How do you do a moonball kick serve?

EddieBrock

Professional
I played with a guy that has a moonball kick serve for a 2nd serve. Huge net clearance, a ton of spin that makes it bounce high almost straight up, and very little pace. A while ago I remember someone asking how to return a serve like that. Of course some players are able to easily attack it, but most try and mistime and end up backing up and hitting a neutral return. I wouldn't want to use a serve like that for every 2nd serve, but thought more variety is always good and it could be a good change of pace serve.
 

Dragy

Legend
I played with a guy that has a moonball kick serve for a 2nd serve. Huge net clearance, a ton of spin that makes it bounce high almost straight up, and very little pace. A while ago I remember someone asking how to return a serve like that. Of course some players are able to easily attack it, but most try and mistime and end up backing up and hitting a neutral return. I wouldn't want to use a serve like that for every 2nd serve, but thought more variety is always good and it could be a good change of pace serve.
1. Use very light frame. This will allow you to put spin on the ball and send it upward with very weak forward momentum, so that the ball doesn’t land past baseline.
Step in and take it on the rise
If it’s really a moonball which gets to 3+m height before dropping, it may be tough to play it on the rise. Too steep bounce. Moreover, it’s likely an unnecessary risk, as such a serve descends early after bounce peak, and one can comfortably take it on descend inside the baseline. With all the time in the world to adjust and set up your forehand, it should be a good attack. However, it requires separate practice to be patient and focus on proper moment to hit - I personally struggle being over-fixed on the bounce peak, and it requires dedicated effort to keep calm and let the ball drop a bit...
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I’ve actually got into the habit of using a really slow junky serve. I wouldn’t quite call it a moonball, but it’s a really slow high arcing American twist with a lot of spin. It’s high percentage, and it doesn’t require me to use too much energy. I’m not trying to generate free points with it, but the junky bounce makes it hard to attack on the rise, so my opponent has to play a safe return.

I am currently using a 27.25” long Ultra Tour with 364sw, which seems to make it easy for me to hit this kind of junky spin serve.
 

FiReFTW

Legend
If it’s really a moonball which gets to 3+m height before dropping, it may be tough to play it on the rise. Too steep bounce. Moreover, it’s likely an unnecessary risk, as such a serve descends early after bounce peak, and one can comfortably take it on descend inside the baseline. With all the time in the world to adjust and set up your forehand, it should be a good attack. However, it requires separate practice to be patient and focus on proper moment to hit - I personally struggle being over-fixed on the bounce peak, and it requires dedicated effort to keep calm and let the ball drop a bit...
Not really, its harder to hit a dropping slow ball from 3m height with a step drop than to hit it on the rise, you can spin it back low to high but you can't really do much with such a dropping ball.
But if you take it on the rise you can be aggresive.

Its not hard to hit such a ball because its very slow, it might bounce step up but if your swingpath is correct its easy to hit, you just can't spin such a ball and hit low to high or you will shank alot, thats the problem that most people do with this ball, you need to prepare high, not a huge takeback and swing through the ball on a straight line with a decent amount of rhs, and you will see its easy to time plus easy to place in the court.

Since the OP said it bounces straight I don't find it hard, but if it would have alot of twist and explode to one side it would be quite difficult to do what I say.
 

Dragy

Legend
Not really, its harder to hit a dropping slow ball from 3m height with a step drop than to hit it on the rise, you can spin it back low to high but you can't really do much with such a dropping ball.
But if you take it on the rise you can be aggresive.

Its not hard to hit such a ball because its very slow, it might bounce step up but if your swingpath is correct its easy to hit, you just can't spin such a ball and hit low to high or you will shank alot, thats the problem that most people do with this ball, you need to prepare high, not a huge takeback and swing through the ball on a straight line with a decent amount of rhs, and you will see its easy to time plus easy to place in the court.

Since the OP said it bounces straight I don't find it hard, but if it would have alot of twist and explode to one side it would be quite difficult to do what I say.
Maybe it’s surface dependent as well, I’m playing on clay since restrictions lifted, and it’s really a mess for me to rely on such approach. Particularly if the ball lacks penetration. When balls have decent vertical speed (and falling from 3+m is quite decent, it’s a good lob height), and at least some unpredictability with bounce, it should either be played with full authority as you say, or very carefully.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong in putting big spin on the dropping ball. Even if you don’t smack it really hard, it’s an opportunity to hit a heavy ball and either attack BH with depth and bounce, or pull opponent off the court by angle. Both good to take control of the point - and not the worst alternative to risky putaway attempt.
 

