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View Full Version : Which Serve Should I Try To Learn? A Topspin Serve or a Twist Serve?


Cindysphinx
03-28-2008, 09:33 AM
Now that the weather is warming up, I was thinking of spending the spring/summer learning another serve.

Right now I can hit two types of serve. My main serve is a slice. I can hit this serve pretty well and it serves me well in matches. It wins me lots of points early in matches, but my opponents often adjust as the match goes on.

I can also hit a flat serve, but it is nothing spectacular. Mainly useful for serving to the body when people figure out they should stand closer in anticipation of the slice serve. I find I have a hard time toggling back and forth between the flat and slice serve, however, and am likely to start missing my flat first serves under pressure. I kind of get used to the slice spin keeping the ball in, so trying to hit flat starts to feel low-percentage.

OK. I'm thinking I need one more serve to be able to mix things up a bit better.

Every now and then, I hit a twist serve by accident. I hit one last Saturday to a pretty good 3.5 teammate, and she actually caught the ball because it jumped in a direction she wasn't expecting. I thought, "OK, that's cool. I gotta learn to do this, so when I alternate between twist and slice people will get dizzy and fall over."

Then again, another teammate thinks I should learn a topspin serve because she finds this useful for serving to the backhand because it backs the opponent up.

Then again, my pro says to forget all this stuff because my current serve is plenty strong for my level and instead work on the many other weaknesses in my game. He thinks I will just hurt my back trying to hit a twist serve. This advice I will blow off, of course, because I am extremely hard-headed.

So. Which serve should I learn? Which is easier and more reliable under pressure and best suited for the game of a 3.5 woman who plays some mixed and mostly doubles?

Carlito
03-28-2008, 09:55 AM
Just learn both. They are not that different to hit. In fact I occasionally accidentaly hit a kicker when I intend to hit a twist and vice versa. I actually mix up all 4 serves.

The kicker is easier to learn I guess, but once you learn to hit the twist, its just as easy to execute, maybe even easier. For me, I usually dont hit twist serves for aces. They are just to confuse your opponent and mix things up a bit. You will get free points from it becuase a lot of people cant figure it out.

I think the kicker is the best serve to have out of all of them though. I hit more kickers than anything because, you have greater margin of error and it is easier to place. Also the top spin makes then seem faster to th oppentent than tey really are.

Cindysphinx
03-28-2008, 10:11 AM
I dunno. My opponent last night had a topspin second serve, which she used as a first serve when the pressure was on.

The topspin serve was almost boring. It was just a matter of standing there waiting for it to come down. Plus, she missed a lot of them too, including back-to-back double faults to set up and cough up set point.

I guess I'm thinking a low-quality topspin serve isn't an asset, but a low-quality twist serve would still confuse people just enough when used in conjunction with a slice serve. True?

raiden031
03-28-2008, 10:15 AM
I think a topspin serve is a necessity on the men's side, but maybe you can get by on the women's without, since I have only played against one women ever who actually could hit one. It is the most reliable serve and you can hit it with full racquet head speed without much risk of a double fault. I can do a twist serve but I think its alot harder to do than just topspin. I find that alot of times my twist serves float too much and don't kick to the side enough. I use them sparingly just to mix things up.

bsandy
03-28-2008, 10:18 AM
Cindy . . .

There really isn't a big diff between the two, and many people use the terms interchangeably. IMO is you learn one you'll learn them both. When you get lazy or tired your kick serve will turn into a topspin serve.

http://www.tennis.com/yourgame/instructionarticles/drills/drills.aspx?id=119870

http://tennis.com/yourgame/instructionarticles/serve/serve.aspx?id=119856

. . . Bud

tfm1973
03-28-2008, 11:20 AM
i concur with bsandy. learn the twist if you can and you essentially will be able to hit both twist and topspin. the major benefit of having either is that they are high percentage serves with very large margins of error. so hopefully you get some free points with either serve but you also end up with a serve that should decrease your double faults.

Bungalo Bill
03-28-2008, 11:27 AM
Then again, another teammate thinks I should learn a topspin serve because she finds this useful for serving to the backhand because it backs the opponent up.

Then again, my pro says to forget all this stuff because my current serve is plenty strong for my level and instead work on the many other weaknesses in my game. He thinks I will just hurt my back trying to hit a twist serve. This advice I will blow off, of course, because I am extremely hard-headed.

So. Which serve should I learn? Which is easier and more reliable under pressure and best suited for the game of a 3.5 woman who plays some mixed and mostly doubles?

