How to Hit More Serves In… Under Pressure

how to serve under pressure in tennis

I’ve always considered that a high percentage 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 him/her from hitting it with confidence.

You see, when players get 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 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 the 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

For video lessons to improve your serve technique check out our Tennis Technique Lessons section.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Try Serving with a Backhand Grip. Here’s why…

Most of the 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 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.

Quick Tennis Fixes / How-To Videos

There are many players who choose to hold the racquet with a Continental grip on the first serve (for power) then they 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 very 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 the 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 but if you think about it for many players 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, the 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

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