How to Improve Your Serve Accuracy

  1. Develop racquet head awareness, feel and control. With racquet head awareness, feel and control, the racquet becomes an extension of your hand. his control is very much influenced by forearm pronation. The process begins with the extension of the racquet face up and out toward your point of contact leading with the butt end of the racquet. The next step is to pronate the forearm (using the continental grip) to position the racquet face through the strike zone. Control of this forearm pronation will allow you to make the subtle adjustments with your hand necessary to hit your service targets.
  2. Develop a fluid swing pattern with acceleration up to and through the point of contact. Focus initially on the mechanics of the upper body and the motion of the swing through the backswing, loading phase, extension up to the point of contact, contact and follow through. The goal is to develop elasticity and a lively arm and a swing pattern that will hold up under the pressure of competition.
  3. Establish a solid base of support and balance prior to more engagement with the lower body. A good drill to establish balance is to first serve with both feet planted, no lifting of the feet (including heels) off the ground and no knee flexion (bend). This drill develops angular rotation and a loose, upper body coil and motion as well as balance and a solid base of support. With proficiency, step two is to add knee flexion. Step three is to allow the back heel to come off the ground. It is important to maintain balance as you incorporate more knee flexion and ground force drive. One focus is the back leg. When the front leg and foot propels up and into the court, the back leg and foot should kick back for balance and body equilibrium. There are two options with the hitting stance, a platform stance in which the back leg stays back and a pinpoint stance which brings the fee together.  In most cases, the platform stance sacrifices power but provides better balance and support and more accuracy with serve placement.
  4. Focus on keeping the tossing arm up and fully extended before dropping into a tuck position with your elbow. At the same time keep your chin up and maintain your eyes focused on the point of contact through the finish. There is a tendency to prematurely drop the tossing arm and head and redirect the focus to the target versus the ball which invariably leads to a mistake into the net. Think tall on your serve. Try to get full reach and extension. The higher your point of contact, the bigger your acceptance window (the window you need to hit to clear the net and get the ball into the service box).
  5. Learn to utilize spin for more consistency (particularly for the second serve). Develop a kick and/or topspin serve for higher net clearance and margin for error. The process for a kick serve requires brushing or slicing up and out on the ball. The racquet follows a circular path from behind your head out to the right (for right-handed players) in line with the baseline and then down and around to your belly button. The path to the point of contact is from seven to two o’clock. Draw the butt end of the racquet up first as if throwing a dart into a ceiling as you bring the racquet up from the backswing to the point of contact. Next follows elbow extension, forearm pronation and ulnar deviation through the point of contact. It’s important to lead with the tip of racquet (keeping your elbow up) as you circle the racquet out to the right, down and around to the finish. Spin is facilitated with a toss over your left shoulder (versus your right shoulder) and with a continental grip or a grip that edges more towards the eastern backhand grip. Remember also to load with your legs and keep your chest up as you extend your arm up for the toss.
  6. Start serving up close to establish range, accuracy and confidence. Start serving right on top of the net. Progressively work your way back to baseline with success.
  7. Establish progressively more narrow and defined targets. As a beginner, the first target is getting the ball over the net into the court and then the service boxes. Next divide the service box to two halves and then by thirds. The final step is to establish three specific and smaller service targets, one down the T, two at the body and three out wide. Your ability to hit each of these three targets determines your ability to be successful holding serve and dictating play with your serve.
  8. Have a purpose and identify a service target prior to each time you set up to serve. Establish a plan as part of your service ritual every point.
  9. Play points where you only give yourself one serve to start each point. This is a great way to develop a strong, reliable second serve.
  10. If possible, track your results in match play. Things to track (or chart) are first serve percentage, first serve points won, second serve points won, doubles faults, aces, first serve velocity, second serve velocity, first serve revolutions per minute (RPM’s), second serve RPM’s, serve target locations (plot diagram), serve target locations for service points won and serve target locations for service points lost and serve target locations for aces. It’s probably not realistic to get tracking information on all these variables but any quantifiable data is helpful in identifying your strengths, weakness and areas to direct you training attention.

Above all else, get onto a court and hit 1,000’s of balls.  There is no substitute for repetition and hitting a lot of serves in a meaningful, purposeful way.

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