Ten Tips for Success with the Serve

  1. Develop a consistent ritual (routine) prior to the start of each and every serve to establish intensity and focus. Include a smile (a big Cheshire-cat smile) in your pre-serve ritual to remind yourself why you are on court hitting serves and to drive your opponent “bonkers”.
  2. Incorporate all body components in a kinetic chain to maximize torque, momentum and racquet head speed. Components include bend and drive with legs, rotation of hips and shoulders and bend and extension of elbow.
  3. Maintain a relaxed (continental) grip through your service motion to create snap and acceleration of the racquet head. Support the racquet with your thumb and top two fingers and only squeeze at contact.
  4. Keep your chin up with eyes focused on the point of contact to ensure full extension and reach with the serve. Hit up and out with the serve. If you are going to miss, miss long and not in the net.
  5. Recognize the importance of the non-racquet arm and hand. Hold your tossing arm up (with chest up) to create “sink”, arch, bend and torque of your body. Drop the tossing arm (bringing your non-racquet elbow to your side) to lock your hips and transfer power to the hitting shoulder.
  6. Recover with a complete and balanced follow through to position your body for the next shot (if there is one). Bring the racquet across your body. Flex at your knees and hips to reduce stress as the front foot lands on the court. Maintain balance and weight on the front leg with a low center of gravity.
  7. Serve to one of three targets (target zones). Serve out wide to pull your opponent off the court. Serve at the body to jam your opponent and force a weak reply. Serve down the middle (middle T) with authority to stretch your opponent and give your opponent less time to respond.
  8. Vary the spin of your serve. Hit with topspin (kick) to force your opponent to hit the ball up and out of the strike zone. Hit with slice to jam your opponent for serves hit at the body or to pull your opponent off the court for serves hit to the outside target (target zone). Hit a flat serve for power (which is particularly effective for serves hit to the middle target or target zone).
  9. Vary the pace, spin and location of your serve to disguise intent and disrupt the rhythm of your opponent.
  10. Focus on getting a high percentage of first serves in (70% – 75% for singles, 75% – 80% for doubles). If your first serve percentage is less than 55%, you need to “back off” and be less aggressive and/or work on you technique and execution. If your first serve percentage is 90% or more, you are miraculously lucky (i.e. whenever Ryan Sheehan wins a set from Don Brewster), having a phenomenally good day or more likely, you need to take more chances and “go for more” with your serve.

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