Serve Problem – This Is How I Fixed It…

Here’s how I fixed the serve problem of one of my students.

This particular lady used to take lessons with me a couple of years ago.
She called me on a Wednesday afternoon saying that she was lacking consistency and did not know what was the problem with her serve.

We met the next morning after my usual 8:30-9:30 am class, and after she warmed up, I made a few steps away and looked at her while she was delivering most of her serves long, just a foot beyond the service line. Over and over…

I soon noticed the problem:
She was releasing the ball very early and then lowering the tossing arm right away.
This caused a loss in balance and low contact with the ball.

So here’s what I did to fix her serve consistency within a few minutes…

I asked her to continue serving focusing on one thing only: keeping the tossing arm up and extended towards the sky after releasing the ball until she sees it coming down.
She got her balance back and made contact a lot higher.
The result: more power and… more serves landing inside the service box.

There are a few technical elements that players need to be aware of in order to deliver the serve with consistency and power. These elements can make a big difference in someone’s game.

If you want more information about tennis technique, or drills for consistency and accuracy, as well as tactics and strategies for winning against different tennis opponents, you’ll find all this in the WebTennis24 Training section.

If you are a tennis coach or a parent of a child who wants to learn how to play tennis, you should definitely check out the WebTennis24 Kids and the new 10 Lesson Plans program.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

How to Hit More Serves In… Under Pressure

tennis serve

I’ve always considered that a high percentage who serve deliverability, especially under pressure, depends on… the player’s mental strength.

As a player prepares to hit the second serve, thoughts of “I’m going to hit it into the net”, “My opponent will attack me” or “I’m going to miss it” often distract and impede them from hitting it with confidence.

You see, when a player gets ready for the first serve, there is very little pressure involved other than the desire to go for a winner or place it strategically (e.g. to the opponent’s weak side).

But when the second serve is about to be delivered, that’s when our thoughts begin to challenge us.

One must understand that the serve is very sensitive to negative thinking: your racquet “becomes” heavy, the arm too tense, the whole body gets shaky…

To avoid these feelings before you are about to serve (second serves in particular) practice the following:

  1. Think positive thoughts (“I know I can”, “I have confidence”, “I can do this”).
  2. Visualize positive outcomes (“see” the ball going over the net and inside the desired service box).
  3. Have a ritual (bounce the ball a certain number of times, etc.).
  4. Relax your body (exhale slowly).
  5. Take your time… Position your feet, adjust the grip, and hold the racquet in your most comfortable way. Take one more look toward your opponent’s position and at the service box you are about to send the ball to.

“If you believe you can, you might. If you know you can, you will.” ― Steve Maraboli

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

First Steps of the Serve Return

tennis serve return stepsMany variables must go together in putting the ball in play against your opponent’s serve, but in this short article, we’ll only focus on the preparation and footwork. If you get these two right, the rest should follow. 

Serve Return Preparation
– Get the most comfortable ready position grip – the one that allows you to switch quickly between forehand and backhand (I am not going to advise you in this regard because you will have to find what grip works best for you).
– Bodyweight should be evenly distributed on the balls of your feet.
– Pay attention to your opponent and try to figure out (based on their toss and racquet path) what kind of serve (spin-wise) they’re intending to deliver.
– Position yourself in a place that is halfway between your opponent’s possible angles, or open up your strong side to invite the server to deliver toward it (this could be a tricky one and you should be ready to quickly cover it if the serve goes there). 

Serve Return Footwork and Body Balance
– As the server begins tossing the ball, you should make a “comfortable” step forward followed by a split step.
This initial step-up will get the body moving into the incoming ball and the split step will get you balanced and ready to spring into the direction of the serve.
– Right after the split step, you should load the foot closer to the trajectory of the incoming ball, even stepping into it with the other foot to cover the distance. 

There is so much more (mentally and physically) that goes into a successful return of serve but for now, go out on the tennis court and practice these tips.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Serving With Confidence in Tennis

preparing to serve in tennis
I’ve always found that my tennis serve delivery depends on my mental attitude. 

As I prepare to hit the second serve, thoughts of “I’m going to hit it into the net”, “My opponent will attack me” or “I’m going to miss” often distract and impede me from hitting it with confidence. 

It took me years of playing and analyzing to realize that what was happening on the court was the result of what was going on in my mind.

You see, when we get ready for the first serve, most of the time there’s just the excitement of hitting the ball hard or placing it strategically. But when the second serve is about to be delivered that’s when the nerves take over. It is then when you must be in control of what happens in your mind.

