PDA

View Full Version : How important is a kick serve?


Djokovicfan4life
04-07-2008, 04:50 AM
I'm a 4.0 player with a pretty fast first serve (lets say 85-100 MPH), usually flat and sometimes sliced. My second serve is always a slice. I can get decent pace and keep it in most of the time. No one picks on my second serve because the ball stays so low.

My brother is trying to learn the kick serve for a greater margin for error, but right now his balls are just sitting up, waiting to be clobbered. I play doubles with him every Sunday and I still have to run back to the baseline for his second serve, while he stays up on all of my serves and never gets clobbered. I was even able to mix in a serve and volley on my second serve! :)

My question is, will this hurt me in the long run? Because it sure seems to work well at my level.

WBF
04-07-2008, 04:58 AM
People might not be attacking it at your level, but as you improve or you play more high level opponents, lack of topspin will hurt you.

1.) Limited power. Without topspin to bring the ball down, you won't get a very consistent powerful second serve.
2.) Predictable. At least for me, I have a very easy time if someone just slices all the time. If someone can mix up level of topspin and slice, it can be much harder to get a read on the serve.

A good topspin serve is a wonderful weapon to have. While you might be hesitant to use it in competitive matches, I would concentrate on developing control of topspin whenever you have time to practice serves.

Djokovicfan4life
04-07-2008, 04:59 AM
Yeah, I definitely want to work on it, I'm just lost when it comes to a kick serve.

Is the swinging motion the same as a slice, just with the toss behind my head?

fuzz nation
04-07-2008, 05:23 AM
Ultimately, the kick serve is "one more wrench in your toolbox" that can keep some opponents off balance. I play some people with a devastating two-hander return, so I don't even serve to their bh wing, but some players like the ball down in their wheelhouse and a kicker can put it up where they're weaker. It depends on the player, right?

I've always been a pretty strong server and in more recent years I've been playing in a doubles circle or strong 4.0's, 4.5's, and also occasional legitimate 5.0's. As it turns out, serving my flat heater against better players often does them a favor - they can turn my power right back against me. The funky spin serves can really raise hell (some of them have told me so) and now my flat serve is only used for an occasional change of pace. I don't think that you necessarily need the kick serve all the time, but it's worth developing so that your serve is adaptable to different settings.

iplaybetter
04-07-2008, 05:30 AM
i believe that the kick serve is a huge part of ones game if you have nay desire to have one, i use mine a lot as my bomb has become iffy, very consistent and you dont lose the advantage of serving

Nellie
04-07-2008, 05:31 AM
To add a counterpoint, I often think that the time spent learning a marginal kick serve could be better used to improve your current slice. And, if you want more margin for error, you could use a top-spin slice serve by tossing closer to your body. I recently played a guy with a devastating slice that broke 3-4 feet to right and would put me so far off the court, that I could do nothing with the return. Admittedly, it was predictable, but effective.

Also, as I get older, I find the kick serve hard on my body (pulled abdominal last year, for example, that is still healing)

k_liu
04-07-2008, 05:43 AM
I am in agreement with WBF: a good topspin server is a wonderful weapon to have. You need a variety to keep your opponent guessing. Otherwise, you become predictable. I mix up my first between a hard flat, slice or kick serve combined with placement. Second is usually a slice or kick.

Mr. Blond
04-07-2008, 05:58 AM
To add a counterpoint, I often think that the time spent learning a marginal kick serve could be better used to improve your current slice. And, if you want more margin for error, you could use a top-spin slice serve by tossing closer to your body. I recently played a guy with a devastating slice that broke 3-4 feet to right and would put me so far off the court, that I could do nothing with the return. Admittedly, it was predictable, but effective.

Also, as I get older, I find the kick serve hard on my body (pulled abdominal last year, for example, that is still healing)

what do you mean top spin slice......would that not be a kick serve?

Mr. Blond
04-07-2008, 06:01 AM
People might not be attacking it at your level, but as you improve or you play more high level opponents, lack of topspin will hurt you.

1.) Limited power. Without topspin to bring the ball down, you won't get a very consistent powerful second serve.
2.) Predictable. At least for me, I have a very easy time if someone just slices all the time. If someone can mix up level of topspin and slice, it can be much harder to get a read on the serve.

A good topspin serve is a wonderful weapon to have. While you might be hesitant to use it in competitive matches, I would concentrate on developing control of topspin whenever you have time to practice serves.


I agree with everything you said.

A kick serve is very helpful and will only make you win more service games.
It is worth the time spent. I only practice kick serves because if you can hit a good kicker, the rest is a cakewalk.

in my experience, and well placed kicker will always give your opponent fits. I see too many people t'ing off on flat and slice serves.

