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 extended towards the sky after releasing the ball until she sees the ball 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.
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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 analysing that what was happening on the court was the result of what was going on in my mind.
You see, when we ready for the first serve, most of the time it is just 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 between your ears. (Serve/Return Tennis Drills)
One must understand that the serve is very sensitive to negative thinking: your racquet becomes heavy, the hand too 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 your most comfortable way. Take one more look toward your opponent’s position and at 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
Are you tired of serving double faults and giving your opponents free points?
How frustrating is it when you see that the tennis ball is in your hand, you have total control at the beginning of the point and then… you fail to get one out of the two tries in. (Tennis Serve Lesson – videos)
The following tips will help you avoid missing your serves and enjoy your tennis:
1. Use Spin Imparting slice or topspin on your serves in particular on the second attempt will always save you from giving points away or being put on a defense by your opponent’s return. The spin brings the ball down due to the air friction therefore you will not miss long too often.
2. Relax Your Arm Begin your serving motion with hands, arms relaxed and in front of your hips. Many times I see people beginning their service motion holding the ball and racquet too high (chest level) before tossing the ball – this action tightens your shoulders and arms. Keep a loose grip on the racquet at all times.
3. Breath Your breathing should be slow and shallow before you begin your serving motion. Inhale as you toss the ball up then exhale as you swing up to hit it.
4. Toss It Right One way that will improve your toss consistency (and as a result your serve) is to always “push” the ball up with as little spin as possible. That action will relax your arm and your toss will not affect your body balance.
5. Visualization Before you toss the ball up visualize the racquet hitting it, the ball going over the net and landing in the desired spot inside the opposite service box. This is probably the most powerful aspect of your serve – believing and seeing what you want to happen.
Try these pieces of advice not in the match but in your practice first. Then as they become your habits, you will carry them into your matches too.
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.
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).
(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 WebTennis24.com
If you like “serving with an eastern backhand grip” tennis tip check out Tennis Tips video section for more technical and tactical lessons.