Table Tennis / Ping-Pong Basic Strokes - FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve

01
of 09

Ready Position

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Ready Position
Ready Position. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc

In this tutorial, we will be looking at how to perform a forehand tomahawk topspin/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.

View the Forehand Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve Video - 720x576 pixels version. (7.7MB); 640x480 pixels version. (4MB); 320x240 pixels version. (1.9MB)

Points to look for:

  • The serve is called a tomahawk serve because the movement of the bat resembles the way American Indians were shown waving their tomahawks in movies.
  • This serve is performed from anywhere along the endline, depending on the preferences of the server. The sidespin on the ball will tend to make the receiver's return go towards the server's forehand side.
  • 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 topspin 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 topspin is on the ball, since the ball has a combination of topspin and sidespin.
02
of 09

Start of Ball Toss

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Start of Ball Toss
Start of Ball Toss. © 2007 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 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

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Top of Ball Toss
Top of Ball Toss. © 2007 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 down, and will shortly be moved to the side 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.
04
of 09

Middle of Ball Descent

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Middle of Ball Descent
Middle of Ball Descent. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc
The ball is on its way down, and the player is getting into position to perform the serve.

Points to look for:

  • The player has dropped his elbow while raising his bat, which is a very different motion from the typical forehand pendulum serves.
  • The player is also bending his knees to get his body low enough to perform the serve comfortably, and so that he is not contacting the ball too high above the net, which would make the ball bounce too high as well.
  • The free arm is now well out of the way, giving the receiver a clear view of the server's contact with the ball.
05
of 09

Pre-Contact With Ball

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Pre-Contact With Ball
Pre-Contact With Ball. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc

The ball is descending, the player has finished his backswing, and is about to swing forward to contact the ball for service.

Points to look for:

  • The bat face is held at an angle, since the player wants to make the serve look similar to the other varieties of tomahawk serves.
  • The player has kept track of the ball once it starts to descend, in order to make sure of the flight of the ball. However, as shown in the next photograph, he will not actually watch the contact of the ball.
  • 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.
  • The server has continued to bend his knees to bring his body lower to the ground.
06
of 09

Contact With the Ball

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Contact With the Ball
Contact With the Ball. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc
The ball is just about to be struck by the player.

Points to look for:

  • The wrist is snapping forward, as shown by the blurring in the photograph.
  • The bat is going to make contact slightly on top and to the left side of the ball, as viewed by the camera. The forwards motion produced by contacting towards the top of the ball will put topspin 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 topspin 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 topspin. 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 to give good spin, but with a fairly solid contact to also give some speed. This is designed to give a fast, spinny serve, that will bounce for the first time in the last six inches on the opponent's side of the table if left untouched.
  • The shoulders have been turned to the left of the player, which will help the player recover to a neutral position faster.
  • As mentioned previously, the player is not watching the bat contact the ball, since he has already judged the position of the ball from watching its descent.
07
of 09

Start of Follow Through

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Start of Follow Through
Start of Follow Through. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc
The player has contacted the ball, which is now moving sideways and forwards towards the table.

Points to look for:

  • The speed of the bat during the service motion is highlighted by the blurring of the bat in the photograph.
  • As shown by the photograph, the bat is moving diagonally forwards, sideways and down as contact was made, causing a mixture of topspin and sidespin to be put on the ball.
08
of 09

End of Follow Through

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - End of Follow Through
End of Follow Through. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc
The ball has bounced on the server's side of the table, while the player has finished his follow through.

Points to look for:

  • The shoulders, hips and waist have all turned a little more to the player's left, which will reduce the amount of movement necessary to get into a neutral ready position.
  • As shown by the medium sized blur trail, the ball is moving with more pace than for short serves, since only some of the speed of the bat has been converted into spin, while the rest was used to provide forward motion.
  • The player is watching the flight of the ball, to judge how successful the serve has been.
09
of 09

Start of Return to Ready Position

Photo of FH Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve - Start of Return to Ready Position
Start of Return to Ready Position. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc

The player is starting to return to his ready position.

Points to look for:

  • The player is continuing to watch the ball, since he is looking to see the result of the serve. If he sees that the serve had caused his opponent trouble, he will look for an aggressive third ball. If he sees that he has not served a good serve (too high, too short, or badly placed), he will get ready for an attack by the receiver.
  • The player is pushing up out of his crouch, as he prepares for the receiver's return.

Side View - Forehand Tomahawk Topspin/Sidespin Serve

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