The hurting the back thing is a little overblown. We can probably point to "0" people in our lifetimes of those that we have witnessed hurt their backs. Still though, the reality is there if you dont practice it right and learn it right.

Although I do agree with your coach about working on your weaknesses, there is also nothing wrong with making a strong aspect of your game even stronger!

So if I were you I would work on that topspin serve. While you are at it, through in the slice. :)

Nellie
03-28-2008, 11:57 AM
For me, the topspin/ twist serves are very similar, and use identical arm motions. Once you learn the top spin, the twist kick is a natural, almost unexpected at times, based on your toss. At least from my experiance in mixed, either serve eats up women because they are shorter, and even a soft hopping ball at 4-5 feet will be a tough for many women to return. This would be a type of change to your game (along with adding more consistency and strategy) that could move you to a 4.0 quick without any more changes in your form.

I think a top spin serve is somewhat easier to learn and easier on your shoulder.

raiden031
03-28-2008, 12:02 PM
For me, the topspin/ twist serves are very similar, and use identical arm motions. Once you learn the top spin, the twist kick is a natural, almost unexpected at times, based on your toss. At least from my experiance in mixed, either serve eats up women because they are shorter, and even a soft hopping ball at 4-5 feet will be a tough for many women to return. This would be a type of change to your game (along with adding more consistency and strategy) that could move you to a 4.0 quick without any more changes in your form.

I think a top spin serve is somewhat easier to learn and easier on your shoulder.

I guess i'm the only person that thinks a twist is harder to do than a topspin serve. But I still think people should first learn to hit topspin on the serve, and then learn the twist serve rather than going from a slice to a twist serve.

When I have a partner who can poach in doubles, its very rare that I get broken because people can't do much with the high bouncing topspin serve. I probably have more success with my second than my first serve that has more pace but less spin.

LuckyR
03-28-2008, 12:13 PM
In my experience, 3.5 women (not high school age girls) have more trouble returning twists than topspin serves. The difference is small, but is present.

Doc Hollidae
03-28-2008, 12:19 PM
Learn the topspin first and then the twist. The topspin serve will be a good gateway to the twist, as a twist serve is basically a topspin serve with some extra "junk" on it. "Junk" being a good thing.

Cindysphinx
03-28-2008, 12:38 PM
OK, so to learn this new motion, I want to toss a bit farther back and then what? Hit up on the ball with a brushing motion?

And the twist would be a toss more to the left? (I think that is my "accidental" twist, just chasing a bad toss).

I can't see the links posted. They crash my browser. I do remember the articles in Tennis Mag about the topspin serve.

Bungalo Bill
03-28-2008, 12:56 PM
OK, so to learn this new motion, I want to toss a bit farther back and then what? Hit up on the ball with a brushing motion?

And the twist would be a toss more to the left? (I think that is my "accidental" twist, just chasing a bad toss).

I can't see the links posted. They crash my browser. I do remember the articles in Tennis Mag about the topspin serve.

Learn the topspin serve first. Hit up and out.

Carlito
03-28-2008, 01:04 PM
I think there might be some confusion... Just to clarify what I said, A topspin serve is a kick serve aka kicker. They are the exact same thing, just different names. A twist serve is different, its also refered to as an american twist.

Kick serves are topspin and jump up and at the returner. The twist has a sidwards spin, but not like the slice. For a right hander serving to the deuce side, the ball will bouce to the right.

Be careful with the twist. There is a lot of wrist and elbow action on it if you are doing it right. Doing it too much can cause injury. It is almost gimmicky and I only use it to mix things up.

Bungalo Bill
03-28-2008, 01:05 PM
I think there might be some confusion... Just to clarify what I said, A topspin serve is a kick serve aka kicker. They are the exact same thing, just different names. A twist serve is different, its also refered to as an american twist.

Well it is good that you clarified that because some people use "kick serve" to mean a twist serve. :)

Carlito
03-28-2008, 01:11 PM
I guess i'm the only person that thinks a twist is harder to do than a topspin serve. But I still think people should first learn to hit topspin on the serve, and then learn the twist serve rather than going from a slice to a twist serve.

When I have a partner who can poach in doubles, its very rare that I get broken because people can't do much with the high bouncing topspin serve. I probably have more success with my second than my first serve that has more pace but less spin.

The twist is harder to get it to kick to the right. For me both are easy to get in but it is definetly harder to get a twist to actually "twist" than it is to get a kicker to actually "kick". I often try to hit a twist and it just kicks

Nellie
03-28-2008, 01:16 PM
To me, the key to the topspin/kick serve is to stay sideways, with your back toward the net. Also, you need to get used to brushing up on the ball and not trying to hit through it. It is almost like intentionally missing the ball so that you just skim the side with your strings.

