5 Serving Secrets to add 10-15 mph to Your Serve

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.

Being Mentally Strong in Tennis

Staying Mentally Strong

Everybody chokes say the professionals. But not everyone gets into a state where they cannot hit the ball in the court at all. Let’s break it down into a few common situations and see it we can learn something from it. If you start out playing great and you think “This can’t last”, it won’t. Next time keep telling yourself this is your day and don’t look back. But on those days when you crash, lower your expectations and try to play your normal game. If you can and you still lose, it is likely that your opponent is better than you. The positive lesson here is that you are capable of playing great. So keep practicing until you can play great for 3 sets.

If you play better when you are behind, don’t be surprised. Most players focus betterwhen they fall behind. Many players start playing “not to lose” when they are nearing the end of a set or a match. If you got ahead by playing aggressively and you start hitting the ball slower and shorter, don’t be surprised when your opponent starts playing better. You have taken the pressure off him and given him or her the opportunity to hit deeper and put the pressure on you. Stick with what got you there and don’t take your foot off the pedal.

Finally, if you are in the third set and both you and your opponent are “babying” the ball, try this. Tell yourself to “pause, then hit”. That is, delay your swing so that you have to accelerate to hit the ball. This should force you to accelerate through the ball as you hit it and give you more pace, depth and control. Decelerating causes your shot to slow down and fall short.

Warming up like Rafa

Warming Up

The safest way to warm up before playing tennis seems to be to have both players stand on the service line and tap the ball on one bounce back and forth. This allows you to warm up your hand/eye coordination and find good contact without risking a painful mis­hit with a full swing.

For some players this is not easy. Many players today are taught to take a full swing the

first time they step onto the court. If your opponent prefers too warm up from the baseline, be sure  to swing slowly and watch the ball closely to avoid mis­hitting the ball with a full swing. It is best not to do anything quickly until you have broken a sweat. Overdressing at the  start helps. Some like to jog a few laps around the court. Some like to take a few practice swings.

When you do move back and take full swings, start out with a steady top spin balls that land close to your partner/opponent. If you are playing a match, look out for which side does your opponent step around. This usually tells you which one is the weaker side. Hit a few more shots to the backhand side and the forehand side to see which they prefer more. One important note is to remember to take a few at net to warm up as well. The best is to warm up before getting to your match.

In addition, remember to do a few laps before the match in order to warm up the legs. If you want to channel what Nadal does, run and touch the baseline  side to side.

Watching the Tennis Pros at Home

Watching Tennis at Home

With the Australian Open currently in the third round, we thought we would cover the best way to watch the pros

Network TV: ESPN, NBC, CBS and ABC often bid for the most popular telecasts of the major tournaments, i.e. the semifinals and finals or other telecasts which are shown on the weekend. If there are rain delays the network may shift the live telecast to one of their cable outlets (Versus for

Cable TV: The early rounds of the majors are usually purchased and shown on cable stations. Some lesser tournaments are also shown on cable. ESPN2 ,Comcast Sports and USA have shown a lot of tennis. Lately Tennis Channel has outbid them. Generally you must pay an additional $5 a On­line: ESPN3.com streams videos of many tennis matches. It is especially good during the majors since you may watch a complete match without interruption and sometimes without any commentary. The nicest thing is that you can pick a match and watch it whenever you like without recording it. It is free as well. Tennischannel.com and Youtube may also show some matches.

Draws: A good place for printable draws are the sites for the men’s tour (ATP) and the women’s tour (WTA). Google them since one of them has changed its website.

Tournament Websites: All of the tournaments have their own website and may give the TV schedule as well as the schedule of play, draws, and live scoring.

Why Hard Court Tennis Players Win More Matches

Hard Court vs Clay Court

Many of the great players came from the American hard courts. Often this was due to their learning to play an attacking game. The true and fast bounces combined with the firm footing allowed for building powerful groundstrokes and serves as well as point ending volleys and

One strategy on hard courts is to hit deep groundstrokes until you get a short ball which you hit deep and follow to the net where you can end the point with an angled volley.

Another is to serve and move forward looking for a ball to volley. Another is to attack your opponent’s short shot either by hitting a winner or moving in toward the net.

In the past North Americans played on hard courts (asphalt or cement) whereas Europeans and South Americans played on clay. There are clay courts in the U.S. But they are usually green and very different from the red clay/ The red clay is very dusty and slippery.