WBF
04-07-2008, 06:03 AM
To add a counterpoint, I often think that the time spent learning a marginal kick serve could be better used to improve your current slice. And, if you want more margin for error, you could use a top-spin slice serve by tossing closer to your body. I recently played a guy with a devastating slice that broke 3-4 feet to right and would put me so far off the court, that I could do nothing with the return. Admittedly, it was predictable, but effective.

Also, as I get older, I find the kick serve hard on my body (pulled abdominal last year, for example, that is still healing)

Nellie: I agree that topspin can be harder on your body, so if the author is getting past 50, maybe it's not the best time to work on a topspin serve...

But any other age, and it would absolutely be beneficial to work on it. Slice might be okay if you plan on not improving and staying the same level, but anyone with aspirations of moving up in the grand scheme of things can't ignore the topspin serve. Even if he doesn't *use* it often, just the ability to throw one or two out during a game to keep your opponent guessing is well worth the time or effort involved in learning the motion.

Anecdote: My first serves are flashier and usually draw some interesting comments from opponents and spectators, but against the toughest opponents, I've found that some could get a bearing on my big first serves, but *no one* could do any damage against my second serve topspin heavy kicker.

jmverdugo
04-07-2008, 06:28 AM
IMO, a kick serve is a very important tool to have. It brings the element of surprise in to your game and usually a high bouncing ball it is not easy to attack if it is well played. I think it is way more important when playing doubles or when you want to serve & volley. In doubles i usually dont use flat serves unless i am in the situation that i can try an as, otherwise i use three services: slice (it break to the opponent right and tends to stay low), topspin (it doesnt break, just jumps at the opponent in a high bounce), and a kick serve (breaks to the left of the opponent in a high bounce). All three of this serves have a little bit of change of pace before and after the bounce so you will always keep your opponent guessing.

So IMO it is very important to learn a KS.

wihamilton
04-07-2008, 07:13 AM
People might not be attacking it at your level, but as you improve or you play more high level opponents, lack of topspin will hurt you.

1.) Limited power. Without topspin to bring the ball down, you won't get a very consistent powerful second serve.
2.) Predictable. At least for me, I have a very easy time if someone just slices all the time. If someone can mix up level of topspin and slice, it can be much harder to get a read on the serve.

A good topspin serve is a wonderful weapon to have. While you might be hesitant to use it in competitive matches, I would concentrate on developing control of topspin whenever you have time to practice serves.

These are some good points. IMO, a kick / twist serve is essential once you reach a certain level. Pretty much every D1 college player, for example, can hit a kick serve well.

To expand upon WBF's "limited power" point, think of it this way. If you aren't swinging as hard on your second serve as you are on your first, that's a problem. I swing just as hard -- sometimes harder -- on my second serve. Topspin lets you do two things: 1) keep some pace on the ball and 2) control your placement. Especially on a second serve, you typically want to get the ball to your opponent's weaker side.

samprasbackhand
04-07-2008, 04:17 PM
I played doubles in high school, and my kick serve was one of my best shots, I used it for 1st serves instead of flat and found it to be very effective. It would create problems for the returner and give my partner floaters at the net. I also served probably at 80% first serves, something I can't do if I'm just hitting flat serves

dave333
04-07-2008, 04:56 PM
Kick serves are nice, but I don't think you absolutely need one. A topspin slice serve is still a very effective 2nd serve, even if it doesn't result in a funky jump that messes up opponents.

Usually, kick serves are pretty easy to read which gives your opponent the green light to step in and take your kick serve on the rise. If you can disguise it, then you have one BA serve.

As long as you can mix your serves up, whatever spins you have are fine as long as they are consistent.

quicken
04-07-2008, 05:31 PM
You can't return the damn ball.

heycal
04-07-2008, 05:44 PM
Maybe the fella should try it since he's young and wants to advance. I don't know. But for me, a 45 year old lefty 3.5, I have decided it's not worth trying to master. I have enough aches as it is, so will stick with the slice second serve.

Rafael_Nadal_6257
04-07-2008, 05:50 PM
I think kick serves are pretty important, but at the 4.0 level and below, maybe 4.5, you can live without a good kick serve. Devote some time to learning it though, because it is pretty beneficial.

WBF
04-07-2008, 05:56 PM
Kick serves are nice, but I don't think you absolutely need one. A topspin slice serve is still a very effective 2nd serve, even if it doesn't result in a funky jump that messes up opponents.

