Still can't get my second serve in 100% of the time!

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by HunterST, Oct 27, 2010.

  1. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    My serve has come a long way since I first started playing and even from a few months ago. My pace has increased exponentially on both 1st and 2nds and I've cut my double faults way down.

    Much to my frustration, however, I still don't have an automatic 2nd serve that I know I can get in the box every time. There will be good days where I only double fault maybe 3 or 4 times per set, but there will also be days where I double fault 1 to 2 times PER GAME. I find that to be completely unacceptable.

    What are the things that helped you develop a consistent, tough-to-attack 2nd serve? Obviously I could just tap the ball over the net, but I want to have a solid 2nd serve. I know about swinging up on the ball and getting topspin etc., but what are some other tips? I think some of my problems include:

    -Being off balance. I sometimes fall to the side after hitting the 2nd.
    -Not getting enough racket head speed
    -Being too tense
    -The serves go long (could this mean an open racket face?)

    How long did it take you to develop a reliable, powerful/heavy 2nd serve? I've been playing about 2 years and playing seriously for about 1-1.5 years.

    I really want a 2nd serve that I can get in at least 90% of the time. Any help?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
    #1
  2. Manus Domini

    Manus Domini Hall of Fame

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    swing high to low, left to right, ball behind you. will kick really high, large margin for error, etc.
     
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  3. theZig

    theZig Rookie

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    to be honest, the simplest way to do it is have a FORM that works 90% of the time, and then simply crank the swing speed. its the same idea of "swing as hard as you can while maintaining form".

    if the form was wrong, it doesn't matter how slow you swing, it won't go in. likewise, if the form is correct it wont matter how FAST you swing, it WILL go in.

    that being said, it's a lot easier said than done, but it's a journey we all face..
     
    #3
  4. fireice

    fireice New User

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    Keep working at it, bro. Grab a basket or a bucket and balls and if you can, try to work on it on your serve outdoors. Windy days are especially great, IMO. I think that if you can work on it outdoors and get it solid enough there, it should be 100% easier indoors without the other factors. Really though, just keep pounding away at it, keep practicing, and practicing, and practicing.

    In addition, as far as the mechanical things go, make sure that you toss the ball as you're coming back, not coming forward. In my experience, this makes a huge difference and can through your whole service motion out of wack. Swing fast and try to limit your body to go at most maybe a yard into the court--at most---which I think gives you a small amount of added control.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
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  5. SuperDuy

    SuperDuy Hall of Fame

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    Why high to low?
     
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  6. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

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    hmmmm good question lol
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
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  7. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    They mean low to high, haha.

    I do swing low to high and have pretty decent form.

    I motioned my swing and I think I've figured out the problem.

    I'm thinking about the swing being straight up at the ball. Therefore, to not frame the ball, I have to open the face slightly. That's making me hit long. I then lose confidence and start slowing the swing down and missing into the net etc.

    So I'm trying to figure out how to make the swing a little more forwards and up so I can make sure that racket face is closed. It's frustrating because It's so easy for me to add topspin on my forehand, but the serve has always given me trouble.
     
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  8. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    First, the most important part of the serve is the toss. If your toss isn't in the correct place, all the rest doesn't matter. Second, most club level players don't put nearly enough arch on their serves. Your second serve should clear the net by at least 3 feet with topspin on it. That will take the net out of play, and the downward trajectory of the ball will increase the chances of the ball landing in the service box. Don't worry too much about racquet speed until, as you said, your second serve is automatic.
     
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  9. panache5

    panache5 Rookie

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    Just for beginners which I assume you are due to what you said. Higher toss, and full knee bend and jump higher for that ball. Add some spin in it.
     
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  10. GetBetterer

    GetBetterer Hall of Fame

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    HunterST, have you seen Rafael Nadal play? He hits about 80 to 90% of his shots with the Reverse Forehand (any dissenters?).

    This is similar in how the Kick serve should be seen. It should be a Reverse Forehand, but as a serve, and over your head rather than right next to you.
     
    #10
  11. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    With only 2 years tennis experience, you would be hardpressed to hit a full speed 2nd serve into the court 95% of the time. You just have not practiced nearly enough. More courttime and practice time will prevail soon.
     
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  12. ProgressoR

    ProgressoR Hall of Fame

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    i started playing this year and last month or so my serve has improved quite a bit, I put this down to improving my technique first, and then more variety of serves now. My first is a top slice with a fair amount of pace, my second is pretty much the same action but with more top and less pace. Keep the variables to a minimum.

    My biggest problem was not swinging enough on seconds (afraid to hit it long) and ending up netting a LOT, then I worked on getting a bit more top, and with practice, its working well, yesterday i DF'd once in the 2 set match, when i was about 4-0 up in second. I used to Df a LOT, like 1-2 times per game regularly, and more when under pressure.

