Q: Why is Boll strong?
A: Services difficult to receive short
Reverse sidespin short service
Timo Boll (GER) ascended to the World no. 1 spot in March 2018. Young players have distinguished themselves one after another recently. Table tennis has continuously experienced various rule changes but despite all the changes why does his strength not fade away in this age of intense rivalry, even at the age of 37? It is more than just thinking that “He is special.”
Moreover, it must help many players improve their level if they understand the techniques
and strategies that have helped Timo Boll stay at the top level for such a long time.
We will unravel his strengths with the help of his former teammate Seiya Kishikawa (JPN)
with whom Timo Boll both practiced and faced in matches many times in the past.
Also we asked Timo Boll for self-analysis.
Witness by Seiya Kishikawa
”Boll’s service carries a great deal of spin; short receive is tough.”
We are most likely to focus the heavy topspin rotation he imparts on the ball with his forehand
but he is first of all proficient with service; his service is mainly with sidespin, sideways movement both ways.
It is not very difficult to read the spin; the uniqueness is the heavy spin. Therefore,
it is difficult for the opponent to receive short; the receive will often go too long over the end of the table,
enabling him to attack the ball with heavy topspin.
Boll’s reverse sidespin short service
Point 1: Prepare the racket by turning under the arm
Take a backswing leaning forward while raising the elbow.
Boll uses the reverse sidespin short service (with sidespin top right for left handers; to the left for right handers)
in addition to the sidespin short service previously explained.
Therefore, let us cast the spotlight on his reverse sidespin short service this time.
Basic preparation for the reverse sidespin short service is to raise the elbow
and twist the wrist enough to rotate in the racket under the arm. Thus,
it becomes easy to impart reverse sidespin on the ball.
If it is difficult to make a backswing for the reverse service, try to take the backswing while leaning forward like Boll;
it will be easier to turn the racket under the arm and twist the wrist because the elbow automatically moves high
as you lean the upper body forward.
Use his service toss as a guide; he contacts the ball when low to make a timely stroke.
Point 2: Make the first bounce close to the end of the table
Swing the racket as to push it away from the body and make the first bounce close to the line.
The essential of the swing to impart reverse sidespin on the ball is
to move the racket away from the body after taking a backswing to turn the racket under the arm.
Please use his motion as a guide; he moves the racket compactly while lowering his body.
“For the reverse sidespin service, it is nearly the same (as the last edition of sidespin short service).
The first bounce is also close to the end line, just to try to play short and to try to play with more variation of the placement,”
Boll explains. It is his technique to make the first bounce close to the end line even for a short service,
just as a long service, not to let the opponent read the length of the service.
Point 3: Adjust the amount of rotation according to the environment in the hall
Not only with the reverse sidespin short service, but for every service, Boll pays attention to the environment in the hall.
“If it is humid in the hall, I try not to play too much spin. If it is dry,
I can put maybe a little more (spin) on the ball.”
“It depends also on the surface of the table; if it is slippery (or if it grips).
It depends on the ball; if it is chalky, it grips more and then it has a chance to stay short,” explains Boll.
In addition to the swing and the direction, considering the subtleties
and being persistent are the main reasons why his service has been effective for a very long time.