Usually, kick serves are pretty easy to read which gives your opponent the green light to step in and take your kick serve on the rise. If you can disguise it, then you have one BA serve.

As long as you can mix your serves up, whatever spins you have are fine as long as they are consistent.

I always get annoyed that there aren't consistent definitions, because issues like this arise.

What are the definitions for: (My opinions in parenthesis)

Topspin: (The topspin component of a serve. Theoretically a serve with only topspin, no side rotation.)

Slice: (The rotation of the ball causing it to bend left (for a righty) or right (for a lefty)

Kick: (Used to describe a serve that 'kicks', typically with both topspin and slice, but with an emphasis on topspin)

Twist: (See: Slice)

American Twist: (Not so clear on this one. I was always taught that this is the ********, arm injuring serve where you twist it the opposite way for someone with your arm preference. For example, a righty would use this and his serve would curve to the right like a left serve. I've also heard 'Reverse Twist', but I believe this is the same thing. Why else would they differentiate 'american twist' with 'twist').

If you have the same notions of these words as I do, your post is incorrect. A big kicker is an absolutely *essential* tool of an accomplished player, regardless of whether they use it all the time. Flat is for first serves, not consistent enough for second serves *at the high level* (where flat serves need to be very, very fast, or very, very, well placed, or a high combination of both). Slice is useful occasionally to mix things up, but typically results in less margin for error (not only do you introduce the risks associated with fast racquet head speed - shanks, you don't get the benefit of topspin dropping your ball in for hard serves!), weaker serves at a required consistency, and is far less effective in confusing an opponent than a combination of topspin and slice (a kicker).

Again, this is all assuming you play, or aspire to play at a high level. If you want to joke around and just have fun with what you have, not improving at all, then by all means, ignore the kicker. Although, to be honest, one of the most entertaining moments in tennis is when you hit a big kicker right to your opponent, and they completely whiff, get hit, or catch the ball.

Bungalo Bill
04-07-2008, 06:13 PM
I always get annoyed that there aren't consistent definitions, because issues like this arise.

Yeah, I would be annoyed to if after everything you have heard it is still unclear.

Once upon a time, they used to call a spade a spade.

Let's try to clear this up, go here: http://www.operationdoubles.com/spin_serve_tennis.htm

Now, the only area I might disagree with Kathy or at least have my own opinion on is the use of the word "kick" serve to either mean a topspin or twist serve. I reserve a "kick serve" to mean a twist serve in modern language.

I happened to grow up in tennis when we called a:

1. Topspin Serve: Topspin serve

2. Slice Serve: Slice serve

3. American Twist: An American Twist or twist serve

4. Topspin-Slice: A topspin-slice serve

:)

There were only four serves and names for those serves. Nowadays, I also get confused when someone uses the word "kick" serve because it can mean either a twist or a topspin serve.

Djokovicfan4life
04-08-2008, 03:59 AM
Just to clear things up, I'm talking about the topspin slice serve. Although I was screwing around with a kick serve and my brother said that the ball DID take a little bounce in the opposite direction.

Bungalo Bill
04-08-2008, 06:26 AM
Just to clear things up, I'm talking about the topspin slice serve. Although I was screwing around with a kick serve and my brother said that the ball DID take a little bounce in the opposite direction.

Cool. It is really fun when you see that. Set up two cones near each other and see how your twist works. See if the ball comes over to the second cone after the bounce. If you hit the cone on the bounce, it probably wont work because the ball will reflect off of the cone in a different way. I used to do this to see if I could control the twist portion some.

Tennisman912
04-12-2008, 05:03 PM
You need both if you want to move up the ranks. Variety makes a big difference as you move up. Any good 4.0 and anyone above that will hurt you consistently if you give them the same sure all the time.

As Will suggested placement is everything. Hit a high percentage of serves to the opponent's weaker side, usually the backhand. It is amazing how many below 4.5 will just serve it in the box with no regard to location. If you can't place it on both the first and second serve then practice until you can. For example, I use 9 basic serves all the time. I also swing harder at an average second serve than the first, whether it be kick or slice. You are just hitting less of the ball with more margin for error. If hope you understand what I mean by that.

Good luck.

TM

Djokovicfan4life
04-12-2008, 06:02 PM
You need both if you want to move up the ranks. Variety makes a big difference as you move up. Any good 4.0 and anyone above that will hurt you consistently if you give them the same sure all the time.

As Will suggested placement is everything. Hit a high percentage of serves to the opponent's weaker side, usually the backhand. It is amazing how many below 4.5 will just serve it in the box with no regard to location. If you can't place it on both the first and second serve then practice until you can. For example, I use 9 basic serves all the time. I also swing harder at an average second serve than the first, whether it be kick or slice. You are just hitting less of the ball with more margin for error. If hope you understand what I mean by that.