    Anyway, just want to say working on a spin with top (its not all top, but top slice with more top than normal) really is changing my whole outlook on the serve.

    Knowing my second serve wont let me down really lets me relax and be more aggressive on the first, and guess what, the more aggressive i am on the first (without going crazy) the more it goes in, i think its the more spin i get on the ball by swinging fast at it.

    There will be times when it all falls apart, but c'est la vie, onwards and upwards.
     
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  13. DeShaun

    DeShaun Banned

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    Could it be your legs? I think the serve is the most demanding stroke to replicate. More parts of it are controlled by the server from start to finish. All other stokes allow you to react more. Reacting to a ball may be easier than taking it from a complete state of rest and sending it into action. Personally, the key to my serve percentage lies with how rested and fresh my legs are. First serve or second, it makes no difference. Everything else is one big function of the amount of spring or lift I happen to be getting out of my lower body. This is because I have no glaring mechanical hitches in the role played by my upper body.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2010
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  14. fruitytennis1

    fruitytennis1 Professional

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    Imo the most important thing for a second serve is a conistent toss. Thats the biggest variable for people to cut out.
     
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  15. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I cannot comment on technique, but I can tell you what has helped me.

    First, I try to practice second serves when I practice serving. Specifically, I pick deuce or ad side, and I try to see how many quality second serves in a row I can hit. As the number gets higher, the pressure builds. Once you get a respectable number, go to the other side and try it over there. I think my record is 17 quality second serves in a row, and I was sweating bullets on serve number 18! You develop a really good feel for how much you can go for on your second serve.

    Second, I never, ever swing at a bad toss on a second serve. I will catch four tosses if I have to. (I don't swing at them in practice either -- gotta train the brain to know what a proper toss looks like).

    Third, I try to make absolutely sure that I swing fast on a second serve (my second serve is a slice). Because of this, I sometimes have service winners on second serves, but that's not my goal.

    Fourth, I don't aim my second serve. I don't know, I feel like I am under enough pressure without also trying to hit a spot. The sheer randomness of my placement seems to keep my opponents off balance. If an opponent is crazy-strong on one wing, then I will try to place it, but that is quite unusual at my level.

    Good luck!!!
     
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  16. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Oh, and on days where I am hitting 1-2 DFs per game, the problem may not be the second serve. It may be the first serve. My solution to "bad days" is that I hit two second serves sometimes, especially on break points. This works well, especially since the opponent is expecting a first serve and can sometimes be caught off guard.
     
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  17. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Good point, Cindy. Whenever you miss two first serves in a row, a little alarm should be going off in your head telling you to land more first serves. That takes pressure off your second ball, which has to be landed with a larger margin for error. Your first serve is your better opportunity to start the point on your terms - not a low percentage attempt at an ace that's okay to waste on a regular basis.

    Hunter, sorry, but not much to add here without seeing you hit some second serves. Despite what you're perceiving when you hit them, there's just too much going on with any serve (compared with a ground stroke) to really diagnose your issues.

    Everyone who mentioned your need for a reliable toss is right on the money. That ball simply must be in the right spot to hit the serve well. A good toss is square one for a reliable serve.

    While you also want to make racquet speed to spin the ball and land it consistently, remember that there's a difference between a full motion and your hardest swing. The full motion needs to be comfortable so that you can repeat it with a predictable racquet aspect at contact, but not swinging clear out of your shoes. Just avoid a paddy-cake second serve - no control there.

    It sounds as though you're still developing your instincts for your best swing path and contact point. Keep at it and let your general motion drive your serve without too deliberate of a wrist action. It's not rocket science to figure out that the ball going long is either due to your contact happening too far behind you or you're ducking under the ball and coming too much across the bottom of it with an open face. Again, impossible to know without the dreaded video post.
     
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  18. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Yeah, one time I was having trouble with my second serve and my coach said, "Well, stop missing your first serve!"
     
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  19. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Hey guys, played a match today and only double faulted once in 2 sets!
     
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  20. Funbun

    Funbun Professional

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    Dude, your tip sounds very good. It JUST occured to me that Federer does this little toss timing, too. I'll try this out the next time I'll practice. =)
     
    #20
  21. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Since this post I went about 3 weeks without double faulting more than a few times per set. I kind of thought my days of double faulting were behind me.

    Tonight, it returned. I double faulted almost every game and had multiple doubles in many of the games.

    Strangely, my double fault troubles seem MUCH worse when I'm playing people that are not as good as my usual partners.

    I'm just going to try to have a short memory about my serving issues tonight. Hopefully the serve will be back on when I play in a few days.
     
