How To Do A Jab or Punch Serve in Table Tennis

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by Mark Kemp | updated Mar 29 2023
How To Do A Jab or Punch Serve in Ping Pong

Introduction to the Jab or Punch Serve in Table Tennis

So hopefully, by now you have looked over some of our reviews of tables, especially the outdoor table tennis table reviews because summer is coming! Anyway, back to the coaching because that's what this article and video is all about.

Table Tennis Serves are the best way to win a point. If you have a variety of serves at hand you can confuse your opponent as they wont know what serve to expect and the Jab or Punch serve is one of the most widely used ping ping serves by the professional table tennis players in the game today.

Rules change

The Jab Table Tennis Serve came from the Reverse Serve. The Reverse Serve was more of a flick of the wrist than the body movement which is used in the Jab. The reason is that the Reverse Serve evolved into the Jab was because the rules changed. You are now not allowed to hide the ball with your other arm in-front of the ball when you are serving. If you are doing this, it is bad practise. In a competitive match the umpire might ask you to stop or even ban you from the game. The professional table tennis players take this very seriously as it gives the opponent an unfair advantage. This is a great example of how a rules change can spur innovation in the game and is not neccessarily a bad thing.

Ping Pong and Deception

Much of table tennis is a game of deception. Creating the spin, speed or combination of spins to make it as hard as possible for your opponent to read the ball that you are giving them wins the game. How to do this in the first instance is with your table tennis serve. A while back in the competitive table tennis game we used to hide the serve with an arm in front of the ball. This confused the opponent as they were not able to read the serve. We did this to deceive the player so that they had no way of knowing what serve they could expect.

If you watch some of the top table tennis players such as Ma Long, from China and (at the time of writing the world's number 1 table tennis player) uses the a combination of Jab serves a lot, as well as pendulum serves.

So in the video featured on this page we will take you through how to do a Jab Serve in Table Tennis. It is a very important serve to have in your game as it has become one of the most effective serves and is widely used.


This serve is a crucial skill in table tennis, which can provide players with a significant advantage over their opponents. It is a type of serve that is performed with a quick and sharp motion, which can catch the opponent off-guard and disrupt their rhythm. Unlike other types of serves, the jab  is a short serve that bounces twice on the opponent's side of the table, making it difficult for them to return. We will explore the basic technique for performing a jab serve and provide tips on how to incorporate it into your game.

Benefits of the Jab Serve

This serve is a powerful tool in table tennis that can provide several advantages to the player using it. Firstly, the quick and sharp motion of the jab serve can catch the opponent off-guard, making it harder for them to return the ball with precision. Secondly, the short bounce of the jab makes it difficult for the opponent to execute an aggressive return, giving the server more control over the point.

The jab or punch can be effective in a variety of situations, such as when the opponent is expecting a long serve or when they are positioned far from the table. It can also be useful in setting up a follow-up attack, as the server can anticipate the opponent's return and prepare for a strategic shot. Overall, mastering the jab serve can greatly enhance a player's performance and increase their chances of winning.

Basic Technique for the Jab

To perform a successful jab serve, there are several key components that must be executed correctly. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the technique:

  1. Start with the correct stance: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your weight evenly distributed between both feet.
  2. Hold the paddle with a loose and relaxed grip, using the shakehand or penhold grip.
  3. Place the ball in your non-dominant hand and toss it upwards about 6 inches above the table's surface.
  4. Move your paddle behind the ball in a neutral position, positioning your elbow close to your body.
  5. As the ball begins to descend, make a quick and sharp jabbing motion with your paddle, aiming to contact the ball at its base.
  6. Follow through with your stroke, extending your arm and wrist forward.

The key components of the serve include a quick and sharp motion, proper ball placement, and a relaxed grip on the paddle. Additionally, the player should focus on making contact with the ball at its base, which will result in a low and short bounce that is difficult for the opponent to return. With practice, players can master the technique and add the jab serve to their arsenal of table tennis skills.

Variations of the Jab or Punch Serve

There are several variations of the jab serve that players can use to keep their opponents off-balance. Here is an overview of some common variations:

Backhand jab

This variation involves using the backhand side of the paddle to perform the jab serve. It can be effective when the opponent is expecting a forehand serve or when they are positioned to receive a forehand shot.

Short jab

This variation involves placing the ball close to the net, resulting in a short and low bounce. It can be effective when the opponent is standing far from the table or when they are not expecting a short serve.

Wide jab

This variation involves aiming the serve towards the corners of the table, making it difficult for the opponent to reach. It can be effective when the opponent has a weak backhand or when they are positioned more towards the middle of the table.

When performing these variations, it is important to focus on the same key components as the basic jab serve, such as quick and sharp motion and proper ball placement. Players should also consider the opponent's strengths and weaknesses and adjust their serve accordingly. With practice, players can become proficient in using the jab serve variations to their advantage.

