The surprising power of a no-spin serve

When serving, most players usually try to generate very heavy spin. It could be heavy backspin, heavy sidespin, heavy topspin or combination of these spins, e.g. heavy side-backspin. This is undoubtedly a good thing. A heavy spin serve can be very challenging to return. But players often neglect using no-spin serves. 

Why would we serve with no spin? Surely this is a poor serve? Without decent spin, how can you put your opponent under pressure? It is certainly true that a no-spin serve is less challenging, if your opponent knows it is little spin. If you were to do no-spin serves all the time, then yes, your service game probably wouldn’t be very strong. 

But if you combine no-spin serves and heavy spin serves, then the no-spin serves can be hugely effective. Why is this? If your opponent is expecting you to serve with heavy spin, and you purposefully serve with less spin, very often an opponent mis-reads the serve and either over-hits the return or pops the ball up, giving an easy opportunity to attack.

It’s the variation between heavy spin and no spin which causes all the problems. This is a tactic widely used at the professional level, but less so at the amateur level. But it is one of the easier tactics for all players to use. As long as you have some heavy spin serves, then you easily start using some no-spin serves too.

Classic no-spin service tactic

A typical example would be this. You have two serves. For your first serve you do a short, heavy backspin serve. Your opponent pushes the ball into the net. Now your opponent is thinking to himself that he needs to get under the ball more. He doesn’t want to make the same mistake again. For your second serve, you do a similar looking serve but with much less spin. Your opponent, expecting heavy backspin, pushes under the ball, but this time it pops up, giving you an easy attacking opportunity. A very simple tactic. But it very often works.

A no-spin serve can work as a long serve too. I often do a fast, long side-backspin serve to an opponent’s backhand corner. And then do a similar looking serve but with much less spin. This serve is very often hit long off the end of the table, as my opponent was expecting much more spin.

A good no-spin serve should be low over the net. You should use a similar action to your heavy spin serve. But don’t whip the ball as much. You could also try contacting the ball more towards the handle, where the bat is moving slower. And the no-spin serve should be a similar length and speed as your heavy spin serve. If you can do all of this, then your no-spin serve should be fairly disguised. And if your opponent isn’t really concentrating, then he or she will make plenty of weak returns.

Have a think about your serves? Do you have a heavy spin serve? Could you do a variation of this serve, but with much less spin? It’s definitely worth experimenting with. If you get it right, these no-spin serves can win you quite a few cheap points.

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