serve improvement practice

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by mlktennis, May 14, 2010.

  1. mlktennis

    mlktennis Semi-Pro

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    wondering what people out there do to improve their serve- other than just practice.


    I find myself mainly practicing second serves a lot (not good enough to control placement well) . Use cones for first serve placement. sometimes serve from service line to practice hitting down onto the court with a wrist snap for flat serves and hitting up on the ball to bring it down sharply for kick serves- (work on form not power)

    Looking for new ideas.
     
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  2. Ajtat411

    Ajtat411 Semi-Pro

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    I'm thinking the same thing, what are good ways to improve my serve?

    I may be over analyzing this but I was thinking of recording my serve in order to see if my form can be improved. Get footage of flat/spin/kick serves from different angles (side/front/angle). And then compare it to how it should be done per FYB or pro serves.
     
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  3. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Good question.

    I virtually don't practice serving at all. I just analyzed the mechanic from watching youtube clips and then tried to find a way to adapt & tune my biomechanic to it with some objectives in mind: power, replicable and comfortable. When I get to come to the court which is only enough time for playing then I apply it.
     
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  4. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Well, you're certainly not in the minority--- most players don't practice their serve. Then again, most players top out at the 3.5 level.

    OP, there's no real secret to it. Make time to practice your serve. It's the most convenient stroke to practice because you can hit serves all day, any day, without a practice partner. You sound like you're just getting used to hitting topspin second serves, so cones should be the last thing on your mind. You can try serving from your knees to get a feel for hitting up on the ball. Get the correct swingpath down until you feel comfortable and then fine tune the placement.

    Again, the most important thing is getting out there and serving on a regular basis.
     
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  5. BullDogTennis

    BullDogTennis Hall of Fame

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    practicing serves used to be the main thing i did. Serving IS the ONLY thing your COMPLETELY in control of. so why not be able to do it the 100% best of your ability?

    what i would do is for the most part practice 2nd serves, probably 75% 2nd serves, and 25% first serves, and guess what? my FIRST serve got even better with that little practice!

    why?

    because if your hitting 2nd serves right, you should be swinging faster. the only thing a little different should be swing path. while 2nd serve is a more vertical swing path (assuming a kick or twist) (imagining your trying to throw your racquet into the stratosphere) and first serve (assuming flat) (your trying to plow through the ball, almost like throwing your racquet AT your oponent)

    the things i used to/still do for practice is to serve like in matches, start deuce side and serve just like in matches. first serve, then 2nd serve (or if you make a first serve, go ahead and go to the add side) and if you double fault force yourself to do a suicide. that way you put something on the line. and in the long run, it'll help you to have to serve when your winded and tired.

    also set up cones, short long, middle, everywhere and try your hardest to hit them. its extremely difficult...and you may never hit them, but thats not really the point, its giving you a target and your getting used to getting close.

    for the most part, it can get boring and repetitive, but the best way is to get out and hit a LOT LOT LOT!!! of balls!
     
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  6. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    *shrug* whatever you say, bud.

    But tell me about your tennis schedule.

    Myself, I can only go to the court 2 or 3 days a week, each time 2-4 hours. City courts are crowded at the times I go. There are always people occupying and wanting to play with each another. It never seems like appropriate and convenient to lug a heavy basket out and practice anything on your own. :) With that said I also think it's more than enough for me to practice during play anyway. Things have a way to reach equilibrium.
     
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  7. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Practice lots, watch the good players, have them assess your motion.
    First 3 years, I hit 50 firsts, 50 seconds, 4 days a week.
    Don't hit full speed, but go for placement at 80% speed swings.
    Targets should be about 3' squares, or circles, not cones.
     
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  8. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    LeeD, that sounds like a good practice if you have time and discipline.

    I have a 75 ball hopper and I had taken it out twice. I don't remember I ever did serve two full hoppers. Just one round and done :)

    How many in here actually serve basket after basket?
     
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  9. mlktennis

    mlktennis Semi-Pro

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    I have time and discipline. And TWO full hoppers of balls! I just want to know what to do with them :)

    Seems like the concensus is to just keep practicing.

    I have noticed that working on my second serve so much also has improved my first serve- I never thought about why. Also noticed that the more I serve, the more effiecient my motion is becoming. My elbow used to hurt after a hopper of balls but now nothing. My shoulder also feels fine and my serve is just seemingly naturally picking up power without trying. Still a ways to go though.
     
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  10. cesarmo03

    cesarmo03 Rookie

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    you can shadow the motions, thats the way i been doing it, sometimes i practice with a basket, but practicing all the motions of the serve has make feel more fluid.
     
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  11. cesarmo03

    cesarmo03 Rookie

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    mlktennis you can have a court on your backyard but unless you know what you are doing wrong and try to fix it you still are going to have the serve you have.

