Hitting the Back Fence on Serve

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by RyKnocks, Sep 29, 2011.

  1. RyKnocks

    RyKnocks Semi-Pro

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    Hey all,

    I've only been playing for a few months now but all my friends who play say I'm rapidly improving. The weakest part of my game is my serve. It's starting to get a lot more consistent in terms of landing in the box. I have good spin but I lack a lot of pace. My goal is to eventually be able to hit the back fence off the first bounce when landing in the service box. I watch the pros and they hit the back wall 3-6 feet up the back wall doing 100+ mph serves.

    I've been doing a lot of shoulder and muscle training to help me generate power and control over my strokes. This is something I'd like to achieve maybe within the next year. Is this realistic or is this something that only 4.0+ players can do? How long did it take for you guys to start hitting the back fence and what did you do to get something like that to "click"?

    I'll try to upload a video of me serving in the next few days, but if anyone can give me some general pointers then that would be great.
     
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  2. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    There are very slight people who can hit a 100+ mph serve. There are 15 year old girls who can hit 100+ mph serves. That should tell you it isn't about muscles. An effective serve (and every other shot) is delivered though good mechanics and technique.

    If you use proper technique, combined with a lot of practice, the pace on your serve will come with time.
     
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  3. Up&comer

    Up&comer Hall of Fame

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    It's not just being stronger. It's about good technique.

    The biggest part is leg drive. Make sure you get plenty of leg drive.

    Then get the right shoulder and arm.

    Start out with left shoulder over right shoulder and right shoulder over right elbow.

    Then as you hit, it should be right elbow over right shoulder and right shoulder over left shoulder.

    Make sure to keep your head up.

    Snap the wrist through the ball as you hit. (pronation)
     
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  4. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    learn a kicker, it'll hit the back fence every time, just very slowly! :)
     
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  5. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    If I go all out with a full trunk rotation and massive push from my legs I can hit the fence on one bounce.

    And then the tendons in my legs remind me I'm 45 and my brain tells me it's just low level rec play, no need to get hurt for free!

    :)
     
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  6. jmverdugo

    jmverdugo Hall of Fame

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    IMHO hitting the back fence with the first bounce is over rated and you do not need a 100MPH to hit it.
     
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  7. Xizel

    Xizel Professional

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    Although I naturally have a good leg drive (karate and soccer will force that upon you), I still find the serve's power coming mostly from the shoulder (rotation) and arm, with the leg drive giving you the extra oomph when you've reached the power limit of your shoulder and arm. Technique certainly helps, but having a loose shoulder and fast arm acceleration is pretty critical. Make sure you get as much of a full swing (however long that is) as possible.

    I also had the same thought. I have a fast flat serve and with a high contact point, it hits the back fence on the first bounce pretty easily.
     
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  8. corners

    corners Legend

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    Sampras, when asked publicly how to serve big: keep a loose grip and relaxed wrist.

    Federer, when asked the same thing: Focus on the toss and keeping the elbow of your hitting arm high. Once you've got that down you can work in leg drive and hip snap. And keep a loose grip.
     
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  9. Xizel

    Xizel Professional

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    This can't be exaggerated. Because the ball is almost without pace, you don't need to grip it even SLIGHTLY firm to avoid frame twisting. When contact is made, I wouldn't be surprised if only 3 of my fingers were on the racquet (with almost nonexistent gripping pressure). This is easily the most prominent whip-like stroke. It's like I could almost throw the racquet at the ball and it'd still be good.
     
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  10. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think most players with decent serves can hit the backfence on IN serves 3' high by their second season of tennis.
    More important than muscles is the throwing motion. If you can throw, you can serve. Now talking overhand throws, of course, for distance. You need to be able to throw at 45 degrees upwards, like a tennis serve.
     
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  11. RF20Lennon

    RF20Lennon Legend

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    the serve takes ages to get right so dont get frustrated with yourself if you just started playing a few months ago my suggestion to is (itll work 100%) get a higher toss and reach as long as you can. its all about techinique and height thats why tall players are all good servers the higher you can reach and snap the better so good luck
     
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  12. RyKnocks

    RyKnocks Semi-Pro

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    BTW, I'm left handed so I have to adapt all of your instructions LOL.

