How do you serve 130 mph?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by skiracer55, Oct 8, 2008.

  1. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

    Feb 21, 2007
    I know I'm going to burn in hell for starting this thingie, but let me just kick off the festivities, and everybody can join the fun.

    So lemme give you a quick intro to this fascinating subject, the Biggest Serve You Can Imagine...and it can be yours, if you choose what's behind door #3!
    First, here I'm talking to all of us folks who have day jobs, not people who make money off their tennis. And to you I say: you probably can't serve 130 mph. The good news is: you probably don't need to.

    I'll get to that in a minute, but first, is serve speed important? You damn betcha it is. As the fighter pilots say, "Speed is life." Let's just say for a minute that you had a 130 mph serve. Would it make your life easier on the 4.0, or 4.5, or even 5.0 circuit? Absolutely. You'd immediately go to the head of the class. One of my other lectures in this forum is something I learned many years ago when I was first starting my tennis career. Which is, most important stroke in the game is the serve, second most important is the return. Doesn't matter if you have the greatest forehand in the world, if you have a helium ball for a serve, you'll never get to hit that forehand...and you'll lose your serve. If you can't return the ball, doesn't matter how good your forehand is. You'll never get to hit it, and you'll never break serve.

    Back to serve speed. We'll talk about TennisMastery (Dave Smith)'s method shortly, which is basically fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. A good serve, like any other stroke requires clean, consistent mechanics...there are no shortcuts, and it doesn't happen automagically or overnight. What's important? The toss, yes. The backswing, yes. The snap at the top, yes. But I see people trying to jack their serves up by focusing on just one or two elements, and the facts are that everything is importnat in your whole body's kinesthetic chain that creates a great serve. If, however, you get the serve mechanics down pat, I still believe ya gotta have size and athleticism to serve at 130 mph. I've been told that my mechanics are about as clean as possible on my serve, and at age 60, I'm a dedicated athlete. I lift weights, do stretching all the time, ride a road bike 75 miles a week...and play two hours of hard tennis a day. But I'm 5' 7", with my high-heeled sneakers on, and although I haven't been on a radar gun lately, my guess is that I can get up to maybe 110 - 115, max. The people who regularly serve at 120+ have great motions, but they are also big people. Venus Williams, who can crank a serve at 120 plus, is a big, strong woman.

    - I think the good news is that, unless you're aiming for Futures and above (I've heard that in Men's events on the Futures circuit, the minimum opening bet is 115), you don't need to serve 130 mph. One of the things I was always taught growing up, and that I still believe in, is that a winning shot always has 3 components: pace, spin, and placement. And you don't necessarily need all of the above in the same shot. For example, if I opened the court up and you're a city block away from the backhand corner, all I have to do is roll the ball into that corner...a screaming 100 mph winner...that I might not required. On the other hand, if I've been playing the angles and my opponent likes that game, because he comes back with better angles, guess what? I think it's time to crank up the volume. I'll step up the pace...but at least to start, I'll hit it right down the middle because I don't want to take a chance on missing the ball wide. Similarly, if I conclude that it's time for a little more topspin, I'll brush up over the ball...I'll accelerate the finish a little more...but I won't hit through the ball as strongly, because if I try to put on more spin and pace, I'm likely to make an error.

    Very similar situation on the serve, and so to serve effectively, I try to...and try to get people to think of...being a well rounded pitcher, with curve balls, sliders, knuckleballs, and so forth, instead of just the basic fastball heater. If I go for a wide slice in the deuce court, for example...a serve I never really had until two seasons ago, but has turned out to be surprisingly effective weapon for me...what I'm thinking is spin and placement. Sure, I don't want to hit a helium ball, because I'll eat a fuzz sandwich on that one, but I'll give up some pace, if I have to, to stick the ball right in the corner and make it tail away from the receiver. Okay, so I did that on the first point, and now my opponent's camped on that serve...what's next? Well, typically, I'll give him a heavy kick serve to the backhand. If that works, I'll probably do it again. If he starts picking up on that one, what comes next is the heater...which I usually do as a body shot, because I've got a bigger margin for getting it in the box.

    So what I'm talking about is a theory of serving, which is about being a versatile server, not just a power server. So now I can hear you saying "Great...I'll buy, for two easy payments of $24.95...where's the EZ 2 Follow Assembly Instructions?" I can probably do that, but there are other folks in this forum who can probably do a much better job, so I'll let them take over. What I will say, however, is that the theme we started off with...which is fundamentals, which is consistent, repeatable mechanics that produce the desired results...are the key to both serve speed and variety. And also consistency, something we all forget about. I don't care if you can hit a 130 mph serve. If you only get one in 20 first serves in, guess what? I'm gonna beat you.

    I'll leave you with one additional thought, which is my recent post in another thread about variety. We were talking about spin on the forehand in this one, but I think it applies to all strokes:

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