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  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Every shot needs preparation, concentration, and execution.
    You relaxed, losing one of the 3.
     
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  23. maxplymac

    maxplymac Banned

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    It's a marathon not a sprint dude.

    Keep practicing, and instead of dwelling on the here and now, visualize how your second serve will be in 3 years.

    FWIW, toss more to your left. Not kind of to your left...but way out there.
     
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  24. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    Keep practicing. Practice hitting second serves for ten-fifteen minutes after your hitting sesions. Targets sometimes help because it gives you a result to focus on. To simulate the presure of a match play a practice set where you only get one serve.
     
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  25. thebuffman

    thebuffman Professional

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    hey hunter how many practice 2nd serves do you hit per week? reason i ask is because it really makes a difference. i use to df at least 20x a match. now i have gotten those numbers well under 10. some matches i am red hot and rack up no more than 4. i credit my success to the amount of spin serves i hit per week which is no less than 1000. i use to practice flat serves all the time until a coach in the adjacent court saw me one day and said, "you shouldn't be practicing that many flat serves. you can damage your arm. instead you should spend 20 minutes a day hitting 2nd serves. you are only as good as your 2nd serve."

    from that point forward, 2nd serves is pretty much all i practice. i might hit 20-30 flat serves during a practice session just to make sure i still got. i do drills to see how many spin serves i can land in a row and these are performed at moderate speed to work the form. i once landed like all but 4 balls out of a bucket of 70. now i've gotten to the place where i KNOW i can land a moderate pace spin serve in the box (note i didn't say patty cake 'just get it in' serve). i will explain why this is important below.

    my 2nd serve has now become more dangerous than my 1st - and my 1st serve is a 3.5's headache for real. so on days where i begin to struggle with df's here is what i do to correct it and it has nothing to to do with thinking about toss or mechanics or none of that (i cant afford to spend that kind of mental energy during a match). i abandon the flat bomb and hit my hard/fast spin serve as the first serve instead. when i miss, i hit my moderate paced spin serve as a 2nd serve. this insures that i do not give away free points and since i know that my moderate paced serve is money, this serve then becomes my safety blanket. what is funny is that at the 3.5 level, my opponents will sometimes fault when returning moderately paced spin especially when hit to the backhand. now what happens is that the brain does not get anxious because the security blanket is there. as soon as the first service spin serve starts landing again, guess what? back to using this serve as the security blanket instead of the moderately paced one.

    so essentially i have a plan A and a plan B. plan A is to hit whatever serve as a first serve as hard as i can and my great spin serve 2nd. if plan A breaks down, no problem i go to plan B. this is to hit my great spin serve first and a moderate spin serve 2nd. this works like a charm for me and i am no longer spotting my opponents 0-30 handicaps per game.

    hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2010
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  26. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Yeah I think you have a point. Although, I don't think it was that I got sloppy, I think I started focusing too much on "getting it in" I had a VERY bad partner. He missed all of the weak returns that my serve forced, so I started thinking "alright you can't double fault because he's going to miss everything."

    Thanks man, you're right. Also when I think about where my serve was a year ago and where it is now, there's a huge difference.

    Yeah, I haven't been practicing the serves much lately due to the cold weather and school. Need to get out there.
     
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  27. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Buffman, based on your posts, it always seems like we have very similar games and problems, but with your game being a little ahead of mine, so I'm always interested to hear your advice.

    Something you touched on in this post that I think is important was my first serve percentage. Yes, I double faulted too many times, but that also means I was missing that many first serves! This night, I had a very low 1st serve percentage and that undoubtedly contributed to my double fault problem.

    I have two first serves that I use. One is a flat bomb and the other is a kind of slice/topspin serve. Some days the first serve will go in at like 60% and others, like yesterday, it will only go in about 20% of the time.

    Unfortunately, when I switch to a topspin serve for my first serve, it doesnt yield very good results. I guess missing them on the first serve makes me lose faith in it.
     
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  28. jdubbs

    jdubbs Hall of Fame

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    I think my double faulting is the biggest thing holding me back from becoming a 4.5.

    I have experimented with my toss a bit, and for me, an eastern grip and throwing the ball at 1pm (i.e. NOT behind me) seems to work best. Throwing it behind me will make me hit it out usually. I'm going to take a kick serve lesson (I've tried youtube and it hasn't worked for me) and work on it some more.

    If I'm really having problems, my spinner will be my serve for both 1st and 2nd serve.

    That's a big disadvantage, as my first serve is oftentimes a winner as its hard and flat. But I'm practicing about 200 serves a week, mostly second serves. In fact, I think i'll get out there today and hit some more!
     