    This is how I initially started serving, but I couldn't place the ball very well. Off center hits would cause the racquet to twist and go into the Ad side. I found that I could guide the ball better if I kept a firmer grip, but I guess I should stop that habit.

    Right now I'm in the middle of rehabilitating my ankles and knees. My first love is basketball but I spent a long time playing with injured knees and ankles and never took care of them until recently when my wife forced me to go see a physical therapist. So the knee bend will come as I continue to strengthen my legs and get them back into shape.

    My other issue is when I try to extend as long as I can, I feel a twitch in my shoulder. Is it due to bad technique? Again, I'll try to get a video up in the next few days to show you guys, then you can blast away with the critique (don't worry, I love critique).

    I saw a DVD called "Sonic Serve" by Bollettieri. For anyone who's watched it, are the instructions in that video still a good starting point? The video seems pretty old.
     
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  13. thug the bunny

    thug the bunny Professional

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    When I'm not serving well, it's ususally because I'm trying to hit too hard and strangling the handle. So, (when I make the realizaiton which is not all the time) I start holding the racquet during my bounce with my pinky and 3rd finger off the grip. Works almost every time (that I remember to do it).
     
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  14. q4short

    q4short New User

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    hitting a hard/fast serve isn't that important man... if you focus on developing this, you'll probably end up with lots of double faults come game-time.

    Like others have mentioned, I would suggest to stay loose as you develop your technique and feel for the serve. Positioning of the serve is as, if not more, important as pace/spin. Fast serves that aren't positioned well aren't very effective
     
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  15. dennis10is

    dennis10is Banned

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    It is easy to hit the back fence on your serve. Just aim for the fence behind you.
     
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  16. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Yes, Sonic Serve is a very good video. I believe that's the one that compare a serve to a baseball pitcher by tilting the baseball pitcher to throw upward like a tennis serve. It is an excellent video.

    The Bollettieri Serve Doctor also has a couple more serve videos on youtube. Wicked Slice Serve is good, and there's a simplified serve video that is also good. Search youtube for Serve Doctor and you probably get them.

    Fuzzyyellowballs.com has free serve progressions for basic serve, slice and kick servers and these are good too. You have to give them an e-mail address but no $.

    ex-baseball players usually can develop good serves due to the experience in overhand throwing. I had a friend who pitched in college and he had a nice left serve.

    If you are getting shoulder issues, make sure you are tossing the ball in front and slightly to your right for righty servers. If you are trying to hit flat serves from a toss over your head or close to the baseline; it tends to pinch the shoulder as you swing up and thru which leads to rotator cuff injury. Get toss up to full extension, about 18 inches inside the court and about 12 inches to your side. Then when you rotate shoulder and go up and in, the contact should be roughly above your hitting shoulder.
     
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  17. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    It's funny, I made a thread just like this probably a year or two ago. Now it seems funny that I couldn't do it. My second serves hit the back fence.

    Here's the thing. Did I learn some amazing new insight about the serve that allowed me to do it? Did I find some technique that, as soon as I implemented it, I was hitting the back fence? No. It just came down to serving. A lot.

    With practice, you'll start timing the ball better, getting a good rhythm, and thus, start achieving more power. So, what I'm saying is just go out and serve. Take some lessons to ensure your technique is solid, but it's all about reps.

    To answer your question, I think it took me about 2 years to get my serve up to that level. However, I only played one day per week my first 6 months of tennis and only 2 days/week the next 6 months. So, if you're playing 3-6 days per week or something, you could do it faster.
     
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  18. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Most club players will never achieve it (does not mean they will admit it here), so don't bother.
     
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  19. RyKnocks

    RyKnocks Semi-Pro

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    Thanks for the video suggestions. I'll check those out in a bit.

