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View Full Version : Need Help With My "Trick" Serve


Cindysphinx
12-11-2012, 06:19 AM
I'm a 4.0 woman, and I hit mostly slice serves for first and second. The reason for this is that the spin confounds many people, the ball stays low, and many people will struggle to attack a slice.

Recently, I have added a topspin serve, which is a nice changeup and is good for dealing with people who figure out how to handle the slice. I rarely hit a flat serve because most opponents are quite capable of blocking back even the fastest serve I can produce. Spin works better.

But enough about me. :) Here's the problem.

Every now and then, I produce a serve that I didn't intend to produce, and it often goes for an ace or service winner. Sometimes it is a deuce court serve that lands close to the net near the sideline. Other times it is an ad serve that hits the middle of the box and just dies there, with the opponent lunging forward and popping it up or netting it.

I would absolutely love it if I could produce these serves on demand rather than being just as surprised as my opponents. Apparently, I do not understand what is causing my serves to behave in this fashion.

What is the mechanism that allows you to hit the front corner of the deuce service box? What am I doing that causes a serve to hit the court and die? How can I learn to produce these serves at will?

esgee48
12-11-2012, 06:32 AM
Hit the kicker with slower racquet head speed in a forward like direction rather than in an upwards direction. You end up with a lower arc on the serve and the ball skips like a moderate TS rather than a highish kick serve. I play a 5.0+ that does this to me all the time as he also has a very good 1st/2nd serve so I have to stay back. HTH.

tennismonkey
12-11-2012, 07:04 AM
maybe you're hitting a little backspin on your serve causing it to die?

hitting your spots - T, body, wide on demands matters a whole lot more than pace and/or spin. next time you're warming up your serve. pick a spot -- say the T and hit half speed serves. see how many you can hit to that spot. like at a gun range - you wanna see a nice tight shooting pattern.

mbm0912
12-11-2012, 07:10 AM
I'm a 4.0 woman, and I hit mostly slice serves for first and second. The reason for this is that the spin confounds many people, the ball stays low, and many people will struggle to attack a slice.

Recently, I have added a topspin serve, which is a nice changeup and is good for dealing with people who figure out how to handle the slice. I rarely hit a flat serve because most opponents are quite capable of blocking back even the fastest serve I can produce. Spin works better.

But enough about me. :) Here's the problem.

Every now and then, I produce a serve that I didn't intend to produce, and it often goes for an ace or service winner. Sometimes it is a deuce court serve that lands close to the net near the sideline. Other times it is an ad serve that hits the middle of the box and just dies there, with the opponent lunging forward and popping it up or netting it.

I would absolutely love it if I could produce these serves on demand rather than being just as surprised as my opponents. Apparently, I do not understand what is causing my serves to behave in this fashion.

What is the mechanism that allows you to hit the front corner of the deuce service box? What am I doing that causes a serve to hit the court and die? How can I learn to produce these serves at will?

Every once in a while, I'll hit these also, not meaning to. They never get returned!

Nellie
12-11-2012, 08:00 AM
On the deuce side, it sounds like you are hitting a good topspin-slice serve with the racquet face brushing up the right, outside of the ball. For a righty, this ball will curve to the server's left and dip, landing short and near the sideline. It happens when you let the ball (tossed to your right) drops slighty, causing you to hit up and around the ball. This is a good serve and one of my goto second serves.

On the ad-side, it sounds like you are also letting the ball drop slightly, but are hitting forward and under the ball to get slice (in contrast to the topspin slice in which you are hitting up and through the ball). I would need to see the serve, but I would guess that you are tossing too far right and/or are not finishing the service motion. I would not consider this to be a desirable serve because it would be low percentage unless you are dinking it into the service box (due to the underspin carrying the ball long and low).

sureshs
12-11-2012, 08:06 AM
The ad serve is probably not worth cultivating, as it seems to be too slow.

The out-wide deuce serve is good.

Cindysphinx
12-11-2012, 08:09 AM
Thanks, all.

Nellie, I think you are correct about the deuce serve. OK. Gotta toss right and let it drop a bit.

I think the ad serve is useful also. A lot of women stand far over to the alley and/or deep to avoid hitting a BH return. If I hit this "dead" serve up the middle, they have a lot of ground to cover.