One must understand that the serve is very sensitive to negative thinking: your racquet becomes heavy, the hand is tense, the whole body gets shaky…

To avoid these feelings when you are about to serve (second serves in particular) practice these:

1. Think positive thoughts (“I know I can”, “I have confidence”, “I can do this”).

2. Visualize positive outcomes (ball going over the net and inside the desired service box).

3. Have a ritual (bounce the ball a certain number of times, etc.)

4. Relax your body (exhale slowly).

5. Take your time… Position your feet, adjust the grip and hold the racquet in the most comfortable way. Take one more look toward your opponent’s position and the service box that you are about to send the ball to.

“If you believe you can, you might. If you know you can, you will.” ― Steve Maraboli

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

The Body Serve Is the Best – Here’s Why!

body serve
I just finished shooting the videos for the “Strategic Serve Practice”, and as I was presenting the best possible serve strategies, I came to a conclusion: if one wants to begin the point right, they must consider practicing, improving, and using, the body serve.

The body serve is performed when the server aims directly at their opponent.

I do not mean that you shouldn’t go for the returner’s weak side (if they have one), but in case there is not a significant one, the body serve has many advantages:

– If hit with a decent pace, the body serve can jam the returner and the result can be a floating return in the middle of the court (which the server can attack).

– The body serve does not allow the returner to create angles (as opposed to a wide serve, which gives the opponent many options to play with).

– It forces the returner to hit the ball while moving away from it (blocking or pushing the ball) – most of the players practice hitting balls while moving to and not away from them.

– It’s also great for serve-and-volley players because the return is most of the time weak due to the before-mentioned reasons.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Try Serving With a Backhand Grip. Here’s Why…

Most teaching resources tell you to serve with a continental grip but if you want to add more spin to your serves try moving your hand on the grip slightly to the left (if you are a right-handed player)…

This type of grip (also called Eastern backhand) will allow you to hit better kick serves. Of course, you will have some troubles with the flat serve and you might lose some pace, but you will gain the necessary spin to improve your serve consistency.

Many players choose to hold the racquet with a continental grip on the first serve (for power) and then switch to the Backhand grip for their second serve.

Note: A continental grip is holding the racquet (bottom towards you, tip points in front of you) so that it feels like you could hammer a nail with the edge of your racquet (see photo below). Your hand is on top of the bevel 1 of your racquet (the side that extends the racquet edge).

eastern backhand grip
(open the picture in a new tab for a larger view)

Personally, I prefer to use an Eastern backhand grip on both my first and second serves. On the power serves, I let my hand be loose and on top of bevels 8-1 for more penetrating contact through the ball; but on the second attempt, my hand is more toward bevels 7-8, which helps me with brushing over and/or the side of the ball for extra spin.

I recently watched an instructional tennis course with Patrick Rafter and he mentioned he used to kick serve on both – first and second. Obviously, as a serve-and-volley player as he was, this kind of serve was necessary. For many players though, when they apply this tactic (heavy spin on both serves), their first serve consistency is greater and as a result they don’t have to go through the pressure of hitting second serves too often.

This Eastern backhand grip approach on the serve will give you peace of mind that your consistency will be greater. Your opponents will have to worry about controlling your heavy spin and, mentally, you will be more relaxed knowing you don’t have to deal with too many second serves.

Give it a try – let me know how it goes for you!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Why You Should Practice the Wide Serve More Often


Wide serve… Federer uses it beautifully, every smart tennis player uses it often.

Why should you too? Actually, why shouldn’t you too?

We all know that our opponents have a harder time hitting/controlling balls on the run, therefore we should make them run often. When on the run, the player must control balance, change direction quickly and recover as soon as possible.

Serving the ball wide has the following advantages:

1. getting your opponent off the court – as a result, you will have the open court to attack with the next ball;
2. making your opponent hustle to cover the open court (hitting the ball on the run).

These two situations give you control of the point. That means you can either hit the ball to the open court or behind the recovering player. Either of these options will make your opponent struggle to get the ball in play. Rarely you will find a player that is comfortable hitting great shots while running full speed.

How do you angle the serve wide (as close as possible to the side line)?

1. From the deuce side, if you are a right-handed player, use slice.
Practice aiming for a cone (or, as I saw Djokovic do at Indian Wells a couple years ago, use cans of balls placed inside the service court) that you sit about 1 foot inside the singles line and roughly 5 feet inside the service line.
Do this tennis serve practice drill: hit 10 balls and see how many land within 1 foot from the cone (or even hit the cone/can of balls).
Technically you must visualize that your strings will, at contact, brush the outside of the ball: if you are right-handed, see the racquet brushing the ball toward the right and over 3 o’clock (if the ball would be seen as the face of a clock).

2. From the ad side, if you are right-handed, use the kick serve. As you did with the slice, practice hitting kick serves to a cone placed very close to the right side line and service line in the opposite ad service box.
Technically, visualize your racquet’s strings brushing the ball up and away on the back of the ball (or from 7 to 1 on the face of a clock).

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.