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prattle128
07-16-2009, 10:29 PM
When I play matches, nearly every time my serve decides to whither up and die. I really can't take it anymore. I should not be getting broken as much as I am if I could serve at least somewhat consistently. My 1st serve % must have been something like -2% today, and my 2nd serve % was probably 32%. I actually double faulted an entire service game today. Now mind you, this is arguably the worst I've ever served in living memory (today was), but still, I am in dire need of consistent serving. I feel like many people I could beat, and sometimes I will, but I will lose more than I win because I get broken so easily. Holding serve at love for me is like winning the lottery, in how rare it is, and how great I feel after I accomplish that. It's a feeling that I would like to feel a lot more.

I know that my toss is a little shaky, so that must be a contributing factor to why my serve %, 1st or 2nd, is so bad. But also when I play matches (and it's against my friends who all are on my high school team), we normally just rally to warm up, and don't really take any practice serves, so I realize that it's good to get my serve warmed up, but I don't know how much of a factor that would play into why I can't seem to get a single fricken serve in the entire match.

I feel like every match I play is decided by my level of play, not my opponents, which I suppose is good as far as being confident in that I can beat these players. But also, it seems like my serve is horrible almost every time I play these people, and since I can't hold my serve, my confidence in the match starts to go down hill, and it seems that when I am serving really well, I play really well, and if I serve bad, I play bad to average. The only reason I can compete at all is because of my groundstrokes. The more I double fault, the less confident I become, making me double fault more, until I never get a serve in ever again. It's a rather vicious cycle that I experience.

If anyone who has taken the time to read all that crap can maybe just throw me some advice as to how to maintain confidence with your serve, and how to develop consistency, it would be most appreciated.

P.S. I will often practice my serve, so it's not like I don't try and work out the kinks by myself. Normally, after a while of practicing, I can get in a groove, but yeah... I guess in matches that aren't exhibitions, I will need to try and make sure I practice my serve quite a bit even before the match.

Summary: My serve sucks, bad %, please help.

NickH87
07-16-2009, 10:39 PM
Happens to me all of the time, when I play matches against friends, my serves either on fire, or a POS. Yesterday I lost my first set 1-6 and didnt get a first serve in. I won the second set 6-2 and the third set 6-4. I dont know what happened it just clicked and they started landing, my second serve was way more consistent which is usually never the case. Practice practice practice, 3 times a week for a good 45-1 hour. Once you find a groove, try to reciprocate it and practice that form. Muscle memory...

prattle128
07-16-2009, 10:43 PM
Yeah I know what you mean. I played my friend a week or two ago, and won 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5). My serve just decided that it was not going to let me down completely and I was able to pull the match out because it decided to be average. It also gave my the greatest serve game I can remember with all 4 first serves in, the first 2 being aces, the next 2 leading to 2 winners. I was so proud of it at that point haha. My serve has basically become a separate entity at this point.

In D Zone
07-16-2009, 10:46 PM
For starters you must practice!

Split your practice into 3 sections.

First is the warm up serve. Stretch and softly serve which you get your shoulder and body ready. Work on each side for with 10 balls and then move to the opposite side of the court and do the same. Focus on making the serve rather then hitting a fast / hard serve. Repeat two to three set on each side.

Part 2. use only three balls. This drill is to simulate game time. You work on serving the 1st and 2nd serve. Third ball is extra for practice. Again serve 3 balls on each side and move from deuce and ad, Repeat 3 times and move to the opposite side of the court and do the same. You must keep count on how many 1st and 2nd serve you made/ miss. This will help you focus and be cognizant of your serve. Now if you are double faulting, take a step back to reset and start again.

Part 3. Same use only three balls, this time you'll have a partner on the opposite side to return the serve. Same routine except this time your must hit the ball back when your partner return the shot. This is another shot that you must learn to return; don't muscle or try to go for winner. Objective is to be able to serve and hit the shot of the returner back. After the shot, you stop and move to the next side (deuce or ad) to start serving again. The rest is the same as part 2.

federer_15
07-16-2009, 10:47 PM
Hi,

What helps me is when I slow everything down.

