There are several ways to serve a ping pong ball. I have noticed that some serves are far more obvious to read/understand than others.

For example, if a player contacts the top of the ball during the serve and flicks their wrist toward the opponent, it's obviously going to have a lot of topspin. Likewise, if a player contacts the back of a ball and pushes downward during the serve, it's high in backspin.

When watching a match between colleagues last week, I noticed a really interesting legal serving technique. The server threw the ball up fairly high, placed their paddle directly under where the ball would land between the ball and the table (almost on the table), and then chose a direction to flick their wrist. The time right before the ball hit the paddle, some side spin was usually added with a wrist flick. I found this serve really hard to read because that last moment of the wrist flick was very quick and sometimes hard to see/obstructed by the ball. This server's grip was a variation of the penhold grip.

Does anyone have any tips for making a serve less predictable/readable? My goal is to give my opponent as little time as possible to decipher what spin is on the serve until it gets to them.

  • The type of serve you describe in the match between your colleagues is pretty much how professional table tennis players serve. You would be wise to try and emulate the kind of serve he has, if possible. Why? Because it doesn't really get any less predictable/readable than that.
    – jamauss
    Jun 16, 2013 at 8:05

3 Answers 3


In organized table tennis "masking" your serve is illegal. Your hand must be held flat and open, palm to the ceiling, with the ball resting on it. Then keeping the open palm you must toss the ball up at least 6 inches into the air. The ball must come back down to the same level before you can hit it with the racket.

Why is this? Well if I were allowed to manipulate the ball with my hands and racket, I could serve the ball with so much backspin, it would come back to my side of the net before the opponent can hit it.

This is also why rackets have two different color rubber surfaces. Rackets geared towards real table tennis players, have two different kinds of rubber surfaces. The red side usually has a lot more friction and will put a lot more spin on the ball, while the black side has less friction and will put less on. The two different colors allow the players see if their opponent changes their side. Consumer "paddles" have two colors just to emulate real rackets.

  • 2
    The question is clearly about a style of serve that adheres to the rules, but is difficult to read and counter effectively. This response is tangential to that question and does not answer it at all.
    – Nij
    Jan 2, 2018 at 11:18

There are serves called "high-toss" serves. You might want to research on that. But for me as a player, the best way to know a difficult service is to do the "trial-and-error" technique. Try to predict a service and predict a return, but most importantly try to stick in mind the body language of how the opponent does the serve and put it mind. In that way, you can learn that if the opponent does this body language, this is the serve else, otherwise.


One way that players will mask the sound of ball hitting the table is stop your foot on the ground, in doing this the sound of the ball is hidden and it is harder to determine the speed of the ball this can make it harder to time the return. I find that when I keep the ball closer to my body and move my whole body with the ball appose to just my paddle arm, it allows me to put more spin on the ball without showing it.

  • 1
    That's actually illegal according to table tennis rules.
    – Spidey
    Feb 7, 2014 at 14:29

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