    That's good to know. I usually go out 2 times a week and hit 2 baskets of balls (roughly 120 balls) just working solely on my serve. It's gotten to where I can consistently throw it high enough to get full extension where as I just just tossing it up about 2 ft above my head when I first started. I'll work on tossing it out and away from my body more because there are certainly times where I feel that pinch in my shoulder from trying to do a flat serve on a bad toss.
     
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  20. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Hitting the back fence on one bounce? Wow. That's kind of defeatist. I think it's totally achieveable for someone to do that. It will be easier for a guy, but the ball doesn't need to go 130 mph to achieve this.

    I like what MotP says. Just toss it and really smack it.
     
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  21. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    As said, if you're tall enough and have a higher strikepoint, like over 10', almost any serve should hit the backboard 21' behind the baseline off the initial bounce.
    Raising your strikepoint definetely improves your chances of a high bounce against the backboard.
     
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  22. RyKnocks

    RyKnocks Semi-Pro

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    My strike point is more like 8.5-9ft. I have 9ft ceilings in my house and when I raise my racquet up towards the ceiling, there's still about 4-5 inches between the tip of the racquet and the ceiling. I'm only 5'8" and my wingspan isn't that long.
     
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  23. DeShaun

    DeShaun Banned

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    It took a few months practicing with an old graphite/fiberglass racket before I could hit the back fence with any regularity. The first stroke that I learned was the serve. Spent the first six months of my tennis life learning just this nothing else.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2011
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  24. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    I've posted this before...in experimenting one day, I found the lowest I could go and still hit the fence in one bounce with a flat serve was in the 40's mph.
     
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  25. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    I really can't see a 40mph serve hitting the back fence. Especially if it's flat. Jolly did the same experiment and he got around 58, but I think he was using spin.

    At any rate, it dosen't take 100mph to get it. I'd say the average, back fence hitting serve is around 70-75mph. Slower serves can do it sometimes, but I think the 70s is when it starts happening regularly.
     
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  26. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    I went down into the 40's, though I was hitting the fence about an inch up! LOL. It was also indoors, so no wind whatsoever...though it was not a pressurized bubble. I hit them flat as pancakes. In any case, the point is....it can be very slow.

    I did that one in reply to a thread where a poster was bragging about hitting the fence in one bounce....(as you probably know there have been numerous threads over the years saying....my serve must be 100+mph plus because I can hit the fence!)....

    In this thread I pointed out to the OP that I really couldn't not hit the fence even in my slowest warmup serves.....in the vid I made for him, I tried hitting the fence with half motions, on my knees, with a tiny junior racquet, with a warped wood racquet with broken strings.....

    The vid just seemed to make him mad.....

    Hitting the fence can be done at very slow speed as long as you have a good motion and make clean contact.
     
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  27. autumn_leaf

    autumn_leaf Hall of Fame

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    It really depends on how far the back fence is, every court is different.

    And I started hitting the back fence all of a sudden a year ago. It was strange, I was rarely able to do it when I was practicing my serve, but after taking nearly a year off I guess I was more relaxed and can do it with little problem now.

    Edit: note, I would only self rate at 3.0-3.5 so definitely something that doesn't require to be any level to achieve.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2011
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  28. TennisCoachFLA

    TennisCoachFLA Banned

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    Actually courts are very, very consistent in that its 21 feet to the back fence. All the major installers adhere to this standard unless there is a very good reason that they can not. In those cases, none of them go closer as this would create liability. But after traveling the tennis world for 25 years and playing on hundreds and hundreds of courts, I can't remember very many that the back fence seemed different by much.

    Insurance liability would crush you if you put the fence closer than 21 feet and there is no reason to make it further as that would just add to the costs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2011
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  29. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Yes, on this court, I believe the backstop was 19 feet behind the baseline....go up to 21 feet, and I'd probably need a few extra mph. Not to mention radar gun variability, which I won't get into now...but suffice it to say, that could very well be a huge factor. For that ad libbed experiment, I just brought out the ol speed chek....
     