The arm I release the ball with I slow down to keep a smooth swing and so it is not a jurk and it is just like a smootg throwing action. Keep the ball toss infront of you. Reach up to the ball and hit upwards not forwards.

A good drill to practice serving up which Roddick uses is to stand on the service line and serve as hard as you can into the service box. This helps hitting upwards.

Another thing you can do just for a couple of serves if you serving long is to serve into the bottom of the net and then serve nomrally.

If your serves are going long try and hit with more spin and keep the ball toss infront of the baseline.

Keeping a good posture is also important.

Hope this helps:)

canadave
07-16-2009, 10:48 PM
It sounds to me like if you're DF'ing entire service games, your basic mechanics are not correct. Thus, no matter how much you practice, all you're doing is learning how to execute your incorrect mechanics perfectly...if you know what I mean.

My strength is serving, and I've studied the subject pretty intensively. To me, it all starts with standing at the baseline and relaxing.

Next, move your weight so it's on your back foot, bring your racquet back, and toss the ball, in one fluid motion. The ball toss is where most problems with serves occur, as far as I'm concerned. The toss should be consistent height and consistent direction. Is yours? If not, you should work on that alone.

(by the way, side note about the toss for you or anyone else reading this--the major flaw I see most players have in their ball toss is that they THROW the ball up there. A better way to achieve consistency is to LIFT the ball with a quick arm motion, and then open your fingers, immediately stop moving your arm upward, keep your palm parallel with the ground as a "launching platform", and let the ball continue in flight upward on its own. You can achieve very consistent and accurate tosses this way, rather than "flipping" or "throwing" the ball upwards with your wrist and arm.

To see what I'm talking about, check out this wonderful slow-motion video of Nadal's serve. Look closely at the hand/arm tossing the ball. See how there's no wrist action at all? He basically just raises his arm and opens his fingers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J--1bFxdmC0&feature=related)

Next, work on your service motion--however you want to do it--so that your weight comes forward onto your front foot as you come through the ball.

The biggest thing that will help your consistency is having a consistent ball toss...followed by having a consistent serving motion. But if you can only get one of those right, make it the ball toss.

Also, of course, make sure you're coming through the ball with a fairly predictable and consistent motion in your arm and wrist, and make sure the racquet face is hitting the ball at a fairly consistent angle. If your racquet face is facing in all different directions when you hit the ball, you'll spray it all over the place.

It might help to know where the mistakes generally are. Are your serves generally long? Wide? Short and into the net? Just off the tape? Or totally all of the above?

canadave
07-16-2009, 11:10 PM
Remember, by the way--lots of people will try to sell you on a particular motion or particular style of serving. Bend the knees, don't bend the knees, turn sideways, face the receiver straight on, etc etc.

It doesn't matter what you do, as long as your serve has a few crucial elements:

1. Weight transfer forward through the ball (back foot to front foot).
2. Consistent ball toss (in terms of both height and direction). (yes, obviously the toss will be different for different types of serve and different directions of serve...but for each type of serve, you should be fairly consistent in where you're tossing the ball)
3. Proper racquet face contact with the ball.

However you achieve these three elements is fine.

prattle128
07-16-2009, 11:29 PM
Thanks to everyone for the responses. I think that when I'm serving, since I've kinda subconsciously learned to "fear" my serve, I maybe hurry things up to much, and don't slow it down enough to be able to really focus on whatever it is that I am doing.

Also, as far as me DFing entire service games, today was the first time I can remember doing that since the first time I tried implementing a slice and topspin serves as second serves. So at any rate, it's really rare for me to serve like that, but it happened, and so I figured that I can't really let that happen again, as much as I can help it at any rate.

