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Understand the principle of forehand pendulum serve

Today, we will learn one of the most common serves in table tennis “the forehand pendulum serve”. This service is so popular because with slight adjustments it can make underspin, sidespin, topspin, or no-spin, while the stroke will look quite similar. This service is used to put pressure on the opponent.

What is the pendulum serve?

A detailed guide to Serve technique makes it easy for everyone to understand and practice.

The serve is known as a pendulum serve because the movement of the bat is similar to how the weight on a pendulum (such as a grandfather clock) travels back and forth.

pendulum serve
pendulum serve

Typically, this serve is delivered from the server’s backhand corner. This is due to the sort of sidespin used on the ball, which causes the receiver’s return to move towards the server’s backhand.

pendulum serve to backhand corner
pendulum serve to backhand corner

Most servers intend to take a step to the left and launch a hard forehand shot from their backhand corner. The usage of sidespin allows the server to control where the return will most likely land.

Watch the full list of 10 basic table tennis for the beginner here.

Based on the spin direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise), you will have the pendulum or the reverse pendulum serve.

How to play the pendulum serve

To perform the forehand pendulum serves effectively, you should change the grip on the racket, then immediately change back to prepare for the rally.

First, prepare your position for this service. Turn your back. This is crucial because the rotation of your body will increase the spin of your service. Some players don’t turn the back enough so they can’t add enough spin and can’t make the deceptive service.

Zhang Jike's grip for the reverse pendulum serve
Zhang Jike‘s grip for the reverse pendulum serve

Second, throw the ball upward and close the body. The closer the ball to the body, the higher quality of your service. Your forearm should be relaxed. Please remember, it’s not the forearm that will make the ball spin, but it’s the rotation of your body and the acceleration of the wrist. So be relaxed!

Some amateur players are too tense, hence decreasing the quality of the service.

Liang Jingkun is practicing the pendulum serve during a training session
Liang Jingkun is practicing the pendulum serve during a training session

Third, lower the center of gravity of the body. Contact the ball at the net height. This point is very important. If you contact the ball higher, the service is high and can be attacked easily. If you contact the ball too low, you can’t add enough spin to your serve.



3 tips to make the pendulum serve deceptive

How to make this serve deceptive with a lot of spins. Heavy spin serve is very difficult to read.

Tip 1 – Acceleration is the key

First, use the wrist to accelerate the ball. The faster you hit the ball, the higher spin it gets. You should also use the body mass to add power to your service.

Sidespin (pendulum) serve - tips and tactics

Watch this video.


Tip 2 – Relax your forearm

Second, the body, the forearm should be relaxed. The muscle is soft, not tense. Hit the ball near your abdomen. Because this position is near the rotation axis of your body (the elbow is close to the body).

Timo Boll used a lot of wrists for his forehand pendulum serve.

Timo Boll's Forehand Pendulum Serve Secrets and Tutorials (Part 1)

Watch this video.


Tip 3 – Change the contact point

Third, vary the contact point on the racket and the timing on your swing to make your service more deceptive. This service is very dangerous, so take the time to practice it.

This tutorial is one of the basic lessons in table tennis. The backhand loop technique is also explained in this series.

Ma Long’s pendulum serve example

Ma Long has a very good pendulum serve. Ma Long has one of the best pendulum serve in table tennis.

His serve is not only spinny, but also it’s very hard to predict the amount of spin on his serve. The pendulum serve has the sidespin, so it will jump from the right to the left on the opponent’s table.

It’s hard to predict the bounce. Sometimes, it will bounce more to the left. So it’s harder to flick the serve of the pro player.

Ma Long pendulum serve with sidespin
Ma Long pendulum serve with sidespin

Ma Long can also change the placement of the serve (to the forehand side).

Why Ma Long has very good pendulum serve

Watch this video.

And this is the reverse pendulum serve. The ball jumps from the left to the right.

Ma Long’s pendulum serve is short, so it’s hard to attack it strong. Because it has sidespin, when you push it, Ma Long will attack it right after the serve (3rd ball attack).

That’s why Ma Long has one of the best “set up” serve in table tennis.

What does Ma Long practice for the serve?

He is practicing the placement. With this type of serve, he knows exactly where the ball will be returned.
Because you must return to counter the spin of the serve, the ball is returned to the pivot corner of Ma Long.

Ma Long pendulum serve is short
Ma Long pendulum serve is short

This is the favorite position of Ma Long, to attack the next ball.

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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

4 thoughts on “Understand the principle of forehand pendulum serve”

  1. Hi coach, I’m a beginner with all round style. Can I use Yinhe T11+ blade with Palio AK47 rubber? They are cheaper than other brands 🙂 Or can you suggest another combination?

    Love your videos.


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