PDA

View Full Version : Serve needs major help


Jessica
07-23-2009, 05:17 AM
By NTRP standards, I'm 4-4.5 on ground strokes and -3.0 on serve consistency, which makes me a 1.0 in matches, which is why I always loose. I double fault more than anybody I know, even beginners. But then again, I've only been playing for 1.5 years and only really took interest in tennis in the last 2-3 months. I don't have much match experience, which is also why I always loose.

The day I perfect my serve is the day I'll have the confidence to perform my relaxed ground strokes during points and not feel like there's water in my head when I'm loosing 6-1 4-0 (I really need tips on how to overcome that as well).

The thing is. The ball goes where it feels like. I don't try to aim it wide or down line or whatever -- If I do, it's worse. It can get as bad as double faulting on lob serves numerous times. Again, more water in my head after I double fault twice in a row and then my lob serve goes into the net.

In fact my serve is pretty good. Just super inconsistent. I serve like Federer, and my good serves usually hit the back fence a good 3-4 ft above the ground.

PS. I also welcome tips on how to get better at matches. I can hit groundstrokes fine, just not serves. Yet I fail at breaking service, and my footwork sometimes turns to crap.

PPS. I also miss easy overheads -- Completely. I used to be able to nail those overheads. But now I suck. You can lob every single ball when I'm at the baseline and I'm screwed.

Failed
07-23-2009, 05:34 AM
Learn a reliable second serve. a Kick serve should do the trick.

Jessica
07-23-2009, 05:37 AM
Learn a reliable second serve. a Kick serve should do the trick.

I'm looking to prefect my 1st serve. Don't want to do what most people do -- serve really hard into the net and do a gentle second serve 90% of the time.

DavaiMarat
07-23-2009, 07:03 AM
By NTRP standards, I'm 4-4.5 on ground strokes and -3.0 on serve consistency, which makes me a 1.0 in matches, which is why I always loose. I double fault more than anybody I know, even beginners. But then again, I've only been playing for 1.5 years and only really took interest in tennis in the last 2-3 months. I don't have much match experience, which is also why I always loose.

The day I perfect my serve is the day I'll have the confidence to perform my relaxed ground strokes during points and not feel like there's water in my head when I'm loosing 6-1 4-0 (I really need tips on how to overcome that as well).

The thing is. The ball goes where it feels like. I don't try to aim it wide or down line or whatever -- If I do, it's worse. It can get as bad as double faulting on lob serves numerous times. Again, more water in my head after I double fault twice in a row and then my lob serve goes into the net.

In fact my serve is pretty good. Just super inconsistent. I serve like Federer, and my good serves usually hit the back fence a good 3-4 ft above the ground.

PS. I also welcome tips on how to get better at matches. I can hit groundstrokes fine, just not serves. Yet I fail at breaking service, and my footwork sometimes turns to crap.

PPS. I also miss easy overheads -- Completely. I used to be able to nail those overheads. But now I suck. You can lob every single ball when I'm at the baseline and I'm screwed.

Wow. 4.5 in 1.5 years? You must be really gifted athletically or played other racquet sports growing up. Stranger things have happened, Kudos to you.

So about your serve or more specifically your toss. It's the most under praticed yet the most important part of your stroke. Most people just throw the ball up there hoping it's in the right position and focus and everything but the throwing arm.

Ok. 1st of all the toss isn't a toss, it's a lift. Your not trying to accelerate the ball, the exact opposite, your trying to place the ball in your hitting zone which is pretty much 20-22 inches from your hand at your full reach (exactly where the sweetspot is on your racquet during the serve motion.) Now most people throw a foot above this position and hit the ball on the way down because it gives them more time to complete thier motion.

When I teach people the toss I use the analogy of tossing the ball up into an attic trap door (1 foot in front of your left foot) and having it fall back down thru the door. This helps the imagery of keeping the ball toss straight up and down and keep the tossing arm slow and steady.

Let's talk about the hand. Don't cup the ball in your palm. The surface of your hand is too inconsistent to be a reliable launching pad. You should be holding the ball in your finger tips. Now this is the tricky part. Keeping your hand consistent in the right position throughout the toss. Your not flicking the wrist, in fact, your trying to keep your palm facing the sky as long as possible. If you find the fingers pointing toward the back fence at the full extension you've flicked and your toss is probably heading behind your head. Keep the wrist/palm down. The release point is somewhere around your face level but the hand will continue to rise until your arm is fully extended (consider this the follow thru of your toss).