I guess next time I go out to practice my serve (a.k.a. tomorrow), I will make sure that I focus on slowing things down, and taking my time, instead of trying to rush through the serve so that I don't have to think about it anymore. I think that that same fear might have led me to hitting a hard flat 1st serve a lot less, and trying to play it safe more and spin it in, since I become more nervous about hitting a 2nd serve.

But anyways, thanks for all the help/suggestions everyone!

imalil2gangsta4u
07-16-2009, 11:42 PM
What i found is that its all about relaxing and confidence. When you step up to the baseline, give yourself a few seconds to gather your thoughts. I always go through my head what i need to do to get the most of of my serve. I always make sure that i never feel rushed.

Another thing that i see from a lot of people is not knowing when to bring it down a little. You arent going to serve perfectly all the time. When you know you arent having a good serving day or that its a big point and you dont want to double fault, take a little bit off your first serve so that you can get it in. Dont continue to blast your serve serve when its never going in.

Failed
07-16-2009, 11:43 PM
Don't be disheartened, my friend has lost a set to himself by just double faulting so much. You are not the only one in this world who is cursed by the double fault. Practise and learn to dispell this curse that consumes your mind.

naylor
07-16-2009, 11:58 PM
... I guess next time I go out to practice my serve (a.k.a. tomorrow), I will make sure that I focus on slowing things down, and taking my time... hitting a hard flat 1st serve a lot less, and trying to play it safe more and spin it in...

In a competitive situation, you will always be as good as your second serve (unless you are Goran Ivanisovich (?) and you're playing on grass - and even then, remember he only won Wimby once, when everyone thought he was over the hill). So, that's the serve you have to practice. And you must remember you have to hit your second serve as hard/fast as you hit your first one - the big difference is that you're putting some spin on it to give you extra clearance over the net and still bring the ball down and in.

Once you get your second serve to go in, and with both good action and placement (i.e. you know exactly where you're hitting it) about 90% of the time, then you can start working on your first serve. And the way you work on it is by simply taking some of the "2nd serve overspin" and flattening it, or putting sidespin instead (for a rightie receiver, the sidespin makes it a wide slider, or a serve that starts on his backhand but then cuts back into the body and jams him). In either case (flat or slice 1st serve) that ball will be much lower over the net, but will have more pace.

From then on, it's self-fulfilling. If your first serve is slightly off to start with, you ease off and go for good seconds with good placement. When those become consistent (so your second serve becomes a "banker"), you can crank the first serve up and flatten it, until it starts going off the rails again. So, you ease off slightly again - to what by then will have become your very aggressive 2nd serve - till it settles, and then crank it up again.

In reality, if you develop a dependable, well varied and aggressive second serve (which may not give you outright aces, but will still give you plenty of service winners or easy third-shot put-aways), you will very seldom have to tweak it all up in a match so that you lose the feel for both your first and second serves - and if you do, you're playing against a very good returner who's probably a better player than you, so no shame in losing to someone like that!

SystemicAnomaly
07-17-2009, 12:39 AM
Try to practice you service toss on a daily basis, if possible. Or at least 3-4x a week. When practicing your toss, let the tossing arm continue upward after the ball release so that arm is nearly vertical (with your fingers extended up towards the ball. Make sure that your arm does not bend and you do not flip your wrist. After the ball release stay in the trophy position.

Notice where the ball drops with respect to your outstretched hand. If the ball reaches a sufficient height & drops into your extended hand, you're doing ok. If the ball falls slightly forward of your outstretched arm or slightly to the left or right, then these tosses are probably ok as well (this may depend somewhat on your mechanics the type of serve you hit).

Practice your second serve 2-3x a week or more. Do not practice your first serve at all until you can develop a decent 2nd serve that lands in the box 80% or better. If you can manage that consistently, then shoot for 90% or better. If this becomes easy, then go for a bit more -- faster serve or better placement. But only crank it up to the point where you can still maintain an 80+% consistency. The best thing that you can do for your 1st serve is to develop a good, reliable 2nd serve.