    Practice all the motions step by step and then incorporate each other until you make the full motion and you will feel more fluid and will improve your serve.
     
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  12. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    I don't have a coach and never took any formal lesson so take this with a grain of salt :)

    As I said several times before, watch some pro's clips for the outline of the mechanic. Don't mimic them to the T. Practice the motion along that outline but pay attention to using big muscles, your own weight, the racket's traveling distance (the longer the better but not too long that you disconnect) and how the racket string bites the ball with most impact. That's all.

    One way to get the feel of thing is to smash shots to an area 10, 15 ft in front of you. Does the string bite the ball correctly? Do you feel comfortable & more potential power to be realized once you get stronger?
     
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  13. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    There are several things I would suggest when you practice serving which is probably the most important shot in the game regardless of whether you play singles or doubles.

    Assuming your mechanics are close to being correct, one thing that many accomplished players get in the bad habit of doing is over-rotating and not getting the hitting shoulder down so you can hit up. I really don't care how tall you might be, unless your over 6'6" you have to hit up.

    Second, get in the habit of watching the ball into the racquet -- in other words keep the chin up or your going to net a lot of serves. I know this isn't exactly accurate but if you see your ball going into the net, your not keeping your chin up.

    Third, you have to practice the toss so its automatic. Get the little finger out of the process and practice it. Make sure there isn't some little flick in the process.

    Forth, when you go out and practice get someone, anyone to stand on the other side as receiver. Doesn't matter if they hit it back but just get in the habit of seeing someone over there.

    Fifth, divide the box in half (lengthwise) and get in the habit of being able to hit either half with all types of serves including the slice. Also move around on the baseline so your not just practicing from one spot.

    Take your time and practice at the same pace, or close to it, as when you play. Hit ten balls and then hit another ten from the other side - don't just practice one side. Unless your very used to serving, hit about fifty - seventy five balls per session and see how you feel the next day.
     
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  14. TN00b

    TN00b New User

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    I've also noticed this... It's not like I spend 3 hours practicing my serve every day, but whenever I start trying to hit second serves on every serve they start getting better. After a while I start to hit first server and they tend to do pretty good.
    It's probably just a psychological effect though... :confused:
     
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  15. Ajtat411

    Ajtat411 Semi-Pro

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    ^Maybe it's because your second serve eventually becomes your 1st serve because it's so much more reliable and you start adjusting to hit a 1st serve like your second serve that you practice more.
     
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  16. TN00b

    TN00b New User

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    Maybe... But when I try to hit "flatter" serves they tend to get more consistent, maybe I expressed myself wrong. Then again, maybe you're right...
     
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  17. BullDogTennis

    BullDogTennis Hall of Fame

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    maybe you don't like cones, but i like to hit at something smaller than a 3 foot square. gives more of a challenge. and more precision when you get it down.
     
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  18. salsainglesa

    salsainglesa Semi-Pro

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    I do... my serve is improving because of all this repetition.
    In placement and speed... I saw a drill in FYB about improving serve speed by spiking the ball at the floor and seeing how high it goes. It improved the contact point a big deal, i actually hit to a wall, first to the floor and let the ball bounce at the wall and it comes back in a lob, and then i start over.. balls die faaaaast this way... but its a sweet dead :)

    Another thing i have done, is fix the direction of the ball, and it helps alot too, you need a consistent toss before thou. At first it doesnt matter how deep the ball goes, the important thing is that it wont variate on the angle by much... after some practice sessions you start to learn how to variate the depth better and it the ball in a consistent way in direction and amount of pace and effect. (the toss is key: the further in front the shorter the ball lands)

    that way, you can summon the serve during matchplay, being only focused on what serve you are playing and not how you are hitting it....too many things to focus on.

    ALso, i use a bottle of water to aim at, and i hit it on good days, like 1 of every 15 serves... but most of them are close, and that is what matters, that the ball lands within a given radius.
    You can hit the cone on your first day, once in 200 tries, but with practice this percentage will definitely go up.

    As you add pace, you can loose precision and your mechanics go awry, be patient, there has to be an adaptation window.

    If you work on your serve 3 or 4 days a week you can get a lot better in your overall game in six months...
     
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  19. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    Mark the service box into thirds (forehand/backhand/body) with tennis balls and serve your bread and butter topspin second serves. Go for a section of the box until you can get 10 in row, and then go to the next section. Then switch serves (flat/slice) and do it again). In a couple of weeks, you will so much confidence.

    If you have time, switch positions on the baseline so you practice, for example, from both singles and doubles positions. Even during a singles match, serving from the doubles position really changes the look of your serve.
     
