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The Secret of Yoshimura’s Serve

Welcome back to PingSunday, the best place to learn table tennis. Today, we talk about the “Secret of Yoshimura’s serve”. His serve is very spinny and deceptive.

Recently, in the Zen-Noh 2019 Team World Cup, Timo Boll has lost to Maharu Yoshimura 3-0 (11-7, 11-9, 13-11). Yoshimura has won a lot of points directly with his serve.

Maharu Yoshimura has won Timo Boll 3-0 in ZEN-NOH 2019 Team World Cup
Maharu Yoshimura has won Timo Boll 3-0 in ZEN-NOH 2019 Team World Cup

Yoshimura’s Serve is deceptive

Masaharu Yoshimura in Japanese is 吉村真晴選手.

His serve is very well known since it’s very difficult to read the amount of spin in his serve. Even the top Chinese player has some difficulty with Yoshimura’s serve.

Yoshimura serve has a very deceptive serve (Upside-down serve)
Yoshimura serve has a very deceptive serve (Upside-down serve)

For example, Xu Xin.

Xu Xin has some difficulties to read the amount of spin in Yoshimura serve
Xu Xin has some difficulties to read the amount of spin in Yoshimura serve

Xu Xin has a very hard time to read Yoshimura’s heavy Underspin Serve. And then Yoshimura changed to the slight Topspin Serve.

From this slow-motion, you can clearly see that this is the underspin serve. The racket angle is open. And he brushed the ball at the bottom. So it’s a heavy underspin serve.


Why Yoshimura Serve is so effective?

Watch this video.


And at the same time, you can see that it’s very hard to read the contact point. Because Yoshimura hides the contact point with his head. This is illegal. And this is the main reason that his serve is very effective.

The name of Yoshimura’s serve?

Yoshimura uses the head of the racket to contact the point. This position will increase the spin of his serve. So he can make a very heavy underspin serve.

In the beginning, the head is the racket points downward. But in the end, the head of the racket will point upward. That’s why his serve is called “Upside Down” serve. In Japanese, this serve is called (アップダウンサーブ).

Yoshimura spinny serve
Yoshimura spinny serve

Why Yoshimura’s serve is so effective?

His serve is very effective because he used the same motion for both topspin and backspin serve. On the left, is topspin serve, and on the right is backspin serve.

The difference of the racket angle between the topspin and backspin serve
The difference of the racket angle between the topspin and backspin serve

You can clearly see that. It’s very hard to read the spin.

  1. He contacts the ball very quickly.
  2. He accelerates by using the wrist. His wrist is completely free during the serve.
  3. And at the moment of contact, he hides it by lowering his head.
  4. The contact point is very near to his head.
  5. The racket is pointed upward, so he can easily accelerate to spin the ball.

The secret of Yoshimura’s serve?

The secret of his service is the racket angle. Look at this slow motion. In the beginning, he performs both topspin and backspin serve with the same motion. Put the elbow upward, free your wrist, and ready to contact the ball near your head.

Point the head of the racket downward for both TopSpin and Backspin serve.

It's very hard to read the contact position of Yoshimura serve
It’s very hard to read the contact position of Yoshimura serve

But at the contact moment, for the topspin serve, the racket angle is vertical, about 90 degrees (on the left). And for the heavy underspin serve, open more the racket, about 145 degrees (on the right)

And finally, accelerate the ball to spin it. Rotate the wrist. The more you accelerate, the more spin you will generate. The head of the racket is rotated from downward to upward. That’s why this service is called “upside-down serve”.

Yoshimura’s serve Legal or Not Legal?

As I explained in the previous article, it’s at the borderline. The decision of the umpire is very subjective. Some umpires will say it’s illegal. But in some situations, Yoshimura showed the contact point during the match.

But by watching the slow motion, you can clearly see that the contact point is hidden to the opponent. It’s visible on the umpire’s side. But it’s not clear on the opponent’s view.

Is the ball hidden behind his head
Is the ball hidden behind his head

So what do you think? Is it effective! Just practice this “Upside down” serve. This can help you win more. Or is it illegal? Please comment below to show your opinion.

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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 “The Secret of Yoshimura’s Serve”

  1. This kind of stealth serve does not serve anyone , except the cheater . All this could change with a set of cameras playing instantly back . Perhaps a 2 views camera @ 90degres angle , even 3D cams setup. Ittf is now serving the devil on a gold plate , it makes the sport un-attractive for new comers.Ittf should hire scientists to invent an anti-cheater foolproof system …to whom profits the crime ?

  2. Hello Coach
    I love your videos, excellent work, thank you.
    It is very difficult to read some player’s serves, especially when the contact point is hidden, but mostly because some players are very good at deception.
    For this reason it seems to me that top players must be reading the spin on the ball by the way it travels through the air and on the table. Am I correct in thinking this and if so, how do players learn how to do it, do they practise for many hours against very good servers? Also, can you make a video on this very important subject please?

  3. There is no reason to promote this as an effective serve. For me, it is mostly illegal (maybe with some exceptions). There is nothing great about deceiving your opponent in an unfair way. Personally, I am a little tired of the low quality of judges’ decisions who should intervene but they do not (even at the ittf international events). Their behaviour only harms the competition and levelling the playing field. Young players, prospective professionals watch it and they become convinced it is a way to get the (unfair) advantage. They probably hardly realise it’s borderline and often illegal. They decide to go this way, because many others get away with it.
    ITTF should do something about that. Maybe umpires are unsure about the way they view the serve and it is hard for them to discern between a proper and a bad serve. I can understand that. However, it seems to me that they often don’t care. There is a kind of an implied consent, that some faults are not being called. ITTF could do more to promote following the rules, so that the umpires feel supported by the local associations and ITTF itself. Now, they probably can feel sometimes that by calling a faulty serve they may spoil the game, the spectacle, they are afraid to be decisive.
    There are a lot of unfair behaviours of players, but hiding the serve is probably the most frustrating one. In contrast, if a player throws a ball 10 cm, throws it not vertically or from under the table – there is almost no advantage of that. Ironically, these faults are being called by umpires.
    Maybe there should be another umpire on the other axis of the court, behind the receiver to call the hidden serves. Maybe we should allow a video challenge that a player who hasn’t seen the ball contact point can ask for. It could definitely prove the serve did not follow the rules.
    I am sad, because I love the sport, but following the rules in our sport is not popular for some reason. I do not know how it looks like in other disciplines.


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