When serving, many table tennis players focus on height, deception, speed, spin, and placement. These elements are very important. However, the main reason that you need to practice serving is to develop precision. If you have control over your serve, it is easy to control the rally when you are serving. Here are a few consequences of having poor precision.
A. You accidentally served long (when trying to serve short) and Ma Long rips the ball for a winner. With more precision, you would have been able to better control the depth of your serve. This is a very common mistake. You were expecting a push from your short serve, but you were punished by a surprise loop because you weren’t able to control your serve with proper precision.
B. You accidentally served short to the middle (when trying to serve to the short forehand) and Zhang Jike steps in for an easy backhand flip. With more precision, you would have been able to better control the placement to the forehand making it more difficult for him to use his powerful backhand flip.
C. You accidentally served long to the forehand (when trying to serve long to the elbow) and Wang Hao loops with extreme power wide to your forehand for a winner. With more precision, you would have been able to better control the placement making it more difficult for him to smoothly loop with his forehand. By serving long to the elbow, Wang Hao would have had to make a quick decision to use his forehand or backhand and would likely have given a weaker return.
D. You accidentally served short and high no spin (when trying to serve low heavy backspin) and Ma Lin finishes you off with a flip-kill. With more precision, you would have been able to serve with more backspin, forcing him to push or give a weaker flip.
In order to master this skill of precision and control on your serve, you should be practicing your serves at least twice per week. A good, tricky serve is only effective if you have control over it and can serve with the intended spin, speed, variation, and placement at the appropriate time. If you have precision when serving, you can somewhat predict why type of ball is possibly coming next. When you can predict what is coming, then it is much easier to form a game plan for the next several balls.
Sometime you should practice your serve when you are fatigued near the end of a hard workout session. Also, make sure that you play plenty of practice matches and are properly able to use your serves. Before each serve in the matches, consider the possibilities of various returns. Each point in table tennis begins with a serve and return. If you improve your serve and return game this year, you are well on your way to the next level in table tennis!