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  20. supineAnimation

    supineAnimation Professional

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    Depends what you're having trouble with. If you've got a solid motion and you're having trouble hitting your spots or you're hitting them too short, I think just hitting a lot of serves with targets and goals is the best thing to do.

    If you have issues with your mechanics or your stroke is breaking down or you're losing your balance, then I think a great way to work on your serve is hitting at a wall rather than on the court. When players like this serve on court, they often get into a mode where they're trying to hit the ball over the net and into the box, rather than focusing on swinging at the ball that's in the air the right way so that it will go over the net and spin down into the box and, perhaps more importantly, tossing the ball in the spot or spots where they're able to swing balanced and smoothly so that the power and whip is directed at that spot in the air. If you remove the net and the box from the equation and focus on just hitting the ball in the air the right way, your serve will be more reliable.
     
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  21. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I videotaped myself practicing serves. I immediately saw a lot of problems of which I was unaware. I would hit maybe 10 serves and then go look at the footage to make corrections. The one thing I will do differently when I try it again is I say what the ball did so I can link the result to what I saw on tape.

    Another thing I like to do is see how many good second serves I can hit in a row. As the number grows and I approach my personal best, the pressure grows. Second serves that go in but are not very good do not count.

    I agree with the advice to serve against the wall.

    Cindy -- who has a bad case of the Toss Yips
     
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  22. 1stVolley

    1stVolley Rookie

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    The basis of any good server (actually, any good shot) is a smooth rhythm. What often kills this rhythm is applying too much arm.

    For practicing that smooth rhythm in the serve, hold two balls in the toss hand and serve one after the other without stopping your motion after hitting the first ball. Try for an even pace without overpowering the ball. This will, hopefully, establish the desired smooth rhythm.
     
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  23. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    i usually just practice 2nd serves too. its fun. i am actually getting good at placing it. need to post a vid for it too. still lots to work on though
     
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  24. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I'm with Nellie on the thirds, but you need a 3' separation "no go" zone on both sides of the middle, with the middle zone only 3' wide. So the sides end up only 2.5' or so.
    Forget cones, that pure ego. When you are a top 10 pro serves IN MATCHES, you're and they, are lucky to hit within 3'. In practice, it's just PRACTICE. It means nothing.
     
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  25. jackson vile

    jackson vile Legend

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    IMO if you can toss correctly consistently under any circumstances you will have an amazing serve. So practicing just the toss off court helps a lot IMO.
     
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  26. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    As with practicing serves, you cannot just blindly practice tossing 300 times a day.
    You have to know which serve you're going for. You have to know WHERE your hitting each of your serves.
    All have a slightly different location. You can move under the ball differently, using an identical toss, but you are not good enough to to it well.
     
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  27. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    I have to disagree with LeeD on this. If you don't have a great serve already, you are unlikely to know precisely how you have to move the toss for each serve.

    You can practice the proper serve toss mechanics off the tennis court and it will help you when you have time to practice the serve. Hold the ball with your finger tips, toss with a straight arm and have a gentle release of the ball. Choose a target for the toss and practice tossing to that target again and again. It will make a difference.
     
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  28. mlktennis

    mlktennis Semi-Pro

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    papa: I like the idea of the person standing there. while I am serving.

    I usually serve only one side at a time when practicing but maybe I try to alternate more. 10 each.

    Practiced serves today and noticed I need to hit up more and get my racket shoulder lower.

    Cindy: I will try the videotape review also. I taped myself a long time ago and was shocked how slow my arm motion was on video. In real life you think you are swinging fast and accelerating. The video however tells a diff story :(

    LeeD: I will have my friend who is a legit 5.0 what he thinks of my motion. He has said before that it looks good and likes my serve but he may have meant it looks good relative to the rest of my mediocre game...another :(

    SupineAnime: In practice I am very balanced but in a match I can get tight and arm the ball and then I notice I get very unbalanced falling to one side. I am learning to relax and just hit the way I know how in a match. Work in progress.
     
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  29. supineAnimation

    supineAnimation Professional

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    OK, but make sure that you don't get into the mindset of serving into the box. Focus on tossing the ball in the right place for your motion so that you remain in balance and focus on snapping the racquet at the ball in the air. This is why it's a good idea to practice hitting serves without serving into the box. I'm constantly amazed at how much better my students strike the ball when I have them turn around and serve at the fence 10 feet away from them because they stop focusing on hitting the ball over the net and into the box and it becomes only about contacting the ball that's in the air in front of them.
     