FiReFTW

Legend
Maybe it’s surface dependent as well, I’m playing on clay since restrictions lifted, and it’s really a mess for me to rely on such approach. Particularly if the ball lacks penetration. When balls have decent vertical speed (and falling from 3+m is quite decent, it’s a good lob height), and at least some unpredictability with bounce, it should either be played with full authority as you say, or very carefully.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong in putting big spin on the dropping ball. Even if you don’t smack it really hard, it’s an opportunity to hit a heavy ball and either attack BH with depth and bounce, or pull opponent off the court by angle. Both good to take control of the point - and not the worst alternative to risky putaway attempt.
I play clay mostly now, maybe you are swinging too low to high or have a too big takeback, I used to struggle too but now I figured it out, takeback should be high around shoulder level u don't drop it bellow, and don't take the racquet back too far, just line it up with the ball and then as it bounces up to ur shoulder high just accelerate into the ball in a straight line, u don't even need to overdo with the swingspeed and its a decent ball.

But it depends on the type of ball you get, its good to do on balls that bounce just up, but if it has lots of spin and kicks to the right or left its very hard to do this as the ball can quickly get out of your strikezone on into ur body and its just not consistent at least not for me.
 

acintya

Legend
if you have a lot of time (3x 1hours per week) learn to serve with the left hand. after a year you will develop a high but not so powerful kick serve

the non dominant hand is so much less powerful that it is really hard to muscle the ball :)
 

toth

Professional
I played with a guy that has a moonball kick serve for a 2nd serve. Huge net clearance, a ton of spin that makes it bounce high almost straight up, and very little pace. A while ago I remember someone asking how to return a serve like that. Of course some players are able to easily attack it, but most try and mistime and end up backing up and hitting a neutral return. I wouldn't want to use a serve like that for every 2nd serve, but thought more variety is always good and it could be a good change of pace serve.
I try to hit moonball serves too.
I use more bh grip, toss the ball more behind and swing more upwards for such a serve.
 

blablavla

G.O.A.T.
Maybe it’s surface dependent as well, I’m playing on clay since restrictions lifted, and it’s really a mess for me to rely on such approach. Particularly if the ball lacks penetration. When balls have decent vertical speed (and falling from 3+m is quite decent, it’s a good lob height), and at least some unpredictability with bounce, it should either be played with full authority as you say, or very carefully.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong in putting big spin on the dropping ball. Even if you don’t smack it really hard, it’s an opportunity to hit a heavy ball and either attack BH with depth and bounce, or pull opponent off the court by angle. Both good to take control of the point - and not the worst alternative to risky putaway attempt.
For a slow, steep and high bouncing ball I would consider the overhead as well.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
The Physics of the Kick Serve, Rod Cross,

.

11. ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Q: Can a kick serve be hit slower than 80 mph?
A: Yes. The graphs above in Figure 11 refer specifically to the height of the ball as it crosses the baseline when the ball is served down the center line. In most cases, the ball is still climbing as it crosses the baseline, so the eventual height of the ball might exceed 6 ft. It is also possible to serve a topspin lob at low speeds with a high bounce, as shown in Figure 13 below, but the ball then drops sharply as it crosses the baseline. Even higher bounces can be expected on clay courts since the ball slows down more in the horizontal direction and therefore kicks up at a steeper angle.

Figure 13 — Low Speed, High Top Spin 'Lob Kick Serve'. The ball leaves the racquet at an upward angle, bounces high, but then drops sharply as it crosses the baseline.

Somewhere, I believe that Cross said the 'lob kick serve' is not used in high level tennis because it is too slow.
 
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S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I played with a guy that has a moonball kick serve for a 2nd serve. Huge net clearance, a ton of spin that makes it bounce high almost straight up, and very little pace. A while ago I remember someone asking how to return a serve like that. Of course some players are able to easily attack it, but most try and mistime and end up backing up and hitting a neutral return. I wouldn't want to use a serve like that for every 2nd serve, but thought more variety is always good and it could be a good change of pace serve.
The more vertical it's bouncing, the less the need to take it on the rise and the less of a penalty for stepping back and taking it on the decline.

The more problematic serve is one that has a significant horizontal component and trying to step back could leave you way out of position.
 

EddieBrock

Professional
Not really, its harder to hit a dropping slow ball from 3m height with a step drop than to hit it on the rise, you can spin it back low to high but you can't really do much with such a dropping ball.
But if you take it on the rise you can be aggresive.

Its not hard to hit such a ball because its very slow, it might bounce step up but if your swingpath is correct its easy to hit, you just can't spin such a ball and hit low to high or you will shank alot, thats the problem that most people do with this ball, you need to prepare high, not a huge takeback and swing through the ball on a straight line with a decent amount of rhs, and you will see its easy to time plus easy to place in the court.