When you start to feel more confident about your 2nd serve, then start to play some 1-serve games against opponents. Only 1 serve per point -- a single service fault is a point lost. Try to play several games or a whole set where neither server is allowed a 2nd serve.

prattle128
07-17-2009, 12:57 AM
Try to practice you service toss on a daily basis, if possible. Or at least 3-4x a week. When practicing your toss, let the tossing arm continue upward after the ball release so that arm is nearly vertical (with your fingers extended up towards the ball. Make sure that your arm does not bend and you do not flip your wrist. After the ball release stay in the trophy position.

Notice where the ball drops with respect to your outstretched hand. If the ball reaches a sufficient height & drops into your extended hand, you're doing ok. If the ball falls slightly forward of your outstretched arm or slightly to the left or right, then these tosses are probably ok as well (this may depend somewhat on your mechanics the type of serve you hit).

Practice your second serve 2-3x a week or more. Do not practice your first serve at all until you can develop a decent 2nd serve that lands in the box 80% or better. If you can manage that consistently, then shoot for 90% or better. If this becomes easy, then go for a bit more -- faster serve or better placement. But only crank it up to the point where you can still maintain an 80+% consistency. The best thing that you can do for your 1st serve is to develop a good, reliable 2nd serve.

When you start to feel more confident about your 2nd serve, then start to play some 1-serve games against opponents. Only 1 serve per point -- a single service fault is a point lost. Try to play several games or a whole set where neither server is allowed a 2nd serve.

Thanks for the benchmarks. I guess tomorrow I now have something that I can kind of shoot for. But yeah, thanks again everyone. It seems I'm going to grind a 2nd serve out of myself yet, or die trying haha. Normally I can hit it pretty well, but yeah, I definitely will make sure that I have it consistent enough that I can always trust it.

SupremeV
07-17-2009, 03:52 AM
Alot of good mechanical advice has been posted, so I will take the time to explain some mental tips.

I like to consider tennis as a pyramid. At the foundation there is technique. The middle is strength and endurance and at the top is mental endurance and concentration. You could have unorthodox strokes but always still get the ball in. Likewise if you have a theoretically "perfect" stroke you could still double fault without the right mind set. For instance, Sharapova has a well-rehearsed serve mechanics; after all she is a strong proffesional tennis player. However, she is most infamous for her double faults. A lot of people point to her shoulder injuries, but the fact is that she can rarely count on her mental strength. She loses her serve on the most critical points. But enough about sharapova... let's get to you.

First off, just by reading the original post and topic, you can see a confidence issue. If you ever want a good serve or in fact, anything in life, you need confidence. There's a reason why Roger Federer and Nadal are always at the top. Even when they are down, they will never succumb to pessimism, because that would be absolutely fatal. They might as well hand the match to their opponent. Some people say that you have to "build" confidence as the match progresses or as you practice. I disagree. If you allowed confidence to wane according to how well you play, it could lead to straight plummets. You should not be waiting to be confident until you finally achieve a "perfect" stroke. You need to begin with confidence, even if the strokes are not entirely perfect. This mind set will work wonders for your game. I suggest you reread your entire post and tell me how much negativity is in it. Then change your attitude and I will guarantee you will see results.

The following paragraphs will be devouted to random tips that has helped me.

1) When a point ends, win or lose, you should clear your mind. Nothing should get carried along to the next point. When you reach the serving position( before you serve) you should already have decided placement and spin. At this point I personally like to imagine/visualize the flight path of the ball and where it is going. As soon as you begin to serve YOUR MIND SHOULD BE BLANK. If you are thinking about anything you will be distracted and any slight mis-focus can lead to a fault.
2) The common saying is that placement is more important than pace. THat is absolutely true. The only problem is that when you have the mindset of "control", many fledgling players will sacrifice both power and TECHNIQUE. They slow the ball down so much that they screw up their practiced strokes. You do not want to do this. I like to do this: Tell yourself where the ball is going. As soon as you start serving just let the muscle memories do its job and not the mind. You'll realize that the control is almost done automatically without thinking.
3) Remember that practicing alone and serving in match will always be different. So even if you are serving alot alone, devout even more time to match play.

