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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Second serves are the ones that you, obviously, cannot miss. The pressure is on you and your opponent knows it (by the way, if he is a savvy player he will prepare to attack your second serve).
1. Before you toss the ball up, tell yourself what you intend to do with your second serve: – if your opponent shows intention to attack it, consider slicing it (brush sideways). That will keep the ball low and difficult for your opponent to go for an aggressive shot. – if your opponent stays back most of the time, a simple kick serve should do it to dip the ball over the net and make it bounce high off the ground.
2. Everything you’ve learned in practice… forget about it. This is not the time to think about your technique. You should just let your habits take over your movements. Toss the ball up and hit it after you previously told yourself what you’d like to accomplish (see previous point).
3. Hit your second serve with confidence. It is easy to let doubting thoughts cripple into your mind, therefore training your mind to stay on the positive side is crucial for delivering consistent second serves.
We all need more power on our serves, don’t we? While the internet is abundant in videos that show us how to hit “killer” serves or add “15 extra miles per hour” to it, I’ll simply give you a check list of what you should consider to do in order to improve the serve. Then you’ll go on the court to practice it… By the way, there is no magic formula to improving anything other than lots of practice.
1. A fast serve is a combination of proper technique, timing and body flexibility. 2. Use your legs to add power (bend them during the toss then spring into the shot). 3. The toss should be further in front and not too high; a high toss will create friction on the downfall against your racquet resulting in more spin and less power. 4. Tossing arm should stay up longer (provides body balance). 5. Grip – must be Continental (allows for more wrist action) and relaxed. 6. Loose strings – the lower the tension on your strings the more of a “trampoline” effect you get resulting in added pace to your serve.
There are many variables that must go together in putting the ball in play against your opponent’s serve but in this short article we’ll just 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). – body weight should be evenly distributed on the balls of your feet. – pay attention to your opponent and try to figure out (based on his toss and racquet path) what kind of serve (spin wise) he’s intending to deliver. – position yourself in a place that is halfway between your opponent’s possible angles, or you can 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 be loading 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.
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