Quite a while back I was asked to do a tutorial of the ‘kick serve’ in the suggestions thread, which essentially is a topspin serve disguised as backspin. I had never heard of that specific serve before, so I couldn’t really write about it. It wasn’t until I was looking through my copy of Japanese table tennis magazine ‘Table Tennis World’ that I came across an analysis of a serve by Maharu Yoshimura that can produce backspin or topspin variations with the same service action. Short of learning to do fake motions before or after contact of the ball as the ‘kick serve’ seems to require, I think this is a more simple way to achieve such deception.
Maharu Yoshimura of Japan is ranked 132 in the world as of January 2014, and came to the attention of the English-speaking world when he signed with the German Bundesliga’s TTC Hagen in mid-2013. Before that, he came runner-up to Jun Mizutani in the Japan Top 12 tournament in 2011, before his huge breakthrough winning the All Japan Championships in 2012.
Without further ado, let’s get to the translation. Bold text is from me. Italicised text is the translation. Also remember that in Japanese frame-by-frame deconstructions are layed out from right-to-left.
The inverted spin “Up-Down Service”
The below progression of photos is the before and after impact motion known as the “Up-Down Service”. Impact when the racket is vertical (frame 5) creates topspin or no-spin (knuckle ball). Impact when the racket is flat (frame 6) becomes backspin.
To minimise the bounce of the ball, firstly, keep your distance and ensure the point where you hit the ball is behind your body. Thus, in frames 6 and 7, the racket is not swung forward at all. The first bounce of the ball should be closer to the net for a shorter serve.
Regardless, the “up down service” doesn’t push the ball forward meaning that it easily bounces more than once on the table.
Adding sidespin is another way to keep the ball short, a characteristic of the “YG” service also.
NOTE: Whilst I’m not 100% sure, I think YG stands for Young Generation, and refers to the reverse pendulum serve used by players such as Timo Boll and Zhang Jike, because of its relatively recent addition to the game.
This service is difficult to push short, so you’ll face a lot more flick and Chiquita receives.
Yoshimura’s service is not easy to copy, but has the advantages of being difficult to return short and and the ability to serve short but with topspin with the same action.
At the beginner and intermediate level, there are a lot of players that have trouble flicking the third ball, but find it easier to wait for the receive to drift long. Try to add a short topspin service to your repertoire.
The pink box pointing to frame 7 says:
Don’t fake the follow through, go below the table
While there are complicated forms of service action. concealing your follow-through below the table will ensure that your spin cannot be read.
Here’s another interesting diagram on the same page, showing the type of spin created by different racket angles. Contacting the ball with the racket angle perpendicular to the swing angle (Point A) creates topspin. Contacting with the racket angle identical to the swing angle (Point C) creates backspin. Contacting with the racket angle somewhere inbetween those angles (Point B) creates a no spin serve.
In my limited time practicing this serve, I’ve found that the key to its success is staying very low on contact of the ball. This also ensures that your follow-through will quickly disappear below the table as mentioned above The vertical downward swing required by this serve means if you contact it too high, you’ll hit the ball into the table and it will bounce too high to be effective. Also, the point about contacting behind your body is important so that you don’t hit the table with your racket. A very costly mistake, believe me!
I’ve found a few match examples of Yoshimura using the serve. Here’s a match against Patrick Baum. I spotted him using the serve at 1:41 and 3:06.
To conclude, one important point to make if you decide to start using this serve, is that if you become good at serving it, you will get some pretty high misreads from your opponents, which can actually be more difficult to attack than lower, better returns. Practice serving it, and pivoting to play a forehand attack from your backhand corner, as hitting high balls with your backhand can be difficult. If you lack the mobility to do this, at least only serve the topspin variation to your opponent’s forehand (assuming you are both the same handedness), so that most of the bigger misreads will come crosscourt to your forehand or middle as it will be difficult for your opponent to return down the line to your backhand if they are uncertain about what kind of spin is on the ball.
All graphics and original Japanese text from Issue 190 (March 2013) of World Table Tennis (world-tt.com)