I had a very similar problem when I was younger. Hope this helps!

marsh
07-17-2009, 06:56 AM
I have had a very similar problem. One thing that a local pro (former Div 1 player) recommended to me, was to walk around beyond the base line and practice lobbing serves in from that range. It sounded stupid to me until I tried it. It really helped with my depth perception vs. power. After practicing this I have found that my 2nd serve percentage has gone way up. He also had me serve at some cones in the box. This gave me something to focus on and helped with my concentration. And lastly, he had me serve from my knees. This helped with my build my serve strength.

prattle128
07-17-2009, 01:53 PM
Alot of good mechanical advice has been posted, so I will take the time to explain some mental tips.

I like to consider tennis as a pyramid. At the foundation there is technique. The middle is strength and endurance and at the top is mental endurance and concentration. You could have unorthodox strokes but always still get the ball in. Likewise if you have a theoretically "perfect" stroke you could still double fault without the right mind set. For instance, Sharapova has a well-rehearsed serve mechanics; after all she is a strong proffesional tennis player. However, she is most infamous for her double faults. A lot of people point to her shoulder injuries, but the fact is that she can rarely count on her mental strength. She loses her serve on the most critical points. But enough about sharapova... let's get to you.

First off, just by reading the original post and topic, you can see a confidence issue. If you ever want a good serve or in fact, anything in life, you need confidence. There's a reason why Roger Federer and Nadal are always at the top. Even when they are down, they will never succumb to pessimism, because that would be absolutely fatal. They might as well hand the match to their opponent. Some people say that you have to "build" confidence as the match progresses or as you practice. I disagree. If you allowed confidence to wane according to how well you play, it could lead to straight plummets. You should not be waiting to be confident until you finally achieve a "perfect" stroke. You need to begin with confidence, even if the strokes are not entirely perfect. This mind set will work wonders for your game. I suggest you reread your entire post and tell me how much negativity is in it. Then change your attitude and I will guarantee you will see results.

The following paragraphs will be devouted to random tips that has helped me.

1) When a point ends, win or lose, you should clear your mind. Nothing should get carried along to the next point. When you reach the serving position( before you serve) you should already have decided placement and spin. At this point I personally like to imagine/visualize the flight path of the ball and where it is going. As soon as you begin to serve YOUR MIND SHOULD BE BLANK. If you are thinking about anything you will be distracted and any slight mis-focus can lead to a fault.
2) The common saying is that placement is more important than pace. THat is absolutely true. The only problem is that when you have the mindset of "control", many fledgling players will sacrifice both power and TECHNIQUE. They slow the ball down so much that they screw up their practiced strokes. You do not want to do this. I like to do this: Tell yourself where the ball is going. As soon as you start serving just let the muscle memories do its job and not the mind. You'll realize that the control is almost done automatically without thinking.
3) Remember that practicing alone and serving in match will always be different. So even if you are serving alot alone, devout even more time to match play.

I had a very similar problem when I was younger. Hope this helps!

Yeah I know that my original post was pretty negative, and normally when I get out there, I'm positive, but it seems that even then, I still have work to do as far as making sure that I stay mentally tough, and that no matter what happens, that I make sure that I believe in myself to be able to do what I need to. But yes, thank you for the more mentally inclined post, since I think I needed to read one of those as much as the technical haha.

topher.juan
07-17-2009, 02:19 PM
If you're gonna go down, go down swinging!!! When you're backed up in a corner and there's no way out, 'spinning one in' won't save you, you've gotta fight! Take a moment, walk back to the fence, collect yourself then get your match back! You have to think that, have a fighter mentality, don't think "oh, I need to get this one in". I'd rather go down clawing and scratching then giving in with wimpy serves, that will only prolong the inevitable. Before all this you need confidence in yourself and consistency in your serve, that's not something you're going to suddenly learn during the match. +1 to SystemicAnomaly, good advice there.