Since the OP said it bounces straight I don't find it hard, but if it would have alot of twist and explode to one side it would be quite difficult to do what I say.
My mistake in the description. It does jump with an American twist. When I said straight up I meant it doesn't have a lot of forward movement.
 

EddieBrock

Professional
I’ve actually got into the habit of using a really slow junky serve. I wouldn’t quite call it a moonball, but it’s a really slow high arcing American twist with a lot of spin. It’s high percentage, and it doesn’t require me to use too much energy. I’m not trying to generate free points with it, but the junky bounce makes it hard to attack on the rise, so my opponent has to play a safe return.

I am currently using a 27.25” long Ultra Tour with 364sw, which seems to make it easy for me to hit this kind of junky spin serve.
What is your toss and swing path like?
 

EddieBrock

Professional
The Physics of the Kick Serve, Rod Cross,

.

11. ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Q: Can a kick serve be hit slower than 80 mph?
A: Yes. The graphs above in Figure 11 refer specifically to the height of the ball as it crosses the baseline when the ball is served down the center line. In most cases, the ball is still climbing as it crosses the baseline, so the eventual height of the ball might exceed 6 ft. It is also possible to serve a topspin lob at low speeds with a high bounce, as shown in Figure 13 below, but the ball then drops sharply as it crosses the baseline. Even higher bounces can be expected on clay courts since the ball slows down more in the horizontal direction and therefore kicks up at a steeper angle.

Figure 13 — Low Speed, High Top Spin 'Lob Kick Serve'. The ball leaves the racquet at an upward angle, bounces high, but then drops sharply as it crosses the baseline.

Somewhere, I believe that Cross said the 'lob kick serve' is not used in high level tennis because it is too slow.
Right, I know it's possible since I've played with and against someone doing it. I didn't get through the article yet, but what's the best way to hit a serve like that? I know at the pro level the guys would probably be able to crush it, but as others have said it is pretty hard to time on the rise, especially on clay and at the 4.0 or 4.5 level it seems like it would be an effective tool to have in your toolbelt.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
What is your toss and swing path like?
It’s basically an American twist serve, but instead of tossing a few feet inside the court and exploding forward (like Edberg, Rafter, or younger travlerajm), I still toss it way to the left but not very far inside the court. The swingpath is still fast (I use a mental image of hitting 5 to 11 clock angle, but in reality it’s probably more like 7:30 to 1:30). I was using it in the ad court yesterday at the end of my 2.5h grueling singles match, where my slow short angle twist serve out wide would pull my tired opponent off court so he would need to cover more ground to recover for the next ball.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Right, I know it's possible since I've played with and against someone doing it. I didn't get through the article yet, but what's the best way to hit a serve like that? I know at the pro level the guys would probably be able to crush it, but as others have said it is pretty hard to time on the rise, especially on clay and at the 4.0 or 4.5 level it seems like it would be an effective tool to have in your toolbelt.
I looked for how the racket contacted the ball for the well-known kick serve and could not find clear videos. Finally, after a few years, I videoed a few and then found a few more on the internet.

The kick serve is too complicated for word descriptions in my opinion.

The lob kick serve? You would need a video to check to see if the word description was valid. Good luck finding some clear videos showing the racket and ball motion on the 'lob kick serve'.
 
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Nellie

Hall of Fame
Personally, if it was to my backhand, I would step in an slice a return down the line. If to my forehand side, I would drive it at the server's feet. It can be hard, however, if the server varies the tempo/height a lot because you can be stuck deep on the slow moon ball or too far forward on a power topspin serve. The two different topspins can be hard to read because they use similar tosses and swings, and they vary mostly in the timing of the swing (the loopy topspin occurring with more ball drop on the toss)
 

FiReFTW

Legend
My mistake in the description. It does jump with an American twist. When I said straight up I meant it doesn't have a lot of forward movement.
Then I don't know ive never played against someone who hits a twist kick moonball serve, what an odd serve, what kind of people are you playing?
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Then I don't know ive never played against someone who hits a twist kick moonball serve, what an odd serve, what kind of people are you playing?
I think he just means a twist serve that peaks at about 12 feet high before it crosses the net. That’s what I was describing.
 

EddieBrock

Professional
Then I don't know ive never played against someone who hits a twist kick moonball serve, what an odd serve, what kind of people are you playing?
I think he just means a twist serve that peaks at about 12 feet high before it crosses the net. That’s what I was describing.
Yep, just a normal kick serve but with a huge amount of net clearance and very little pace. I've only played one guy that I can remember in my life that serves like that. When I play doubles with him there are some players that have it for lunch. Most let it settle down and it's a good neutral 2nd serve.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
try tossing the ball toward the back fence and make contact with the ball as it is moving over you toward the back fence and hit entirely upward. you may have to lean back toward the back fence to do that....
 
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