Strategies for Incorporating the Jab Serve into Your Game

To fully leverage the power of the serve, players must incorporate it into their overall game plan. Here are some tips for doing so:

  1. To become proficient in using the jab, players should focus on practicing it regularly, paying attention to the key components such as proper ball placement and a quick and sharp motion. They can also practice using the different variations of the jab serve to keep their opponents off-balance.
  2. Incorporating the jab serve into your game plan can help you gain an edge over your opponent. For example, you can use the jab serve as a surprise tactic to catch the opponent off-guard and gain an early advantage in the point. Alternatively, you can use the jab to set up a follow-up attack, giving you more control over the point.

Another strategy is to use the jab to vary the pace and spin of the game, making it harder for the opponent to anticipate your shots. By incorporating the jab serve into your overall strategy and game plan, you can enhance your performance and increase your chances of success on the table.

Common mistakes to avoid

Even experienced players can make mistakes when attempting the jab serve. Here are some common errors to watch out for:

Some players may struggle with the timing or motion of the jab serve, resulting in a slower and less effective serve. Others may place the ball too high or too low, making it easier for the opponent to return the ball. In some cases, players may also struggle with consistency, with their jab serves landing out of bounds or failing to cross the net.

To avoid these mistakes and improve your jab serve technique, it is important to focus on the key components of the serve, such as the proper stance, grip, and ball placement. Players can also benefit from practicing the serve regularly, paying attention to the timing and motion of the serve, and working on consistency.

Jab Serve Coaching Video

Another tip is to watch your opponent's response to your jab serve and adjust your technique accordingly. By analyzing your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, you can tailor your jab serve to exploit their vulnerabilities and gain an advantage in the match.

By avoiding common mistakes and continuously improving your technique, you can develop a reliable and effective jab serve that can enhance your overall performance in table tennis.

Eli Baraty is one of the UK's top table tennis coaches. He currently coaches national and internationally ranked players at Harefield Table Tennis Academy. Eli gives us a brilliant explanation of how to do the Jab Serve and demonstrates the variety of combinations you can use as part of this serve.

It's great to see that he approaches the serve with the whole body in mind. He takes you though the techniques in order to produce a very effective serve. How to stand, what do with your body when you are serving. What different styles and spins you can use with the type of serve.

We hope you enjoy the video and learn from one of the best table tennis coaches in the United Kingdom. Eli has produced a few different videos for us demonstrating serves. You can see our other videos by clicking the Youtube logo at the foot of this page.

Jab or Punch Serve Video Transcription

The Jab serve. What is the Jab Serve? Quite a difficult serve to explain but it will do my best. It's a little bit like doing a punch and it evolved from the reverse serve.

The way you want to stand is with your right leg forward, if you're left handed like me, and then you're able to rotate your body in to the serve.

The beauty also is, once you have hit the ball you can do many different variations after you have hit it.

In order for you to be able to execute the serve, you want to first practise contacting the ball underneath, in this motion, bringing the arm back and forward like a punch again, contacting the ball underneath.

Or you can contact the ball side or you can contact the ball upwards like that, which creates a bit of side spin top spin. So it's underneath which is backspin side spin, pure side spin or side spin top spin.

So this is how you  execute the serve. Backspin side spin. Sidespin topspin.

The side spin serve. You may have noticed the ball actually kicked up a little bit there and then I finished going underneath making it look like backspin. Which means if the opponent mis read it, it will pop up and I can attack it hard. Try and mix up your serves to try and have as many different variations as possible once you have contacted the ball and hopefully that will help you with your game.

We hope you enjoy our table tennis instructional videos and that they provide you with some useful guidance to develop your game. We want to help you progress and become better ping pong players.

These coaching videos are produced by professional table tennis players and Eli Baraty is one of the best Table Tennis Coaches there is. We are very pleased to be able to have his time to produce these videos for the Best Table Tennis Tables website. It's aways a pleasure learning from Eli and we hope you do the same.

Table Tennis is a great way to get fit and play with your family, friends and now increasingly with your office co-workers. Table Tennis has become so popular with the office crowd, so we are pleased to bring the two worlds together and bridge the gap between the professional table tennis world and communities that just want to have fun and play a little.

We will be producing more videos shortly, so please follow us on facebook or if you have any questions regarding your game, please reach out to us and ask. We are more than happy to help and provide guidance in your game.

Thanks for reading, don't forget to check out our reviews of outdoor Ping Pong tables for the upcoming summer months!

Chop-chop get serving and out-smart your friends!!

How To Do A Jab Serve in Table Tennis Coaching Video

Table Tennis Coaching - How To Do The Punch Serve or Jab Serve in Table Tennis by Eli Baraty.

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