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  30. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    I find this generally true....though showcourts can be much bigger...and of course....the pro courts at indoor tourneys....don't even have built in backstops.....as I just wrote above (while you were posting this), the indoor court I happened to do that experiment on had backstop curtains hanging 19 feet behind the line.

    I think one of the funniest courts I ever sometimes went to was a court that appeared to be a converted pick-up hockey/basketball court. The backfence which curved around the single court was probably...10 feet behind the line. I rallied once on it....terrifying...haha....I play pretty close in...but anytime you backed up you were paranoid your backswing was about to hit the wall! That court was really only good for practice serving!
     
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  31. 10sLifer

    10sLifer New User

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    Hitting hard is easy. Just coil like a baseball player and uncoil each link until the racquet is traveling very fast. Getting it to go in is another story. You need pronation which is the process of the racquet approaching the ball on edge and then the forearm turning out to contact. This happens both on a spin serve and a flat serve. You said you are getting spin so maybe you are doing this and just need the throwing motion.

    Hope it helps.
     
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  32. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I am talking about doing it consistently on demand.
     
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  33. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    I rarely DON'T hit the back fence anymore off the first bounce. It's all about timing for my serve. As long as I'm loose and having a good time, if my contact is doing well, I can bang first serves in that are around 3-4 feet up the back fence. It's just about getting enough rotation and energy into your serve! :)

    -Fuji
     
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  34. VGP

    VGP Legend

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    I remember a thread on this exact topic from a couple of years ago.
     
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  35. RyKnocks

    RyKnocks Semi-Pro

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    Okay, so I put in some service practice yesterday after watching some Serve Doctor videos (Cylinder model, throwing up at the sky, and loading the shoulders and hips). I hit the back fence 5 times out of 120 serves!

    Thanks everyone for the advice. It really is about staying loose, timing, good ball toss, and making sure to "coil" your body and unload properly on the serve. The times I hit the back fence, everything just felt "right." Thanks everyone for the wonderful advice. Things are starting to "click" now in terms of generating pace on my serve, so now I just need to refine it and make it consistent.
     
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  36. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    I'm glad it's starting to click for you!!! It's awesome when you get that "Eureka" moment and everything starts to fall into place! I think a higher contact point really helps getting a lot of pace.

    What I thought of when I was relearning my serve, was a "snake" serve! You want to coil in as MUCH as possible, then at the very top of the ball toss, strike upward and forward, much like a snake does, and to try and "bite" the ball with my strings with pronation.

    It's what really helped me strike the ball with a lot more pace and consistency! :)

    -Fuji
     
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  37. autumn_leaf

    autumn_leaf Hall of Fame

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    one of the biggest things for me is not to rush and definitely place the toss consistently.

    for me, the toss was the single biggest factor in improving my serve.
     
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  38. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    21 feet is the minimum required for pro tournaments. It is often less for recreational courts.
     
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  39. TennisCoachFLA

    TennisCoachFLA Banned

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    Not true at all. The standards are for all tennis courts and have nothing to do with pros, or college, or local park.

    I owned a health club for 16 years and we had courts built. 5 companies submitted bids and NONE would go less than 21 feet. I tried because we had limited space. We ended up removing a wall to gain more space. My insurance guy later told me I was lucky that they adhered to it or he would have had to excluded it from our coverage.

    Insurance companies run the recreation world, parks, schools, you name it. None of the reputable installers will go less than 21 feet. It is considered a high risk. Someone runs into the fence at 21 feet, you are fine, its considered a normal part of the activity. If it is measured less than the standard, you are open to liability. And no one goes more than 21 feet as the court surface material is very expensive, so thats why most are just about 21 feet.

    It has zero to do with the pros. Its a standard and it is adhered to in almost every case by the installers. Recreation courts are often owned by schools and municipalities. They have a team of lawyers and engineers go over the plans. I helped plan the courts at a new high school in PA and a local park. In both cases every single part of the tennis court measurements were adhered to exactly. Every back fence was 21 feet.