I will play with the tosses and see if I can replicate (and avoid when necessary!) these serves.

JohnB
12-11-2012, 08:10 AM
I'm a 4.0 woman, and I hit mostly slice serves for first and second. The reason for this is that the spin confounds many people, the ball stays low, and many people will struggle to attack a slice.

Recently, I have added a topspin serve, which is a nice changeup and is good for dealing with people who figure out how to handle the slice. I rarely hit a flat serve because most opponents are quite capable of blocking back even the fastest serve I can produce. Spin works better.

But enough about me. :) Here's the problem.

Every now and then, I produce a serve that I didn't intend to produce, and it often goes for an ace or service winner. Sometimes it is a deuce court serve that lands close to the net near the sideline. Other times it is an ad serve that hits the middle of the box and just dies there, with the opponent lunging forward and popping it up or netting it.

I would absolutely love it if I could produce these serves on demand rather than being just as surprised as my opponents. Apparently, I do not understand what is causing my serves to behave in this fashion.

What is the mechanism that allows you to hit the front corner of the deuce service box? What am I doing that causes a serve to hit the court and die? How can I learn to produce these serves at will?

A video of your normal service or your trick one would be nice. But what comes to my mind is a mixture of two services. What could be happening is that you toss for a topspin serve and then for whatever reason (maybe imbalance) your arm makes a slice serve stroke. You'll end up with a topslice serve. IOW. maybe it's a slice service stroke, but with a toss behind you?

UCSF2012
12-11-2012, 08:51 AM
Kick serves spin 7 to 1 o'clock, while some players manage to do 6 to 12. Slices spin 8 to 2 o'clock.

If you want a wide serve that dies, there are a couple components. 1) generate 9 to 3 o'clock spin, so there's minimal forward bounce. 2) Keep the pace very low, so the ball doesn't bounce forward 3) moderate net clearance by tossing the ball closer to you. (slow spinny balls tend to dump into the net otherwise)

Cindysphinx
12-11-2012, 09:50 AM
OK, I think I solved this riddle.

I tried all kinds of tosses and motions. The way to get the ball to land short in the deuce box on the sideline was to toss a tad more into the court but still let the toss drop so I could brush up.

Normally, I try to toss so the ball would land on my head for a topspin serve and at 1 o'clock for a slice. So this toss was still at 1 o'clock-ish, but just slightly more into the court.

It worked every time (although they sometimes went wide). Now I just have to refine this. I imagine it would be very hard for a returner to anticipate.

I might be FF'ing though. I hope not . . .

AnotherTennisProdigy
12-11-2012, 10:54 AM
I have a friend that does this, his serve dies like a drop shot. I can't do it, but I do know that you have to toss the ball to the right and to the side of you. This puts you in a position to put underspin on the ball. Again, it's a very akward serve and I've never done it myself, just what I've gathered from observation.

LeeD
12-11-2012, 11:20 AM
I've played guys who can hit a serve that bounces TWICE before it reaches the service line. And they can place it in either corner.
Extreme slice with a hair of backspin does the job. SLOW down the ball, but swing normal speed, barely clear the net, at about 35 mph with tons of sidespin. CHOP the ball, more backhandy grip if needed.
One of those guys was a high level B, or 4.5 singles player....who could also hit a flat heater in the mid 120's.

sansaephanh
12-11-2012, 12:10 PM
that guy needs to teach rafa how to serve.

Nellie
12-11-2012, 12:32 PM
I really like to mix up the top-spin slice serve with a hard slice (hitting slice near the apex of the toss) because they have similar motions, and you cannot really tell what is coming until contact. If you only use the topspin slice, it carries right into the forehand wheelhouse of most returners and may get crushed if you don't get good placement, but a similarly hit hard slice serve skids right into the returner's body.

If you want to have a good time with the top-spin slice, try standing wide (e.g., in the doubles alley) when you are playing indoors, with the side curtains, and see how often you can hit an unreturnable ace into the side curtain.

LeeD
12-11-2012, 12:39 PM
CindyS, read posts 11 and 12 again.
Lower your contact point to just a foot over your head, off to your right more than any other serve.
Slice the ball like a sushi chef, don't hit it solidly. SLOW the speed of the ball, but swing fast to add the side/underspin component.

sureshs
12-11-2012, 12:43 PM
I might be FF'ing though.