Good luck.

TM

Thanks, I know what you mean. I usually find that the double faults start creeping in when I get cautious and my swing starts to slow down. I can place my first serve pretty well but it's just not there yet on seconds. I find it hard to worry about placement when I'm putting so much spin on the ball.

Rafael_Nadal_6257
04-12-2008, 06:21 PM
Tennisman: 9 basic serves!?...What are they anyway?

"Swing harder" is a bit confusing, swing faster is a bit better.

RestockingTues
04-12-2008, 07:22 PM
IMO there's 4 basic serves... The other ones are just outright funky.
Reverse slice, underhand slice, REVERSE underhand slice, topspin underhand, drop serve? Who the heck has actually heard of those?

EDIT: After a few games of serving big kickers, when i see the receiver back up really far off of the baseline i like to throw in a drop serve or a wide slice for a cheap point :P

D-Bomb
04-12-2008, 07:41 PM
Yeah, I would be annoyed to if after everything you have heard it is still unclear.

Once upon a time, they used to call a spade a spade.

Let's try to clear this up, go here: http://www.operationdoubles.com/spin_serve_tennis.htm

Now, the only area I might disagree with Kathy or at least have my own opinion on is the use of the word "kick" serve to either mean a topspin or twist serve. I reserve a "kick serve" to mean a twist serve in modern language.

I happened to grow up in tennis when we called a:

1. Topspin Serve: Topspin serve

2. Slice Serve: Slice serve

3. American Twist: An American Twist or twist serve

4. Topspin-Slice: A topspin-slice serve

:)

There were only four serves and names for those serves. Nowadays, I also get confused when someone uses the word "kick" serve because it can mean either a twist or a topspin serve.

Okay, this has been confusing me the entire time I've been reading this thread. I've always believed there is NO such thing as a simply "topspin" serve. Am I wrong? I mean come on, there is no way to hit a tennis ball off an overhand serve such that the ball moves with nothing but topspin. I've looked at it this way:

3 types of spin serves
1. Slice
2. Kick (or twist, or American twist)
3. Topspin-Slice

There are certainly varying degrees of the spins, but it basically always boils down to those three. And to respond to the OP, a kick serve is certainly an incredibly useful shot, but if you feel that your second serve is decent enough to get by, stick with it. That said, if you want to reach higher levels, a slice serve can only do so much for you for a second serve. A kick serve makes a big difference at higher levels.

Tennisman912
04-12-2008, 09:14 PM
Djokovicfan4life,
If you can control the first serve well then you can control the second you just aren't trusting yourself. Try this to improve your directional control. In general on a second serve my toss is over my head or just in front of it. But the key is to align your shoulders with your target in the service box and accelerate through the ball. Where your shoulders point is where the ball should go. You may have to adjust your toss position a bit but the above will put you in the ball park. This was one of the best tips I ever learned.

As far as the 9 serves are concerned it is pretty straight forward. As far as I am concerned there are three serves: a flat one, a kick serve and a slice serve. The rest are variations of these. I try to keep things simple. I am not counting the opposite inside out serve because so few people hit it. So I can vary the amount of slice or kick on the serve as needed on the fly based on the situation and what I want the ball to do.

I get 9 combinations by hitting each of my three main serves to one of three positions. The three positions are on the ad side: up the T, in the body and out wide and the opposite on the deuce side. You can also think of these positions as serving to my opponent's forehand, his body or his backhand (assuming a righty). As I said all three of these give me 9 basic serves. I am not counting the many variables of each of these serves as different from the three basic positions. For example, the Lefty can opener I do not consider separate outside of my basic Backhand position serve position (even though it technically is a different serve). Remember I try to keep things simple. You must be able to hit these serves to each spot on demand, first or second serve at any point of the match.

I play mostly doubles so in truth I hit 90-95% kick and slice serves or some variation. I also serve 80-90% of my serves to the opponents weaker stroker, usually the backhand. If you can get your first AND second serve to the weaker stroke, no one below 5.0 is going to be able to hurt you with regularity. If I find myself playing someone with an especially strong forehand, they will not see a forehand ever, unless I am going for an ace or a rare one on occasion to keep them honest. I am sure Will will agree with at least some of this. Like I said, playing smart makes life a lot easier. And sadly most do not.

Let me know if have any other questions.

TM

goober
04-13-2008, 08:48 PM
I'm a 4.0 player with a pretty fast first serve (lets say 85-100 MPH), usually flat and sometimes sliced. My second serve is always a slice. I can get decent pace and keep it in most of the time. No one picks on my second serve because the ball stays so low.