The biggest problem for hard court players is stopping on a clay court. On a hard court when you want to stop you plant your outside foot and you will stop moving to the side or you plant both feet and you stop moving forward. In both cases on a red clay court you will slide before coming to a stop. The reason for stopping is to change direction. On a clay court if you want to stop, hit the ball, then move to the center, you must slide to a stop first. This takes a lot of practice. If you are serving and volleying, you may as well forget about the split step and run to where you think the receiver is returning the ball.

Another problem is the bad bounces. Every time you slide you leave a hole in the clay.When the ball hits the hole the ball bounces funny. An experienced clay court player will smooth it out before the next point.

How to Hit Your Serve Like Roddick

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.

Singles Strategy

Serve and Stay Back: Many players stay behind the baseline after they serve and depend upon their opponent’s errors to win points. Players with powerful groundstrokes will hit the ball deep and crosscourt until their superior strokes prevail. Players without powerful strokes but are very quick and agile often-just get everything back and rely on frustrating their opponents. Other players just rely on strategy (spin, change of pace, moon balls, unreturnable serves or luring their opponents into hitting their weakest shots).

A highly successful strategy is to wait for your opponent to hit a short or weak shot and

then attack. Here are three good ways to attack a short ball (one that lands near the service line).

The most popular is to hit it over the lowest part of the net(the center strap) with enoughTopspin to keep it in the court. It works best when you have an angle and you are standing still. Your goal is to hit a winner and end the point.If you have to hit the short ball on the run, it is safer to hit it flat, straight ahead, and deep.

Your goal is to follow it to the net and put away the volley. This shot is called an approach shot and is best taken on the rise. It has a short backswing and a short follow through. You should move in with the racquet back, holding your volley grip.

The third shot is the dropshot. It should be used sparingly, never on the big points, Itworks best as a surprise and when your opponent is far behind the baseline.

6 Steps To a Consistent Service Return

Service Return

The first thing you need to know when returning serve is what to look at.  Watch the toss.  More specifically, watch the ball as it is tossed up into the air.  You will then see the ball as soon as possible after your opponent has struck it.  You may not see the ball at once, but you will see it sooner since you are looking where it should be.  As soon as you read the flight of the ball, take your racquet back as quickly as you can.

The second thing is what swing to use.  I do not advise my pupils to use the looping swing to return serve.  Take the racquet back directly.  The faster the serve, the shorter the take-back.  Reason: the serve is providing the power when it is fast.  You are providing the power when it is slow. 

The third thing to remember when returning serve is when to step in the return and when not to. Do not step into a powerful serve.  Instead, turn your shoulders as you take the racquet back and hit with an open stance.  The exception is when your opponent hits a wide powerful serve.  I suggest you lunge at it.  By this I mean the following: step forward and across your body (toward the alley),taking your racquet back and swinging at the same time.  If you are lucky you will hit a bullet down the line for a winner.

You may step into a spin serve or a slower serve if you can do it and still control the return.  If not, stand in closer and use an open stance.

The fourth is where to aim your return. When returning a fast serve, aim it across your body. (A forehand return in the deuce court is aimed cross­court to the server’s deuce court. A backhand return in the deuce court is aimed at the server’s Ad court.) The reasoning is that your return is likely to be late against a fast serve. By aiming it across your body, your late return has more chances of going inside the court. The opposite is true against a slow serve. You will tend to be early and pull it too far. So, aim down the line from the deuce court with your forehand. Aim your backhand from the deuce court back toward the server’s deuce court.

The fifth is what to do after you hit the return. In singles the general rule is to stay back behind the baseline. If you have hit a deep crosscourt return you may want to stay put if your opponent likes to return crosscourt. Otherwise, recover toward the center, making sure you have stopped when your return lands in your opponent’s court. If your opponent usually serves short you may want to stand closer in. If so, you should return down the line and follow your return to the net. If you are on or behind the baseline and the serve is short, hit it down the line on the run.

The general rule in doubles is that the first team to the net wins the majority of the points.If you can control the return, you should be able to move in behind it. Be sure to keep it low and

The sixth key to returning serves is the adjustment for doubles. Your primary goal in doubles is to avoid giving the player at net an easy shot. I suggest you begin by altering your stance so you are facing a little more cross­court than usual. In this way your return will more easily go cross­court. If you aim for the corner of the service box near the alley on the server’s side, the net player cannot reach it without poaching. It is also a difficult shot for the server, whether or not the server comes to the net behind the serve. If the net player poaches (running to the server’s side to pick off your return), hit the return where the net player vacated. You can do this if you take the racquet back as soon as you read the serve.

If the opposing net player is close to the net, try lobbing over the net player. If you see that your opponents are letting your lob bounce, follow it to the net.

Double Faults

Double Faults

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. 

Why Spinning your Serve Is a Key to Winning Matches

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.