    Neither the installers nor the risk management people for any recreational court would ever sign off on less than 21 feet. So your comment is dead wrong, you would be far more likely to find a farther fence than a closer one.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
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  40. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Every court in SanFrancisco and Berkeley except Clarendon is 9+ standard tennis racket length from baseline to backboard.
    Measure you court with your racket. the + is about half a racket length.
    Clarendon is over 35'. Dr.Ivo's serve would look slow to you there.
     
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  41. VGP

    VGP Legend

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    Now you gotta make the ball go through the fence or at least stick in it by either spin or speed.....
     
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  42. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    See THAT'S the hard part! I've only had that happen twice. Sticking into the fence happens pretty commonly though.

    -Fuji
     
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  43. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    I have them go through the fence pretty often. I think it has more to do with hitting in just the right spot than being super fast, though.
     
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  44. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    I was out hitting tonight at my club. I didn't have a tape measure, but I stepped off the distance between the baseline and the service line, which is 18 feet, and then stepped off the distance from the baseline to the back fence. The distance to the back fence was around 3 feet shorter, so about 15 feet. No where near 21 feet. This seems typical for most of the courts I play on. The one exception to this is at my kid's high school, which was built in the early 2000's. I'm pretty sure that baseline to fence distance is about 21 feet at least on one set of three court that have a wall at the back. The other, older high schools in the district are like my club.

    When I google tennis court dimensions, 21 feet is shown as the standard distance between the baseline and the fence.
     
    #44
  45. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    Depends on the fence. There is one court at one club in my area where I can routinely hit serves through the fence. Everywhere else the fence holds the ball in.
     
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  46. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    In my wife's hometown of Bedford, VA there's a public park with courts that have the fence much closer than 21'. One of the three has the fence closer to the baseline than the distance between the service lines and baseline. The other two are better but have trees growing adjacent to them and roots have destroyed the surface. You can see it via satellite view on google maps and earth.

     
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  47. pabletion

    pabletion Professional

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    Its not about strength but speed, so what you need is, first of all (already mentioned) learn proper technique: good solid let foundation, shoulder rotation, extension on toss and explosive rotation through the ball.

    A good drill to develop raquet speed that I learned from a local coach is try and hit serves all the way to the fence on the fly, trying to keep a good serve motion.

    I still think that the most important part of the serve is learning a good 2nd serve which is constant and reliable, this will give you confidence to go for the first serve without fearing your 2nd.
     
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  48. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Not at all. I believe I have even read an article in RSI magazine about this one. And as you can see, several posters here also found smaller courts.
     
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  49. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    At 4.0 and below, I would estimate that less than 10% of the players hit the back fence (full court 18-21 feet) consistently on 1st serves and less on 2nd serves. I have played some bigger servers who do it on both serves but 90% of server I face do not have the speed and/or spin to do it consistently on either serve.

    My 1st serve hits just short of the base of the fence 90% of the time. I hit mostly slice and it tends to bounce low. I do occasionally hit the fence in the air on 1st serves but less than 10% of the time.

    My 2nd serve varys from just short of the fence to several feet short depending on how much net clearance I get. I hit top/slice and it bounces about shoulder high around baseline. If I don't get good net clearance it lands shorter in the box and farther from the fence.
     
    #49
  50. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Guys, easy measurement here...
    NINE racket lengths, standard racket, is 20' + 4" or so. If you have longer racket, I'll let you do the rocket science.
    My first flat serves, with a strikepoint just under 9', seems to hit about 36-45" up on the backboard at least 8 out of 10 tries. This is DunlopHDHardcourt Heavyduty Xtra Felt new tennis balls in 58 degree weather around 10 in the morning.
    They go much higher with any kind of Penn or Wilson balls, and in weather over 90, might actually bounce as high as they did on my serves 35 years ago.
    At GoldenGatePark, and JDubbs can check it out, or anyone near SanFrancisco, my first flat serves would regularly hit just under, or bounce over the back railing on courts 1 thru 5. The fence is just over shoulder high, but I never measured it. I'm 5'11". Have hit the back railing at least 50 times.
    And NOBODY sits behind the courts when I'm serving opposite side of courts 6 thru 11.
     
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