Activities Sports & Athletics The Backhand Backspin/Sidespin Serve in Table Tennis Table Tennis/ Ping-Pong Basic Strokes Share PINTEREST Email Print Sports & Athletics Table Tennis Basics Playing & Coaching Baseball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Extreme Sports Football Golf Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Swimming & Diving Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Greg Letts Greg Letts Greg Letts is a world-ranked table tennis player and an Australian Level 1 table tennis coach. He wrote the eBook, "How to Win at Table Tennis." Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on 05/24/19 01 of 09 Ready Position Ready Position. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. In this tutorial, we will be looking at how to perform a backhand backspin/sidespin serve in table tennis/ ping-pong. As a more advanced serve, the idea is to prevent the receiver from making a strong attack against the serve, and hopefully force a weak return instead that can be third ball attacked. Points to look for: This serve can be performed from the server's backhand corner, although it is also common to use this serve from the middle of the table, as pictured here. The type of sidespin put on the ball will tend to make the receiver's return go towards the server's forehand. Most servers are looking to take hit a powerful forehand attack from the forehand side of the table. The use of sidespin helps the server to control the likely placement of the return. The free hand is flat, stationary, and above the playing surface and behind the endline. The bottom three fingers of the racket hand have been loosened, to allow the bat to be moved more freely when serving. This makes it easier to put more varieties of spin on the ball. The amount of sidespin and backspin will be varied constantly, in order to make it more difficult for the receiver to judge the correct amount of spin on the ball. The use of sidespin makes it harder for the receiver to tell how much backspin is on the ball, since the ball has a combination of backspin and sidespin. 02 of 09 Start of Ball Toss Start of Ball Toss. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The service motion has begun, and the ball has been thrown into the air. Points to look for: The player is watching the ball as he makes the toss. The bat is being taken upwards and backwards, and slightly to the player's left in preparation for the forward swing. The ball is being thrown near vertically upwards from an open palm, as per the laws of serving in ping-pong. The player has straightened up a little from his crouch as part of the service motion. 03 of 09 Top of Ball Toss Top of Ball Toss. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The ball is at the top of its ascent. Points to look for: The player is continuing to watch the ball closely. The free arm is on its way to the left side of the player to conform with the rules of table tennis which state that the free arm must be moved from the space between the ball and the net as soon as the ball is projected. This is a fairly high ball toss, which suits the player's own rhythm. A higher ball toss will give a little more speed and spin on the ball, but a lower ball toss is perfectly acceptable. In fact, varying the height of the ball toss is a good idea. In this particular serve, the player has reached the end of his backswing at the same time as the ball reaches the top of its flight. This is not something that has to be copied, but just reflects the technique of this player. 04 of 09 Pre-Contact With the Ball Pre-Contact With the Ball. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The ball is descending, and the player is swinging forward and is just about to contact the ball. Points to look for: The bat face is held at an angle, tilting a little backwards and with the handle slightly more forward, since the player wishes to put backspin and sidespin on the ball. In contrast to the forehand pendulum serves, the player has continued to watch the ball closely. The free arm has continued to move out of the area between the ball and the net, so that the receiver will have a clear view of the ball throughout the service motion, as required by the rules. As shown by the blurring in the photograph, the wrist is snapping just before the contact with the ball, making the bat travel even faster, and increasing the amount of spin put on the ball. The playing elbow and shoulder have not started to move much yet. 05 of 09 Contact With the Ball Contact With the Ball. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The ball has now been struck by the player. Points to look for: The wrist is finishing its snap, and the playing elbow and shoulder are now moving to the player's right to allow the stroke to continue naturally. The bat has made contact slightly underneath and to the left side of the ball, as viewed by the camera. The underneath motion will put backspin on the ball, while the right to left motion will put sidespin on the ball. This combination of spins is harder for an opponent to read than just pure backspin or pure sidespin. Since the receiver can clearly see the contact of the ball, deception is achieved by varying the angle at which the bat is held, which will change the proportion of sidespin to backspin. Further deceptions can be made by changing the amount of wrist snap used, or the speed with which the playing arm is moved. The amount of brush can also be varied to add to the deception of the serve. The ball has been brushed heavily to give good spin, with only a little bit of solid contact. This is designed to give a slow, spinny serve, that will bounce twice on the opponent's side of the table if left untouched. 06 of 09 Middle of Follow Through Middle of Follow Through. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The ball has been struck and is on its way towards the table, while the player has nearly finished his follow through. Points to look for: The player is still watching the ball, since he is looking to see the result of the serve. If he sees that the serve will successfully go low over the net and bounce twice on the opponents side of the table, he will look for an aggressive third ball. If he sees that he has not served a good serve (too high or too long), he will get ready for an attack by the receiver. The follow through has ended quite soon after hitting the ball, since the player wishes to make a quick recovery to a ready position. The shoulders, hips and waist have not been used as much on this serve in comparison to the forehand pendulum serves, since the player stays square to the table throughout the serve. As shown by the small blur trail, the ball is not moving forward all that fast, since much of the speed of the bat has been converted into spin. Note also that although the player's stroke was a mixture of forward and right to left movement (as viewed by the camera), the ball is moving straight forward. This is because the spin put on the ball tends to throw it in the direction that the bat is moving (forward and to the left), while the bat face (which was facing to the bottom right of the photograph) tends to push the ball to the right. The left and right forces have almost cancelled out in this particular serve, producing a serve that is moving forward. 07 of 09 End of Follow Through End of Follow Through. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The ball has just bounced on the table, and the player has finished his follow through. Points to look for: The player is continuing to watch the path of the ball closely. The bat has moved in a rough semicircle, which is why some players also call this type of serve a pendulum serve, although the name is more often used for the forehand varieties of serving. From this finishing position, the player will only have to drop his playing elbow and point the bat forward to be back in his ready position. 08 of 09 Start of Return to Ready Position Start of Return to Ready Position. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The ball is about to go over the net, and the player is starting to return to his ready position. Points to look for: The bat is now being moved to the player's left to return to its ready position, while the playing elbow is being dropped back into position. The free arm has been lifted up back into position. The player is continuing to watch the flight of the ball, in order to judge the success of the serve. The player has served from the middle of the table so that it is easier to make the serve cross over the playing elbow of his opponent, forcing his opponent to decide quickly whether to play a backhand or forehand stroke. It is a little harder to achieve this when serving from the player's backhand corner. 09 of 09 Return to Ready Position Return to Ready Position. (c) 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc. The player has returned to his ready position. Points to look for: The player is now watching how the opponent is handling his serve.Note that the player is standing in the middle of the table - this is because the sidespin put on the ball will make it difficult for the opponent to put the ball wide to the player's backhand, since the ball will tend to bounce off the opponent's racket towards the player's right. So the player is actually standing in a fairly central position to cover the possible angles available to his opponent.