Switching Up Your Service
It goes without saying, but learning how to effectively serve is one of the most important aspects of tennis, and a player's serve will often decide the outcome of a match. Many professional can average serves around 125 miles per hour -- with some of the best hitting over 140 mph. These serves are incredibly hard to return at such high speeds, but, in reality, speed isn't everything. There are many different types of serves and each one takes a lot of technical skill, not just raw power. Below is CoachUp’s guide to the most important types of serves and how and when to use them. At first, try using a Continental Grip for each until you’re more comfortable with experimenting more.
Although service power isn't that important for every serve, it's king when it comes to flat serves. Flat serves are specifically used to draw on the strength of a tennis player and usually they’re the easiest one for athletes to learn. To perform a flat serve, you need to throw the ball up slightly in front of you and make contact with it with a flat racket head. Performing a serve with a spin takes power off of it, because only a flat racket can generate the full torque of the racquet. The main advantage of this serve is that it gives opponents less time to react.
Slice serves put sidespin on the ball which can boost serve consistency and help you diversify your service game. To perform a slice serve, you should start by throwing the ball a bit further away from your body than you would with a flat serve. When you make contact with the ball, you want the racket to be moving from right to left or vice versa, depending on your handedness. Unlike the flat serve, the racket should hit the outside of the ball rather than straight in the middle, that's the contact that creates the spin. The main advantage of this serve is that when it bounces, the ball usually veers to a side, either into or away from an opponent. However, it's important to keep in mind that good players will eventually learn to read this serve since it will likely be a little bit slower.
Top Spin Serve
This serve is usually less powerful than the flat serve, but includes some topspin that makes the hit less predictable. To perform the topspin serve, you need to start by throwing the ball slightly behind and to the left of your head. When the ball is thrown correctly, you’ll be able to move your racket through and over the ball, ending with it up and to the right of contact for right-handers.
It's that subtle racket movement that creates the spin. The topspin is very effective and many youth tennis players learn it early on in their careers. Topspin serves are popular because they are very consistent, making them good choices for second serves. The spin causes the ball to bounce higher off the court, giving your opponent less time to hit it from an easier, lower position.
The Kick Serve
Top players use the kick serve for both their first and second serve because it helps with serve consistency and can be tricky to return. The kick is similar to the topspin in that the ball dips quickly after it's hit and bounces high after contact. While the slice involves hitting the ball from one side towards the other and the topspin involves hitting the ball from the bottom towards the top, the kick is somewhere in between the two. Basically, kick serves put both topspin and sidespin on the ball.
When you toss the ball up, make sure that the ball is above and sometimes even behind your head. Right-handed players should swing through and across the ball starting from about 7 o'clock and finishing somewhere around 1 o'clock. If done correctly, the ball will move in a similar fashion to the topspin serve up until the bounce. After the bounce, instead of continuing in the same direction, the ball will veer to the right. This motion is caused by the combination of the high bounce of the topspin angle and the sidespin of the slice.
(Related: Read about hitting a strong backhand here.)
Imagine staring down a ferocious athlete from the opposite side of the court and, unfortunately, it’s his turn to serve. Now, his last serve easily sped past 110 miles per hour and you barely made contact with the liner before it half-heartedly crashed into the net. What would he bring out this time? Could it possibly break 120 miles per hour? Higher? How would you even see it in order to react in time? Expecting the worst, you stand ready for another fastball.
Your opposition winds up and fires another strike across the court and you set up, bracing to hit back a return. Yet, this time, the ball comes in on the curve and viciously speeds away from your after it bounces. You look up at the scoreboard, it was only about 100 miles per hour and yet it kicked away. You’re stunned, but, don’t fear, you can have this immense power as well!
By switching up your service, you can keep your opponent on edge and guessing too! From the flat to the kick serve, there’s plenty of tricks to be mastered. But if you’re still struggling with adding a little dimension to your game, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private trainers to help you out. With a little hard work, dedication, and effort, they’ll have you confusing your opposition in no time -- what are you waiting for?