Then it is really not a serve

LeeD
12-11-2012, 12:51 PM
Serving so the returner is standing in the same side as his partner is a GOOD ploy. Think of the open court you've created.

mntlblok
12-12-2012, 01:27 PM
Some good advice given. Also experiment with seeing how *low* a toss you can get away with for this sort of serve. I hit a version of this when the sun is so bad that I can't do anything else. I actually shoot for shoulder-height contact. I also then have to toss it well to the right in order for it not to be too close to my body for good contact.

Maximize the "spin" rather than the "hit", but still accelerate as much as possible. Might have to aim higher than you expect as gravity gets a lot of time to work on it, what with all the spin taking most of the pace off the ball. The bounce - what little there is of it - is to the left, rather than towards the server.

I've played against a lefty who did this, tossed it "too close" to his body (intentionally) and then fell back away from it in order to be able to straighten his elbow for the swing. Almost as ugly a thing to watch as Charles Barkley hitting a golf ball, but *dang* that thing could be effective. Imagine that trick shot of yers kicking to the backhand short in the box rather than the forehand. You find out who can do something with a low short ball (that's not where you thought it was going to be) on the run. :-)

LeeD
12-12-2012, 01:31 PM
And the counter is to blast up the middle, daring the netperson to take it, or just approach shot deep, but stay around the service line expecting a lob reply.....

NLBwell
12-12-2012, 04:30 PM
Try your "dead" serve in mixed against the guy as a surprise. A lot of guys don't hit soft short serves very well since they don't see them in mens matches.

sureshs
12-12-2012, 05:22 PM
I have been "aced" in doubles by these slow serves. You can pretend that it is beneath you to return such serves, but the point has been lost.

LeeD
12-12-2012, 06:15 PM
Yes, so have I.
But on the next serve, I stand inside the baseline, plan to move forwards, and hit my hardest topspin groundie return right at the chest of the netman.

NLBwell
12-12-2012, 09:35 PM
That's why it needs to be a surprise serve.

LeeD
12-13-2012, 04:44 PM
If I remember correctly, it's very difficult to spend time serving normal serves, then throw one in at 30 mph with extreme spin Mostly, your body has problems making the adjustment, and that slow serve is often out.
Also, the toss location is very different, the swingpath also, the the contact point is over a foot lower than for normal serves.
Might as well work on the reverse slice serve while there, and the deliberate whiff, followed by a backhand scoop serve too.

mntlblok
12-13-2012, 04:57 PM
If I remember correctly, it's very difficult to spend time serving normal serves, then throw one in at 30 mph with extreme spin Mostly, your body has problems making the adjustment, and that slow serve is often out.
Also, the toss location is very different, the swingpath also, the the contact point is over a foot lower than for normal serves.
Might as well work on the reverse slice serve while there, and the deliberate whiff, followed by a backhand scoop serve too.

So, yer saying you *don't* spend time practicing such things?? :) It's some of the most fun I *have* while practicing. Once you learn em, it doesn't take all *that* much practice to more or less own it. And, even if you miss it, it's just *so* dern much *fun*, anyway! :)

And, yes, I *have* learnt and practiced the Bahrami "whiff" - enough to know that you have start back far enough that you can move yer right foot forward without foot-faulting after the whiff to be able to get the leverage. Note in the Bahrami videos that he *does* foot fault on that trick. :)

LeeD
12-13-2012, 05:03 PM
No I don't.
I'm an old set in the way foogie. I''m of the traditional harder first serve, spinnier second serve set.
To me, respect for my opponent is always on my mind. While I might hit short angles and even drop volleys against some players, I'll try to limit that to winning what I think are necessary points.
I also don't do gamesmanship, stall or rush the opponent, and actually feed balls back to him on one bounce, little spin.

mntlblok
12-13-2012, 05:49 PM
No I don't.
I'm an old set in the way foogie. I''m of the traditional harder first serve, spinnier second serve set.
To me, respect for my opponent is always on my mind. While I might hit short angles and even drop volleys against some players, I'll try to limit that to winning what I think are necessary points.
I also don't do gamesmanship, stall or rush the opponent, and actually feed balls back to him on one bounce, little spin.