Now the arm. The purpose of the arm, like I mention before, is not to throw the ball but to lift it. The motion is smooth and the arm speed consistent. There should be no change of speed of the arm until it decellerates at the top to stop. The arm is straight, no bend at the elbow and only the shoulder is rotating. Now the arm likes to rotate off axis a lot and end up throwing the ball behind you or to the left. A tip to counter act this to let the arm drop and the back of your tossing hand touch your left knee cap before coming up and extending. This gets your arm in the proper alignment to toss in front of you. Try it, it works. Now lastly, you must, I repeat MUST, keep that tossing arm extended as long as possible. This is the main difference between a professional serve and a recreational serve. The pros keep that arm up and extended a long time with thier hand facing the ball. This does two things. First of all it prevents you from uncoiling too soon. Once you drop the arm the tendency is for the rest the body to follow. This cause the body to open up too soon causing people to arm the ball. Alot of rec players do this and it's not because they don't have good shoulder rotation in thier motion but it's because they opened up too soon and that contribution was lost. KEEP THE ARM UP until your ready to accelerate the racquet into the ball. (If your arm is down and your right shoulder hasn't started to rise into the ball you've dropped too soon.) Two, it keeps your head and shoulders elevated. Once you drop the arm, shoulders and head tend to follow. This bring the head down and upper part of your body collapses prematurely. This causes alot of balls to go down into the net. Keeping your arm up also keeps your eyes fixed on the place where they should be, the ball. (Steffi Graf who had probably the highest toss of all women use to point at the ball to keep her arm up, just google Graf and serve and you'll probably see her in the trophy position with her finger pointing squarely at the ball).

Ok. That's the arm. Sorry, it's amazing how much technique there is in a good toss when it comes down to it. If you have anymore questions please feel free to contact me.

Cheers,

Mike

Jessica
07-23-2009, 08:10 AM
about the keeping the tossing arm straight up. I do notice that most people keep their tossing arm up. But I started out not doing that. As my serve developed, I actually do follow through with my toss, but my hand drops right after that, which -- according to you -- is why my serve is so inconsistent. The thing is I do try to mimic the pros, and I would keep my tossing hand up in the air and frame it. Should I just start from the drawing board? Stop bending my leg. Stop doing flat serves and just work on getting my toss right?

Also, I said that I've been playing for 1.5 years. I did do some tennis with my novice parents prior to that. But back then it was eastern grip all the way. I played with a walmart racket and I'd hit homers all the time.

Sublime
07-23-2009, 08:26 AM
I'm looking to prefect my 1st serve. Don't want to do what most people do -- serve really hard into the net and do a gentle second serve 90% of the time.

Learn a good 2nd serve first.

Even if you "perfect" your first serve it should really only end up being 60% consistent, otherwise you're not going for enough pace and placement to make it useful.

When you have a good second serve in your back pocket it allows you to loosen up and be more aggressive on the first.

DavaiMarat
07-23-2009, 08:45 AM
about the keeping the tossing arm straight up. I do notice that most people keep their tossing arm up. But I started out not doing that. As my serve developed, I actually do follow through with my toss, but my hand drops right after that, which -- according to you -- is why my serve is so inconsistent. The thing is I do try to mimic the pros, and I would keep my tossing hand up in the air and frame it. Should I just start from the drawing board? Stop bending my leg. Stop doing flat serves and just work on getting my toss right?

Also, I said that I've been playing for 1.5 years. I did do some tennis with my novice parents prior to that. But back then it was eastern grip all the way. I played with a walmart racket and I'd hit homers all the time.

Hi Jessica,

There's no serve that can't be tweaked to be more consistent but the number one problem with inconsistency in the serve is the toss. Work on getting the ball in the right position and a part of that is getting that left arm extended and pointing toward the ball in the toss. This should be your number one priority.

About keeping the arm up, no note I said 'as long as possible' but not during your striking motion. While your left shoulder is up (tossing arm up) the right shoulder is down with the racquet in a back scratcher position. Now as the right shoulder rises to hit the, left shoulder begins to drop and body opens up. Now I don't want you get the image of your shoulders rocking back and forth like a see saw. Think of it this way. Imagine your left arm is grabbing a ledge at full extension (straight toss arm). Now imagine using the left arm (leverage) to help you prop you up and over while bringing the right striking arm to full extension. Naturally, the left arm will fall and the right arm will rise. This should give you the right imagery.

About the rest of your serve. It should feel easy. If your putting alot of effort into the serve that means your probably tightening up which disrupts the natural rhythm of the motion.

otherleft
07-23-2009, 08:57 AM
Learn a good 2nd serve first.

Even if you "perfect" your first serve it should really only end up being 60% consistent, otherwise you're not going for enough pace and placement to make it useful.

When you have a good second serve in your back pocket it allows you to loosen up and be more aggressive on the first.

I agree with Sublime.

Having a good first serve feels good; but having a good second serve will help you not lose more games on your serve due to missing a good first serve.

Try to view the serve first as the start of the point and not the end because you can't ace everybody all the time with a good hard first serve.

Mentally you should play more confident if you can start the point consistently without just tapping it over on the second.

