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Is Your Service Well In Hand?

Many players assume their serves are perfectly legal so long as the vast majority of opponents do not complain about them. You would be wise not to make that assumption. Since becoming a club level umpire my awareness of the legality of serves has been heightened.

What I have noticed is that a great majority of players, at all skill levels, have at least one flaw in how they serve the ball; particularly in regard to the tossing hand. Here is a checklist to use to see if your serves have the proper “hands-on” approach:

ping pong service
ping pong service

Your hand before the toss;
– Is it above the table surface up until just after the toss?
– Is it behind the end line or the extended end line?
– Is it stationary for a second or two, prior to projecting the ball upward?
– Is the ball resting motionless in your palm – not the fingers?
– Is your hand flat enough; no excessive cupping around the ball?

Your hand during the toss

  • Are you tossing the ball near vertically enough – not backward, nor forwards, nor sideways? (Don’t expect an umpire to allow a toss beyond 10 degrees of vertical.)
  • Are you getting an actual separation between the ball and your palm, which at a minimum, is 6 inches – not simply lifting the ball with little or no separation?

After the toss

  • Do you immediately remove your tossing hand, so that it is no longer between your body and the net? This most recent stipulation to the service rules was added to guarantee that your opponent is able to see the ball at the critical moment it is struck.
  • Do you wait until the descent of the ball from your toss before striking it with the racket – not during the rise of the toss, nor at the top of the toss?


  • Perhaps the most important item included in the service rules is that you must serve in such a way that if an umpire were present, he/she would have no doubt that your serves are in complete compliance of what constitutes good service.

Please be aware that if an umpire has any concerns regarding the legality of your serve, he/she is under no obligation to warn you first. The responsible action of the umpire with regard to the serve is often abrupt. He/She is required to call “fault” and award the receiver a point whenever the server is in violation of a service rule.

I strongly urge all of you, particularly tournament players, to have at least one other player observe your serves to see whether you are conforming to all of the items in the checklist above. Remember, the rules are meant to ensure that no contestant gain an unfair advantage.

I have no doubt that most of us intend to play honestly, as well as resolutely and therefore hope you will accept this advice in the spirit given.

Service Receive Secrets From Japan

Niwa Receive
Koki Niwa executing the “Chiquita” Receive. Photo source: Zimbio.com

When I was in Japan earlier this year for table tennis training, I picked up the March issue of “World Table Tennis” magazine. There are a lot of articles in it regarding service and service return, so I thought I’d get to sharpening up my Japanese translation skills and sharing some of the insights with you all.

This particular article is about the Chiquita receive, also known as the “tikita”, banana backhand or backhand sidespin flick, and is most famously used by current world champion Zhang Jike. First, it talks about the principle behind the Chiquita:

(Text from me is in bold, the translated text is in italics)

When hitting a spinning ball, whereupon the ball you contact can change how much effect the spin has on your racket…Every kind of spin has an axis. Sections of the ball far from the axis (called the equator) have a larger circumference and so they move faster. Conversely, sections of the ball close to the axis have a lower speed of the spin. So, when considering the effect of the spin on your racket, remember that it will be larger close to the equator and smaller closer to the axis.

With this “axis grabbing receive”, you will contact the ball close to the axis, and make the effect of your opponent’s spin smaller, so it is called a ball controlling technique. In recent years, the popular technique known as the “Chiquita” is one such technique that makes use of this principle.

spinning 1

Translated text from graphic: Far from the axis (near the equator), the spin is strong, so it’s easy to have an effect!

spinning 2

Translated text from graphic: Near the axis there is weak spin, so it’s difficult to have an effect. Grab the ball here!

Interestingly, although the article does not explicitly say so, the graphic above shows a ball with sidespin, with the axis at the top, so you should be more inclined to try topspin against sidespin serve to take advantage of this principal.

On the next page, it goes on to explain why the Chiquita is better than a regular backhand drive against backspin

The Chiquita is a type of backhand drive used against balls over the table. It allows you to add sidespin whilst attacking the ball. When trying to add to the spin of the ball, “contact the left side of the ball (for right-handers)” is an often given tip. If the service is backspin, you will certainly be contacting the axis by doing this.

When hitting a backspin ball near its equator, as you would for a regular backhand drive, you will contact a faster spinning part of the ball and, consequently, if you don’t have enough swing speed, lifting the ball over the net will be much more difficult. However, with the Chiquita, by contacting the axis on the left side of the ball the effect of the spin will be much smaller and therefore relatively easy to lift over the net.

This technique is highly effective against not only backspin but other types of unexpected spins your opponent may serve, so it is good to try to use it against those as well.

spinning 3

Translated text from graphic: Chiquita – grabs the ball’s axis so even against backspin it’s easy to lift the ball.

Over-the-table BD (Backhand drive) – grab’s the ball’s equator so if you don’t have enough swing speed, you’ll put the ball in the net.

over the table 1

over the table 2

These images show Ryusuke Sakamoto (Latest WR: 224 in December 2011) demonstrating the Chiquita against backspin (in Japanese, image progression goes from right to left). Notice how:

–          his upper arm does not move,

–          his forearm is almost perpendicular and;

–          at contact, his wrist is slightly bent so as to come slightly on the top side of the ball.

Well, I hope this has been helpful because it was really tiring to translate!

All graphics and original Japanese text from Issue 190 (March 2013) of World Table Tennis (world-tt.com)

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