Bungalo Bill
03-28-2008, 01:29 PM
Cindy . . .

There really isn't a big diff between the two, and many people use the terms interchangeably. IMO is you learn one you'll learn them both. When you get lazy or tired your kick serve will turn into a topspin serve.

http://www.tennis.com/yourgame/instructionarticles/drills/drills.aspx?id=119870

http://tennis.com/yourgame/instructionarticles/serve/serve.aspx?id=119856

. . . Bud

However, the "kick serve" was technically used to describe the American Twist serve. ;)

Bungalo Bill
03-28-2008, 01:31 PM
To me, the key to the topspin/kick serve is to stay sideways, with your back toward the net.

hmmmmm....

Also, you need to get used to brushing up on the ball and not trying to hit through it. It is almost like intentionally missing the ball so that you just skim the side with your strings.

Actually when I hit my lefty twist, I try to spin and go through. It's a nasty little kicker. :)

Rafael_Nadal_6257
03-28-2008, 01:43 PM
All assuming right-handed.

Yeah, a lot of people mix up topspin serves, kick serves, twist serves, and American Twist serves. In all actuality, topspin and kick serves are the same thing and twist and American Twist are also the same type of serve.

The American twist serve is a TYPE of kick/topspin serve. It curves to the left in the air, then jumps with topspin to the right (server is righty).

Cindy: Try to throw the ball farther back, even behind your head as you are first learning it. Brush up on the ball then pronate over it for a normal topspin serve with no sideways action. Keep doing it until you can throw the ball not so far behind your head and still get good topspin and pace on it; the toss should still be farther back then your flat/slice serves.

Then, you can try the american twist serve. Throw the ball a little to the left and hit from the bottom left corner of the ball to the top right corner then pretend your brushing over the ball. Pronation is key. Racket head speed is also important. You can shift your grip to the left and use an extreme eastern backhand grip for more spin, but harder to make clean contact (more shanks probably at first).

Bagumbawalla
03-28-2008, 03:49 PM
If you can learn one, you can learn the other. Learn them both if you want.

Cindysphinx
03-28-2008, 05:55 PM
Yeah, I'm going to have to have someone show me how to do this.

I tried it today, just hitting a few balls while my son played on the play equipment at the park. I tried to kind of hit it by leading with the butt cap. I produced some weird side spin every time. That's probably not what I'm looking for. I wasn't sure whether the racket head should be parallel to the ground during the swing or whether it should be more upright. Ugh.

Djokovicfan4life
03-28-2008, 06:02 PM
OK, so to learn this new motion, I want to toss a bit farther back and then what? Hit up on the ball with a brushing motion?

And the twist would be a toss more to the left? (I think that is my "accidental" twist, just chasing a bad toss).

I can't see the links posted. They crash my browser. I do remember the articles in Tennis Mag about the topspin serve.

Ah, I see you have the same problem that I do. That ball just calling to you, "come on, hit me."

Bagumbawalla
03-29-2008, 06:39 PM
I don't know if this will help any- because, I suppose everybody learns best in different ways, but when I am serving I think of the ball and the path the racket takes through it much in the same way that I visualize a groundsrtoke (a forehand, for example).

In hitting a forehand, with the ball in your comfort-hitting zone you can it it flat, with slice, with various amounts of topspin, with a combination of sidespin and topspin-- all in various degrees of spin and forward momentum.

The same thing is the case with the serve. Think of it as a groundstroke tilted up on int side.

Normally, my toss and preparation look very similar for each type of serve, with a few minor modifications, that, hopefully, are not too noticable. For example, to hit the various different groundstrokes you do not have to make major modifications to your form. You hit a flat ball form basically the same stance as you would a topspin. The same is true, to a very slightly lesser extent with the serve.

So, then, when the ball is tossed up I just watch it intently, sort of freeze the image of it in my mind, and visualize the path my racket will have to travel through the ball (just like a with a groundstroke) to get the effect I want. If you can control the spin of a forehand groundstroke, you can do the same for the serve.

The rest is really practice. Visualize the the path the racket head must take. Hit the serve, see what happens, add more ore less spin, more or less forward momentum, watch the result- over and over until you get the feel and confidence so you can do it every time.

SeekHeart
03-31-2008, 11:09 AM
I have a question for everyone that can hit a twist/kick serve. What does the wrist do during the action and how can I learn to brush up the ball better to get more effective use of the kick serve? Right now my current kick serve? is being nailed like a puff ball.

