Table tennis players use different techniques to win. One of these techniques is the ghost serve. When done correctly, the ball bounce several times, which the receiving player has a hard time hitting it. It’s a tricky serve. If it’s a hard and tricky service, is it allowed in table tennis? Can you use it in international competitions?
Ghost serve is an acceptable service in table tennis because it’s considered a backspin, yet, the positioning of the paddle is different. Thus, it’s hard to receive. It is difficult on the opponent’s side, but with proper training, the opponent/receiver can manage to return it.
Do you want to win against your opponent? Do you want to learn how to do ghost service, and how to return it to your opponent? I listed down a comprehensive answer to frequently asked questions about ghost serve. This information helps you master the service. So you’ll win in your next game.
- How do you ghost serve in table tennis?
- How to return ghost serve?
- What is an illegal serve in table tennis?
- Can we spin the ball with our hands during service in table tennis?
- What are the key points to improve your serve?
How do you ghost serve in table tennis?
To perform a ghost serve, the first thing you need to learn is the backspin. Technically, a ghost serve is a backspin. Yet, it follows a different technique that creates a heavy backspin. For a successful service, you must hit the ball low and keep your elbows to your body.
As a beginner, it’s important to achieve a perfect backspin so that you can level up to a heavier backspin, aka ghost serve. Without the foundation of the basic backspin, it’ll be hard to perform the ghost serve.
When you use a backspin, you must focus on wrist action and not on arm action. It means that you use your wrist to deliver the ball, and you don’t use your arm as the source of force. The grip is also important because you can’t use the forehand grip on the backspin. You must use the backhand grip where the thumb pinches the paddle while the rest of the fingers are curled up together. It’s almost similar to a hammer grip.
Your body position and form also matter when you serve a backspin. For the body position, you must face 90 degrees away from the table. For the body form, you must bend your knees and let it spread naturally. Your goal is to keep yourself balanced and comfortable.
As you throw the ball, you must brush your paddle flat to hit the ball. It’s easy to hit the ball using the wrist movement rather than the arm movement. In this kind of service, your hand must be quick to hit the ball, and you don’t need to hit very hard.
Mastering ghost serve
The first step in mastering ghost serve is to familiarize yourself with the feeling when serving the ball. Your goal is to get used to the body formation, position, and ball delivery. This initial step does not require you to use a table. You only need a good amount of space because you’re using the floor in this exercise.
To become successful in spinning the ball back to you, you must have the right grip on the paddle. It’s the same grip you use on the perfect backspin. It’s necessary to master the backspin, so it’s easy for you to control the paddle and the ball when doing the ghost serve.
Brushing the ball is the next step that you need to focus on. It’s a combination of hitting the ball in the right position and the formation of the paddle as you hit the ball. If you’re not able to perform the combination, the ball won’t bounce back.
Hitting the ball low is also important because it gives a less bouncy ball. You want to achieve a ball that bounces less because it’s hard for the opponent to return it. As a low contact service, it allows you to hit low over the net.
For the paddle formation, keep the paddle flat to achieve the bouncing back of the ball. Slanting the paddle in a vertical position also works, but as a beginner, keeping the paddle flat is recommended. After familiarizing yourself with the ball, you can now move to the table. Perform the same technique. Don’t mind hitting the net. Your goal is to see how it looks like on the table.
After you master step one, the next thing you need to master is the strong backspin serve. In this exercise, you must learn to focus on your elbow as you hit the ball. Keep your elbow close to your body because it gives you additional power when you hit the ball.
Keeping your elbow close to your body also adds consistency to the delivery because there’s no large gap between the body and the arm.
Don’t attempt to combine this step with step one so your mind can memorize the steps one at a time.
Once you have mastered keeping the elbow close to your body, the next thing you must do is to focus on acceleration. You must hit the ball with speed to get the bouncing effect. But you must do it with control. Don’t drop the top of the paddle down. When you make this mistake, the ball accelerates fast and without control.
In summary, the elements in mastering the ghost serve include brushing the ball with the paddle, maintaining a flat back paddle angle, and wrist acceleration.
Advanced level ghost serve
When using the ghost serve, your goal is not only to let the ball bounce back. You also want to control the motion of the ball. To achieve it, take note of the different elements, such as brushing in front of the paddle and squeezing the paddle firmly.
As mentioned earlier, brushing low is essential to achieve the perfect ghost serve. But you must brush the ball in front of the paddle to get enough backspin. It generates the friction needed by the ball. Squeezing the paddle is also important because it allows you to brush underneath.