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  29. Totai

    Totai Professional

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    Hunter,

    If the serve is going long, a probable reason is that the racquet twisted in your hand and you did not hit the ball with a Conti grip. If the ball is hitting the net, then you are not hitting the ball up enough. Hit up as hard as you can with a conti grip and have faith that the spin will drop the ball down.
     
    #29
  30. jdubbs

    jdubbs Hall of Fame

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    I've tried this and the ball comes down around the baseline. Tried throwing it way behind me, bending my knees a lot etc. So I go with the eastern FH grip and this at least gets me to about 80%. But I would love some advice on what I'm doing wrong on the kick serve.
     
    #30
  31. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Eastern FH grip is the wrong way to go. My guess is that you're opening your racquet face when you're swinging up and that's causing your shots to go long. Make sure the racket face is not angled up or down at contact.
     
    #31
  32. Failed

    Failed Semi-Pro

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    I wouldn't still advice throwing the ball behind oneself. Behind the head and somewhat in front. Just so that the opponent won't crush the ball in for a winner and make your self-confidence drop.
     
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  33. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    MD was talking about behind your head, not behind you in relation to the baseline.
     
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  34. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Toss behind your head for kickers and twists.
    Toss over your head for pure topspin high % serves.
    Toss to your hitting side to get some sidespin/top for normal slice.
    Toss more to hitting side to get the really wide slicing curve balls.
    Flat serve should be somewhere between 2 and 3.
    Or, you can toss to ONE spot, and relocate your body under your toss to get the same locations for your strikezone.
     
    #34
  35. thebuffman

    thebuffman Professional

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    here is a tip i never heard anyone give but it works tremendously well for me. go back to using a continental grip first of all. swing up to hit the ball and pronate into the ball. pronation is what produces the high spin rotation on the ball (at least in my experience).

    now here is the insider tip: swing up to the ball with the edge of the racquet same as you would with a flat serve then pronate into the ball. when you pronate to hit the back of the ball, perform the pronation as if you are trying to hit the ball with your thumb. start off doing this at a moderate pace and you will begin to groove a very decent spinny serve. so to recap, your thumb should be the portion of the hand that feels the racquet's contact with the ball. let me know how it goes.
     
    #35
  36. tiochaota

    tiochaota Semi-Pro

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    No one can get it in 100% of the time, practice.
     
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  37. tiochaota

    tiochaota Semi-Pro

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    No one can get it in 100% of the time, practice.
     
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  38. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    Obviously 100% over a year or season is a unreasonable, but playing/winning a match without double faulting is not that rare.
     
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  39. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    If I was the original poster, I would only hit spinning (second) serves on your first serve. Second serves are very mental so you should avoid them when you struggle. You will notice that Federer hits basically a spinning first serve and an even spinnier second serve.
     
    #39
  40. thebuffman

    thebuffman Professional

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    thats exactly what i do when i am struggling with 2nd serve percentage. i go to plan B which is spin serves for 1st and 2nd. if i start landing my 1st spin serve in consistently which has more pace on it, then i will go back to plan A where i use it as my 2nd serve and can flatten out my first serve. but if i am struggling with 2nd serves, i definitely only hit 1st and 2nd spin serves.

    as far as federer goes it was something to see that recent match he loss to monfils. those guys were both serving tremendously well. near the end, the totals show that fed 2x faulted like 1 time and monfils 4x. because monfils kept his 2x faulting low, he was able to steal the match.
     
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  41. maxplymac

    maxplymac Banned

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    I would make sure you are practicing your serve with fairly decent practice balls. Keep in mind that bald balls, even with sufficient pressure in them, will go a hair long due to a lack of fuzz. There won't be the proper drag on the ball. Try and practice serves with new balls, at the very least balls that have pressure in them.
     
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  42. Dreamer

    Dreamer Professional

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    A strong second serve is pretty ambitious for 2 years, but I like it. Having a great serve is a great way to ease into matchplay.

    Things to focus on, if you really want a consistent 2nd serve. You want to either kick or slice.

    Important things to pay attention when you are fine tuning your technique.
    - Stability. you want to always be in balance. If you are off balance you will lose power and control.
    - Shoulder rotation. This will be where spin comes from as well as the dictating of stroke direction.
    - Stable arm at contact. Relaxed doesn't mean floppy. If you want to transfer force, you want it to be relatively relaxed but also steady.

    here is a vid on kick serve:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQSd3lYxvak
     
    #42
  43. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    For improving second serve, I work on keeping things up, up, up - head up, tossing arm up. swinging up. You really want to brush up on that ball with every once of your body. If you are serving long, you want more top spin, not to change the racquet face angle - so brush more along the side of the ball.

    If you are easing up at all on the second serve, you are not doing it right.
     
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