An interesting take. I held no hard feelings against the two players who come to mind that have used the "eephus" pitch against my team. AAMOF, I thought it was hilarious. Same with the guy who almost took my shin off with a "screwball" serve.

A friend who's now moved away used it regularly and it was always good for a laugh - and a challenge to figger out a good way to deal with it. He's also one of the fastest guys I've ever known. The other was in a tournament final. The guy who hit it has one of the biggest serves I've ever played against. His was almost lob-like, though, and started so far into the ad court before curving to just inside the "T" that my partner never budged and let it bounce twice. Cracked me up. Now that I think about it, both of these fellows were or had at times been 5.0 players.

To me, it's no different than developing other specialty shots, such as a topspin lob or a drop shot. Quick serving someone with an underhanded serve is certainly unacceptable, but I don't otherwise see any (what *I* would call) gamesmanship in it. Same with drop-shotting against a guy's second serve. Seems to me to be a kind way of pointing out that he needs a better second serve or that he might want to mix in some serve and volley plays from time to time. :)

As far as practicing stuff goes, I find that bothering with that hard first serve is more of a waste for *me*, as at my height and age, and my propensity for playing doubles rather than singles, the payoff just isn't there.

As far as being polite and showing common courtesy between points, you'll not find a more upstanding individual than myself. :)

You really consider angles and spins disrespectful??

LeeD
12-13-2012, 06:02 PM
Tough one there.
I think "trick" serves borderline on unrespectful.
I maybe be naive.
Long time ago, I was playing an old fart for the BATL championship in SanFrancisco. He basically had trouble running, like I do now. I played my normal game, while all my teammates later told me to dropshot and lob him.
Well, I LOST, 6 and 6, playing my normal A game, and also some baseline back and forth grinding.
After the match, my opponent thanked me for handing him the match, as he said he would not have run for the dropshots, and certainly not for the lob that would follow. His advice was..."beat your opponent, no matter how".
I haven't embraced that philosophy in my 63 years.

mntlblok
12-14-2012, 09:41 AM
^^^Fascinating. I wonder how pervasive that way of thinking is.

Talked to some ladies at a tournament who had played against Dodo Cheney. They said she used six different types of serves and four of the six were underhand. :)

LeeD
12-14-2012, 10:29 AM
You might have missed some facts and history here...
Cheney was known to have major shoulder problems which ended her career early. Warming up, she would hit some underhand serves, and weak normal serves....for her level.
Her opponent's would know about the shoulder problems.
I doubt it's any surprise, as you would return an underhand serve inside the baseline, but you'd return HER overhand serve from the same spot.
How many different serves do you have? I have at least 4 basic serves, each one going to 3 different spots. And I'm lefty.

mntlblok
12-14-2012, 12:42 PM
Entirely possible. Just relating what the old ladies told me.

BTW, Brent Abel has been showing some points from a National 60's doubles tournament, and Brian Cheney, son of Dodo, is featured in them. I've seen him in tournaments, too, and he is just *so* smooth. He's *also* won dozens of gold balls. Last I heard, Dodo was approaching 400 of them.

I have pitifully little variety with my serve. I *can* hit some trick serves but *rarely* bother to try - and almost certainly not in tournament play - unless the sun forces me to try that overly-low toss job. I rely on being able to half volley and volley off my shoe tops getting in behind my kicker in doubles rather than forcing errors with my serve. *And*, by using pretty much only a second serve, I rarely double fault and, most importantly, rarely have to face the pressure of a second serve. I *can* slice it to the other corner, but don't tend to practice it enough.

I can think of *nothing* more disrespectful to the game of tennis than coming out there and playing left handed. It just ain't right. :)

LeeD
12-14-2012, 01:34 PM
Is that a clue as to your level?
Having played from 2.5 thru 5.5, I'd say everyone under 3.5 hates playing lefties. 4.0 thru 5.5's don't seem to care one way or another, as they know how to beat lefties, like they know how to beat righties.
I'm a lefty. My serve advantage lasted right into lower level B level, or 4.0 thereabouts. Once I started playing A/Open tourney, only the 4.5 or B guys would mentioned how tough lefties are. The real 5.5's don't care, they just practice against the lefty, and beat every one they could.
For every Connors or McEnroe, there are thousands of unknown lefties who never made it near the spotlight.

mntlblok
12-14-2012, 04:18 PM
I'm so confused. . .