Djokovicfan4life
03-31-2008, 11:42 AM
Personally I would try for the twist because 3.5's will have trouble reacting to the unusual bounce.

Hell, I've seen 3.5's who have trouble reacting to slice groundstrokes, let alone something like the twist serve.

junbumkim
03-31-2008, 12:05 PM
I never really differentiated those two serves; kick serve and topspin serve.

If you are hitting topspin serves, I think you will probably get a bit of side spin naturally. Esepcially when you go out wide on ad side, I seem to get the side spin naturally.

But, that's just me, i guess.

Anyway, I think you should learn whichever serve comes naturally first. It might be easier to learn the kick / twist serve since you can start out with exaggerated toss to get the feel.

Midlife crisis
03-31-2008, 12:11 PM
Cindy, try hitting some serve while sitting or kneeling down on the court. You'll get the feeling of needing to hit upward on the ball to get it over the net. This, combined with a toss that is slightly behind your head, will give you some topspin.

I tend to have one of the slower second serves at my level, but I've won two of the last three tournaments I've played at the 4.0/4.5 level because I mix up my second serves. I hit both topspin and kick serves and they are really very similar. I use the same toss in the same location for both, but for a twist serve I try to keep my body facing sideways through the contact point, whereas for a topspin serve I'll rotate my body into the contact point. The level of players I play don't seem to pick up this clue to distinguish between the two, and though I'm probably only serving at 40-50 MPH, no one ever attacks my second serve after I throw in a few of each serve. It's slow enough that they have to swing fairly hard to attack, and if they swing harder they have a tougher time making good contact with good timing if I change the bounce and spin up.

Good luck.

Tennismastery
03-31-2008, 12:11 PM
Essentially, all serves, with the exception of some of the trick serves disscussed in other threads, (reverse slice or reverse kick), is that they are all based on the foundation of a slice service motion.

A slice serve for a right handed player will consist of the player swinging across the ball on the outer portion of the ball with the ball having a north-south axis of spin. This swing path will be from the server's left to right producing a ball the spins away from the server from right to left.

A hybrid serve is one where the racquet brushes more up the ball as well as from left to right and up the outer portion of the ball like a slice but the ball now will have an axis that is tilted to the server's left...anywhere from a slight tilt to well over 45 degrees. This will produce a ball that still slices but also has a downward arch more accented.

A topspin serve is where the player hits nearly as up the back of the ball as possible, still from left to right, yet, producing an axis that is nearly horizontal and nearly parallel to the baseline. (This exact axis is nearly impossible to actually attain.) The player must toss more over their head to allow the proper swing path. The other problem many have here is that they still swing leading with their elbow too much which makes this (and a kick serve) nearly impossible. The arm must stay back so the racquet can indeed move up the back of the ball instead of attacking the side as in a slice serve.

Finally a kick serve has a player hitting up the inner portion of the ball (as if hitting up the side of the ball closest to the player as opposed to the outer side which I described in hitting a slice.) This ball not only has an axis that is horizontal, similar to the topspin serve, but also the front of this axis is not horizontal with the baseline as in a topspin serve, but is turned towards the right hand net post. This axis produces a spin that is to the server's right instead of left and, hence, produces the signature "kick" to the opponent's left side that makes it an effective serve.

One thing about the kick is that it is more accented only on the ad court. This is because the action and the angle of trajectory are both towards the server's right. Thus, the kicking action to the right is heightened. Trying it on the deuce court only causes the ball to more or less straighten out after the bounce since the trajectory is to the server's left but the action of spin is to the right.

As to the question to learn first, I always recommend learning the slice serve first which helps players learn how spin effects the ball as well as learning how to create the brushing action as opposed to simply hitting flat as most beginners try to do. The kick serve is more advanced but can be learned early on. As some of you have seen my 8 year old daughter was hitting a kick serve after about 6 months of learning the game.

raiden031
03-31-2008, 12:28 PM
Personally I would try for the twist because 3.5's will have trouble reacting to the unusual bounce.

Hell, I've seen 3.5's who have trouble reacting to slice groundstrokes, let alone something like the twist serve.

I have never seen a 3.5 hit a decent twist serve repeatably. Not that it doesn't exist, but I haven't been against one yet nor have I heard of any player that has a good one in my area. I can hit them but its not always effective and so I don't rely on it as a major weapon, but something to change it up every now and then. My topspin kick serve is more effective because I can make it jump higher and I can hit it with more pace, plus I can be serving at 0-40 and have confidence that I won't double fault. I feel like if you don't learn to hit a topspin kick serve (which is easier) first, then actually learning to hit a twist serve will be a lost cause. Gotta walk before you can run.