Cindysphinx
07-23-2009, 10:01 AM
Jessica,

I'm not a pro, but I tend to have a consistent serve. Except when it is not consistent. :) So I think I feel your pain.

A few random things you can try:

1. Don't hit a bad toss. Ever. Catch them, even in practice matches. Even if you caught the previous four tosses and your opponent is tapping her toe. If you don't have time to recognize that it is a bad toss until it is too late, you are probably not tossing high enough.

2. Keep a slow backswing and accelerate toward the ball. If you are missing, slow down your prep/backswing even more, because you might be unaware that you are rushing.

3. Learn a slice serve. If I am having a tough time with my serve or if it is a very important point, I can hit a slice for both first and second serve. The spin helps keep the ball in and bothers a lot of 3.5 opponents. Plus, since I am hitting the same serve twice, there is less chance I will screw up both of them.

4. To improve consistency, I go out with my hopper and I try to see how many consecutive *good* second serves I can hit without a miss. As the number gets higher, the pressure mounts, much like it does in a match. Once you get a respectable number of second serves, vary the drill to be a first and then a second without a miss.

I would say that until you get the hang of this, I wouldn't worry about placement and power. I would think your goal should be getting through your matches by hitting quality serves at all times.

Good luck!!

Failed
07-23-2009, 10:54 AM
You don't have to hit a gentle second serve. You can't perfect a serve by hitting it out again and again. I can hit the ball over the backfence 130mph but it won't go in. How to perfect this serve? No way... Just start practising your serve component by component.

You could start by laying your racket in front of you in the court and start tossing balls in front of you so that the ball hits the strings. When you get 8/10 to hit the strings you can move on other things such as exploding into the serve with your legs. Then work on reaching an imaginary point up high with your left hand. All in all I would still recommend you to learn a good 2nd serve first. Anyone can hit the ball hard and not get it within lines but only few can hit a good kicker.

StuckInMalibu
07-23-2009, 11:30 AM
The others are right. The toss and the tossing arm may be the problem. If you really serve like Federer, then this video should give you an idea of how to time your serve. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIjfJrfIWnI&feature=related

Another way to get consistency is to hit your first serve with spin. My coach tells me to visualize the swing upwards from the trophy position rather than thinking about turning my shoulders to hit the ball. This is what Federer does in his serve. The shoulders will turn naturally and on time. This motion puts a bit of topspin on the ball, improves the margin of clearance, and imparts a small kick.

Danstevens
07-23-2009, 11:56 AM
Mike has given some good advice here, as has everyone else. As they said, the ball toss is of paramount importance. Catch anything bad but practise just your ball toss to make sure it's usually good. As for when you're serving, make a good contact with your arm at full extension. Make sure your grip on the racquet is relaxed and take a good follow-through.

Your second serve should still have a lot of racquet speed. In fact, the head speed should be similar to the first. Just hit a thinner contact for more spin and consistency. To be honest, I think the best way you can help yourself is just to hit a load of balls until you really find a groove with your serve. Take your time, concentrate on each one and find your rhythm.

As for overheads, just watch them. It sounds simple but if you're missing the "bread and butter" easy overheads, the first thing you should do is make sure you're keeping your eye on the ball right up until contact. Ensure you approach the smash in a side on stance and then twist through it. Also, make sure you're not lashing at it. Sometimes people want to absolutely bury a shot and take a really fast but wild swing at it and miss. Often, even a moderately paced overhead will do the job if you place it right, especially at 4.0/4.5 and below. Eventually, you will have to/want to ratchet up the speed but that shouldn't be your main concern now.

Cindysphinx
07-23-2009, 06:39 PM
Jessica,

I find that the thing that causes me and people my level to miss overheads (esp. missing them completely as you describe) is letting the ball get behind them. Once the ball is behind you, it's all over, you are done.

So you have to react and move quickly enough to keep the ball in front of you. If the ball is in front of you, you can adjust quickly forward even if you misjudge it a bit. Also, you can get more weight on your shot if you are stepping forward into it.

That said, I think one reason why some people have such an awful time with overheads is because how the shot is taught to beginners. Beginners are explicitly told that the very first thing they should do when they see a lob go up is raise the left hand to point at the ball, and drop their racket back behind their head.

Personally, I think that is a dreadful way to go about it. It is very hard to *move* in such an artificial position -- people get stuck and frozen, and then the ball gets behind them. Better, I think, is to turn sideways and shuffle backward, taking care never to let the ball get behind you and keeping good balance. Once you're sure you are far enough back, then do the pointing business, keeping the feet moving until it is time to swing.

Maybe hit some overheads while making your priority to get far enough back before you worry about the pointing and racket prep? I hope that helps, because having no overhead is very frustrating and embarrassing!!!

Birke
07-23-2009, 10:16 PM
search fuzzyyellowballs on youtube.

he breaks down some serving techniques thats more easily explained than in words.