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  30. FedererUberAlles

    FedererUberAlles Professional

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    I've started trying to intentionally follow through on pronation, so that the racquet face that hit the ball faces away from me after I've hit the ball. For me, this causes some awkwardness in my shoulder, anyone else have this experience? I notice, though, when it is done the ball is faster and heavier
     
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  31. EP1998

    EP1998 Semi-Pro

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    SupineAnimation makes a great point about not always serving into the box. A lot of serve coaches will have a player serve into the fence when making a change to help the mind break the habit. When you walk up to serve, your mind immediately goes to a certain track or file of what it is supposed to do. Just like when you get in the car you immediately put your key in without thinking about it. When you walk up to the service line your mind goes to the file of "okay, I'm serving, this is what I do." This makes it difficult when you are trying to change something because of this background process. It is a good idea when changing your motion, toss, contact point, whatever, to practice it first against the fence. The back fence has no association with serving in your mind, so there is nothing fighting what you are doing. Your mind is clear on the new thing you are trying. So it is good to practice it first against the fence, then go practice it normally into the box, then go back again and hit the fence, and then back again normally.
     
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  32. supineAnimation

    supineAnimation Professional

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    You may be opening your shoulders too much. Sometimes if your shoulders are opening and your arm is pronating in the opposite direction of the upper body, it can cause some shoulder pain. You want to inhibit your shoulders from opening by using your stomach muscles and by pulling your toss arm into the front left (if you're a rightie) of your torso so that all of the energy from your swing is directed in the line of your arm whipping up and at the ball, rather than towards the service box.
     
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  33. supineAnimation

    supineAnimation Professional

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    Exactly. I used to have the same bad habit of hitting the ball great when I wasn't trying to serve on-court and then as soon as I would step up to serve to my opponent, I would focus on where I wanted the ball to go in the box rather than focusing on how and where I wanted to strike the ball in the air. Once I figured that out and kept my focus on hitting the ball that's in the air, my serve improved exponentially, and this has worked for every student I've worked with in recent years. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you don't want to feel like you're trying to hit the ball you toss, but rather that you're trying to toss the ball in the spot where your swing would naturally snap the frame in the air with your body in balance. A great way to practice this is, for every ball you serve, first take two shadow swings where you don't release the ball with your toss arm and you simply swing loosely with your body in balance. Then on the third one you want to focus on tossing the ball at that spot in the air where your strings naturally face the target line with that smooth, balanced motion.
     
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  34. FedererUberAlles

    FedererUberAlles Professional

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    hahaha, wrong thread
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2010
    #34
  35. FedererUberAlles

    FedererUberAlles Professional

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    Well I do have something to post:

    I have been hitting a lot of serves lately, and the pain in my right knee and ankles is becoming unbearable when trying to serve. I absolutey cannot focus because of it. Anyone know what could be the root of this? I am also getting tennis elbow too, but for now that is less concerning
     
    #35
  36. RyanRF

    RyanRF Semi-Pro

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    Just a quick note:

    If you're one of those people that never practices serves, you need to go try it. Compared to zero hours of serve practice a week, just one hour a week will result in significant and immediate improvements.
     
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  37. mlktennis

    mlktennis Semi-Pro

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    I practice serving prob 2-3 times a week. I just want to have a plan for improvement not just mindlessly bashing the ball as hard as I can to feel good about myself and yet not able to replicate it in a game... and destroying my shoulder while I'm at it.
     
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  38. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I wish I could convince my teammates of this! :)

    You know, one thing that makes me reluctant to practice serves is that I often have an audience. I don't know why this bothers me, but who wants to be stared at when they are practicing?

    Cindy -- whose mom always taught her it wasn't polite to stare
     
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  39. SuperDuy

    SuperDuy Hall of Fame

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    Some people like to have an audience when they are playing and some don't. I personally like it when I am practicing serves, just makes me want to try harder and concentrate more to get a good serve. Hitting I dont care who watches but where I play the deck is behind 3 courts.
     
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  40. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Part of attracting an audience is you knowing your serves must be doing something right, besides your silly oft unmatched clothing.
    How can anyone ever serve well if they only practice groundies?
    How can anyone ever volley if they only hit mindless groundies back and forth?
    How can anyone return serve if they just baseline bash?
    What's the point of baseline groundies? I S/V, then chip and charge on return games anyways. My groundstroke is only ever used to attempt a passing shot. :shock::):shock:
     
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  41. mlktennis

    mlktennis Semi-Pro

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    You know, I practice so much by myself, serves, ball machine, wall hitting, self feeding that I don't even care anymore. When I first started, I would try to look good practicing, and hit the ball hard, now I just try to keep the balls on my side of the court so as not to bother anyone.

    I find it funny sometimes that the newbie thinks my serve is something special, like I must be practicing for the us open, but I know it ain't anything special.
     
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  42. mlktennis

    mlktennis Semi-Pro

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    I agree, groundies are what I practice least. There are just too many glaring weaknesses for others to take advantage before I worry about a ground war. I know myself, I start to salivate when I see the person is uncomfortable at the net, a weak overhead, poor footwork, or weak server.
     
    #42

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