are reading the spin correctly. If it’s long backspin, then you can do a vertical forehand topspin (ideal) or a forehand push (a little safe). But if it is sidespin or side-topspin, then you can either do a horizontal forehand topspin, drive or block. As long as you play a positive stroke, you should be able to override the service spin and return the ball low over the net.
Ideally you should get a player to keep doing these serves to you again and again and again, until you feel  confident returning. Then you can add these serves to your list of serves which are easy to return!