Serving with Power
There are a few fundamental secrets to increase your serve by 10-15 mph.
Perhaps the most important source of power in the serve (and every other shot in tennis) is the contact of the racquet with the ball. The center of the strings is called the sweetspot for a reason. It acts like a trampoline in that it causes the ball to explode off the racquet. To get the right contact, you must see the ball when the racquet contacts the ball. To see it properly, you must keep your head still as you make contact and keep it still until you finish your swing.
Another source of power is the use of the legs. Bending the knees as you toss allows you to throw your body up into the ball as reach up to hit it. Many players actually jump up as they hit the ball Jumping can be rough on the back however so be careful. A more common use of the legs is that used when throwing a ball. Bend your front knees as you toss the ball, then bend your back knee as you swing at the ball with the racquet.
Most of us would like to have more power in our serve. Although control and accuracy are the most important, if your serve is too slow most players will put you on the defensive or even hit winners off your serve. There are several sources of power for the serve. One is the wrist. Engaging the wrist causes the racquet head to speed up at the contact point. Pronating your wrist allows you to flatten Another is the elbow. Bending the arm at the elbow engages the biceps and triceps in the serve. It also lengthens the distance the racquet head travels just prior to contact with the ball.
Another source of power for the serve is the shoulder. The shoulder muscles triggers the arm, so timing is very important. But so is the position. If you tilt your body so that the shoulder is in a low position when the toss is at its peak, you will get power from the shoulder moving up.
If you turn your body away from the court as you toss the ball, you will get power from your body turning back to hit the ball. This is often called body torque.
A good example is how Andy Roddick used his shoulder and knees to hit 150 mph first serves and 110 mph second serve kick serves consistently.
The Roddick Serve
What makes Andy Roddick’s serve so great? Clearly the power and consistency. 150 mph on the first serve and 110 mph on the second serve with a huge kick. What was he doing different from everyone else? His shoulder turn was different. The standard technique is to pull the shoulder back as you toss the ball. Andy tossed the ball and then pulled the shoulder muscle back and forth in one motion. It is the same motion a baseball player
His knee bend was different. The standard is to bend the knees with the toss and then jump up and hit the ball. Andy jumped like a basketball player jumps for a rebound. After the toss, bends his knees and jumps up in one motion. Add a live arm, a longer followthrough and a big body and you have a huge serve.
The Modern Serve
Andy Roddick brought a couple of new sources of power to the serve. For one, his jump was different. He jumped like a rebounder in basketball. That is, he bent his knees down and up in one motion. Prior to this, servers bent down with the toss, paused,
For another, Roddick puled his arm back and forth in one motion. Prior to this, the server would turn his shoulders with the toss, pause, and then reach up and hit the ball.
To see a combination of the Sampras and Roddick innovations, check out Madison Keys and Camila Giorgi’s serves.
If you make all of your first serves, you will never double fault. If you only have one serve and it goes in 80% of the time, you need not worry about those few double faults. Good servers like to hit flat first serves in the corners or right at the receiver and hit topspin second serves to the receiver’s backhand. Double faults occur for various reasons. If your opponent is successfully attacking your second serve, you may be hitting it with less spin, making it faster but riskier. You may just be getting nervous. Tense muscles do not function the same as relaxed muscles, thereby sending the ball in unintended directions. A change in technique often places doubt in a server’s mind and may cause frustration and choking. The second serve should be practiced regularly so it goes in the court every time.
Serving with Spin
Hitting the serve with spin allows you to hit the ball with a higher degree of safety as well as adding some deception. By deception I mean that spin forces your opponent to watch the ball longer and more closely. He needs to know which way the ball is bouncing. Many receivers slow down or shorten their return when they see a spin serve coming. If the receiver cannot tell your spin serve from your flat serve you should serve a lot of aces.
There are four basic serves: flat, slice, topspin and twist. (There is also the underhand serve which many players refuse to use because they feel it is unethical, unfair or a cop out. It is very useful if you have a sore shoulder or the sun is in your face.)
The slice serve is the easiest and most common spin serve. If you use the continental grip and you toss the ball right over your head, you will hit a moderate slice. It will bounce a little to the left if you are right handed or a little to the right if you are left handed. To get more slice, you can hit across the ball or you can toss the ball farther to the right (if right- handed). The latter is a giveaway to the receiver, but only if he is aware and paying attention.
Topspin. The topspin serve is the most popular spin serve. Good players use this serve to hit an aggressive second serve by going to the backhand side which is usually weaker for most players. This serve clears the net higher and bounces higher than the flat or slice serves. To hit the topspin serve it helps to toss the ball over your head or to the left. This makes it easier to hit up the back of the ball. For this serve, focus on the feel of your racket. Imagine it going from left to right and up on the ball. One pro tip is to accelerate the racket more through the contact point. If it goes into the net you are probably throwing the ball too much in front of you.
Another Variation is the Twist. Twist Serve
The (American) twist serve is a topspin serve that bounces to the right if you are right handed (left if you are left handed). Since the normal right handed serve bounces to the left, the twist serve confuses the receiver by bouncing to the right. To hit the twist serve, toss the ball to the left of your head. If 12 o’clock is over your head, toss the ball to 11 o’clock. Then swing across the ball from left to right. (Reverse for left handers. Avoid bending your back or you risk injuring your back.This serve is easier if you are are young and jumping into your serve.
Most players hit their second serve with more spin than their first serve. Hitting it with spin allows them to hit it higher over the net with the spin bringing it down before it goes long. Sidespin (slice) forces the receiver to watch it more closely to see how much it curves thereby discouraging them from drilling it. Topspin serves bounce higher (kick). Most professional players hit the second serve with topspin. The difference in timing from the first serve often causes a weak return. Most players must learn to take it early in order to return it at all.