You must also experiment with the height of the throw. See what works for you.
How to return ghost serve?
You can return a ghost serve by positioning yourself near the ball so that you can hit the ball early. Hitting the ball early helps you to bring it back over the net. But don’t hit the ball hard. A slight push is enough for the ball to go back to the other side of the table.
The ball still has the spin when it lands on your paddle. So you don’t need that much effort when hitting the ball. The essential technique in returning the ghost serve is the right placement of your paddle. But you must hit the ball with the right angle. The right angle of the paddle is essential to return the ghost serve successfully.
When receiving the ghost serve ball, a flat bat is not ideal. The flat bat is only applicable for ghost serve. When you use a flat bat to receive a ball, the ball drags down to the table. You won’t be able to return the serve.
What is an illegal serve in table tennis?
There are several illegal services in table tennis, such as hiding the ball, releasing the ball low during service, and throwing the ball horizontally. Take note that hitting the ball low is not a violation; it’s the low ball release that violates the rule. Other illegal service includes quick-serve, delaying the service, and wrong ball placement.
1. Hiding the ball
According to the table tennis law, the server’s free arm must be removed once the ball is released during the service. The receiver must see the ball during the service.
But sometimes, umpires have a hard time checking this violation. So instead of calling out the player and implementing a violation, umpires warn the players. When it happens again, the player will be charged with the violation.
2. Releasing the ball low during service
Serving a ball lower than 16cm is illegal. The rule dictates that a player must release the ball and toss as high as 16cm. So moving your hand high just to come out with a 16cm ball drop is not allowed. The height is standard for the ball and not on the striking. You can strike the ball even if it’s less than 16cm dropped.
Take note that even if you toss the ball high, you can’t strike it until it descends. You allow the ball to descend even a centimeter low before striking the ball.
3. Ball thrown horizontally
Never throw the ball directly to the paddle’s blade. Instead, throw the ball near vertical. There’s no specific angle to follow but a 45-degree angle is not considered near vertical. It must be almost a straight vertical and not a diagonal angle.
4. Quick serve
Quick serve is not allowed in table tennis. A quick-serve means that you’re serving the ball even if your opponent is not ready. It’s an ethical manner to wait for your opponent to stand in place. A quick-serve also happens when you throw the ball towards the blade when you serve.
5. Delaying the service
Some players delay their service. They perform every action in a slow-paced manner. You can see a player walking slow or picking up the ball in a slow manner. This is an illegal serve. Although some players wipe their hands on the table to add a very short break, they don’t do it at a slower pace.
6. Wrong ball placement
The ball before the service must stay behind the server’s end line. It means that the ball must not be served inside the table’s perimeter.
Can we spin the ball with our hands during service in table tennis?
Spinning the ball is not allowed during service. ITTF rule states that the ball must be released upward in near-vertical but not with a spin. The rule indicates the height, which is 16 cm, and that the ball must be released from the palm of the freehand. With an open palm, it’s hard to spin the ball.
So the ghost serves, and the backspin is great skills to learn to make the ball spin as you serve the ball. But that’s not the only trick to make the ball spin. Tossing the ball high is an effective way to make the ball spin.
Tossing the ball higher than 16cm is legal. And some players use this technique to get a spinning ball. When you toss the ball high, it goes down faster than usual. When it hits the paddle, it spins more. Another reason why players toss it high is that the receiver won’t be able to know when the server hits the ball.
What are the key points to improve your serve?
Improving your service starts with a consistent solo service. Practicing consistently develops the right habit for the perfect service. But to perfect the practice, you must focus on correct body position, extra spin, and consistency. You should also practice variations on your service.
Time is also a key component when doing solo service. An hour of practice every day can go a long way as it helps you to develop the habit. Another thing that you need to focus on is to hold one ball at a time for every practice. You can use several balls to avoid picking up balls all the time. But don’t hold all the balls as you serve. It must be one ball per service.
Completing the service action also matters when you practice. In many instances, a player practicing solo tends to do a two-step routine, which includes serving and pick up. But in the real game, it’s the wrong routine. The real game requires two steps, but it serves and gets ready. The second step is missed during the practice because you don’t have an opponent who returns the ball to you. You must rehearse this too because you want to condition yourself that after serving, your opponent is returning the ball.
So during practice, you must follow the service, pick up and get ready routine.
Variations also matter. One of the variations is the tempo variation. You may have a different tempo in your service during the actual match. So you must practice this as well. If you serve, quick and slow, you must practice both.