My brother is trying to learn the kick serve for a greater margin for error, but right now his balls are just sitting up, waiting to be clobbered. I play doubles with him every Sunday and I still have to run back to the baseline for his second serve, while he stays up on all of my serves and never gets clobbered. I was even able to mix in a serve and volley on my second serve! :)

My question is, will this hurt me in the long run? Because it sure seems to work well at my level.

Well if you can slice second serve like Sharipova in this vid- no need to go to topspin :)

edit: it actually looks like topspin-slice looking at it again?


http://youtube.com/watch?v=bN-pKLDmwvE

m1stuhxsp4rk5
04-13-2008, 10:18 PM
i think the kick serve is pretty important to be able to through in so many different serves will confuse the opponent. like whats good of a pitcher if he only throws one type of ball. same goes for a server i use the kick serve to give me time to get to the net in doubles my slice to pull out my opponent so my partner has a good put away and my flat serve to end points quickly

Djokovicfan4life
04-17-2008, 10:06 AM
Djokovicfan4life,
If you can control the first serve well then you can control the second you just aren't trusting yourself. Try this to improve your directional control. In general on a second serve my toss is over my head or just in front of it. But the key is to align your shoulders with your target in the service box and accelerate through the ball. Where your shoulders point is where the ball should go. You may have to adjust your toss position a bit but the above will put you in the ball park. This was one of the best tips I ever learned.

As far as the 9 serves are concerned it is pretty straight forward. As far as I am concerned there are three serves: a flat one, a kick serve and a slice serve. The rest are variations of these. I try to keep things simple. I am not counting the opposite inside out serve because so few people hit it. So I can vary the amount of slice or kick on the serve as needed on the fly based on the situation and what I want the ball to do.

I get 9 combinations by hitting each of my three main serves to one of three positions. The three positions are on the ad side: up the T, in the body and out wide and the opposite on the deuce side. You can also think of these positions as serving to my opponent's forehand, his body or his backhand (assuming a righty). As I said all three of these give me 9 basic serves. I am not counting the many variables of each of these serves as different from the three basic positions. For example, the Lefty can opener I do not consider separate outside of my basic Backhand position serve position (even though it technically is a different serve). Remember I try to keep things simple. You must be able to hit these serves to each spot on demand, first or second serve at any point of the match.

I play mostly doubles so in truth I hit 90-95% kick and slice serves or some variation. I also serve 80-90% of my serves to the opponents weaker stroker, usually the backhand. If you can get your first AND second serve to the weaker stroke, no one below 5.0 is going to be able to hurt you with regularity. If I find myself playing someone with an especially strong forehand, they will not see a forehand ever, unless I am going for an ace or a rare one on occasion to keep them honest. I am sure Will will agree with at least some of this. Like I said, playing smart makes life a lot easier. And sadly most do not.

Let me know if have any other questions.

TM
Thank you so much for the response, I would have responded sooner but I kind of forgot about this thread. The first paragraph really helps a lot, I actually HAVE been focusing on second serve confidence for the last few months, as a former second serve pusher. :oops: I have worked at this by incorporating spin and serving and volleying on my second serve. The problem is I can only do this with a slice serve, and not a kick serve.

My main problem is with the follow through on this shot. I have heard so many conflicting opinions on this it's not even funny. Even hitechtennis and FYB have left me a little confused, although obviously not as much. I have heard everything from the obvious "low to high" advice to "a flat serve motion with the toss behind your head". Very strange, to say the least.

Djokovicfan4life
04-17-2008, 12:48 PM
Well if you can slice second serve like Sharipova in this vid- no need to go to topspin :)

edit: it actually looks like topspin-slice looking at it again?


http://youtube.com/watch?v=bN-pKLDmwvE

That actually looks to a great deal of kick to me.

35ft6
04-17-2008, 01:36 PM
Not sure if it's super important. I've run into 2 or 3 players my whole life with really crazy kick serves. IMO, it presents more problems in doubles. Of course, it would be a great thing to have.

Djokovicfan4life
04-17-2008, 01:55 PM
I'm not talking about anything really extreme, just the standard topspin slice serve.

Rafael_Nadal_6257
04-17-2008, 04:46 PM
Yeah, that vid of Sharapova's second serve ace is almost definitely a topspin-slice serve. There is a lot of pretty obvious kick. In addition, almost all slice serves used at the pro level are topspin-slice serves (for greater margin of error, leading to increased potential for power), and not slice serves with backspin.