What do you think about when your serve is off?

chic

Professional
Bad serving day from me, just could not get comfortable. I knew the toss was the primary problem but I could not get it to stay adjusted. I'd slot a couple nice ones then get tentative or miss-place it again.

I think the main takeaway is I've been lazy and not done enough upkeep this week. But, sans better prep: what are your mid match mental resets, little tricks, or strategy adjustments when it just won't do the thing?
 

Isca

Rookie
I try to focus on my breath just before serving. Exhale fully, inhale fully, notice your breath, loosen up and try to let everything else go. It's like a mini meditation that stops you overthinking.
 
Lately been trying to remind myself to get a forward push/jump into the court. Also try to get more coiling of shoulders. Didn’t serve very well today had 0 aces and hardly any service winners
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Patience. Catch a bad toss if you have to. (regardless of what that older rant post says)

Block out all the noise, pick a spot that you know you regularly hit.

Really look at the ball and keep your focus to contact. If you can see your ball crossing the net, you are cheating and not really looking at it.

Those are what tend to fix it for me.
 

Possum

Rookie
I just try to attack more if I start missing. I want to really rev up some spin, and hope it goes in. But I usually don't double fault often because I hit big kick on both first and second serve, so it's basically like practicing!
 

dahcovixx

Professional
Bad serving day from me, just could not get comfortable. I knew the toss was the primary problem but I could not get it to stay adjusted. I'd slot a couple nice ones then get tentative or miss-place it again.

I think the main takeaway is I've been lazy and not done enough upkeep this week. But, sans better prep: what are your mid match mental resets, little tricks, or strategy adjustments when it just won't do the thing?
When my serve messes up its usually my balance on the toss. I sometime rock back before i release which makes the ball go overhead.

Its nice for the kicker but sucks on the flat/slice.
 

socallefty

Legend
When my serve is off, it’s usually because my toss is not consistent or I‘m feeling sluggish and don’t have enough racquet-head speed (RHS). The RHS problem usually happens if I’m tired from playing too much the previous day and didn’t have enough recovery time between matches or enough sleep - also can happen if I am hungover which was more common when I was young.

If the toss is not being affected by the wind, then the problem is usually that I’m tossing too low and contacting the ball too low - I adjust by trying to keep my toss arm up higher which usually fixes the toss problem and I also focus on having a higher contact point by using my legs more.

If my RHS speed is too slow, it causes me to hit flat serves too long and my 1st serve % comes down. In this case, I stop trying to hit flat serves and use a slice or top-slice instead as my 1st serve until I feel warmed up enough. When the balls get older and less lively, I can go back to hitting hard, flat serves and keep them in the box.

Also, if I’m feeling tight late in a set or against a tough opponent who is hitting great returns, I make an extra effort to relax my arm/shoulder before the serve by letting that side of my body relax and shake my arm loosely a few times.
 

HBK4life

Professional
“I wish I had payed more attention in serving lessons”

But for real I try to slow down. Spin some in. Get some confidence and movie on. Just because you have served a few rotten ones doesn’t mean you can’t turn it around.
 

WhiteOut

Semi-Pro
Bad serving day from me, just could not get comfortable. I knew the toss was the primary problem but I could not get it to stay adjusted. I'd slot a couple nice ones then get tentative or miss-place it again.

I think the main takeaway is I've been lazy and not done enough upkeep this week. But, sans better prep: what are your mid match mental resets, little tricks, or strategy adjustments when it just won't do the thing?
for me it's usually that i'm dropping my shoulder too soon and hitting into net. so i focus on really getting up to the ball at it's apex versus waiting for it to begin its descent.
 

polksio

Semi-Pro
Serve is off means im looking for power where there's no power so i point my attention back to where the power comes from
 

chic

Professional
I guess. If this makes sense.

I'm looking for plan C or plan D when the normal resets don't work.
Or maybe I just need to focus bettero_O
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
I find it's rare I can correct something in my serve during a match. If it's just a social match, I'll sometimes try but am still usually unsuccessful. I find that easy technical things aren't usually the problem. If they are the problem, that means I went into that match without having a mastery of the technique and those are things I should work on during practice.

Instead, I try to practice what I would do if it were a tournament match that means something to me. Figure out what I can do on that day, and figure out of what I can do, what most consistently gives me the best opportunity at my second shot. Then I just do that until it doesn't work any more, and then move on to the next thing. Then make mental notes on what I need to work on in practice.
 

ptuanminh

Hall of Fame
i think about where i can serve that my opponent doesn't like most. i can take off the power just to serve there. win some points, gain some confidence.
 

socallefty

Legend
Serve is off means im looking for power where there's no power so i point my attention back to where the power comes from
That’s interesting as rarely does my power or pace vary much on serves from day to day since my technique does not change. The variance on off-days is usually with lower 1st serve % and lesser accuracy - for instance, I am a lefty who likes serving wide a lot and on some days, it is more of a struggle for me to serve a high-% wide early on deuce. Or, I might be missing long on most of my flat serves and have to slice more.
 

chic

Professional
That’s interesting as rarely does my power or pace vary much on serves from day to day since my technique does not change. The variance on off-days is usually with lower 1st serve % and lesser accuracy - for instance, I am a lefty who likes serving wide a lot and on some days, it is more of a struggle for me to serve a high-% wide early on deuce. Or, I might be missing long on most of my flat serves and have to slice more.
Yeah I don't know how to serve slow (I know how but have never practiced it so I don't trust it in a match). Generally I consider this an asset but today I was horrendously off ... Too many double faults
 

polksio

Semi-Pro
That’s interesting as rarely does my power or pace vary much on serves from day to day since my technique does not change. The variance on off-days is usually with lower 1st serve % and lesser accuracy - for instance, I am a lefty who likes serving wide a lot and on some days, it is more of a struggle for me to serve a high-% wide early on deuce. Or, I might be missing long on most of my flat serves and have to slice more.
Personally i cant tell if my power changes from day to day i dont have a speed gun
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
If I am outdoors, there will be a bird flying by, or an airplane up in the sky, and my eye is attracted to that movement.
Takes everything I have to focus back on the ball.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
When my serve is off, it is almost always one of two things.

1) Legs. I am getting no vertical momentum from pushing off the ground or getting airborne through contact. Step 1- focus on getting more out of my legs.

2) Aggressive mindset. Toss the ball up and go get it, don’t let it come to you. Hit an aggressive serve. There is no 50% effort on serve. For me the only difference between a 1st and 2nd serve is more spin and more conservative placement - not intensity.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
“I wish I had payed more attention in serving lessons”
"It's at times like these when I'm in a Vogon airlock about to be blasted into space that I wish I had listened to what my mother said when I was little." - Ford Prefect

"What did she say?" - Arthur Dent

"I don't know! I wasn't listening!" - Ford

*The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy*
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
When my serve is off, it is because my toss is off.

When my toss is off, the problem is almost always that I am tossing too quickly. After all, I'm frustrated that my toss is (often) too low, so of course it needs more umph, so of course I need to raise my tossing arm more quickly, right?

Nope. The opposite. The fix is to slow the toss motion and extend the left arm as high and strongly possible.

Works every time.
 

chic

Professional
It's sounds to me like y'all don't have days where the readjustments aren't enough.

So maybe it's less common than I'm thinking, or maybe I'm overblowing this because it felt so frustrating.

I kept fixing stuff and thinking about toss etc then falling back out of the fix I just made. I felt like serving underhand I was so frustrated.
 

chic

Professional
Lots of good advice in this thread though. Gonna go hit some serves today and hopefully I'll just get it out of my system
 

davced1

Hall of Fame
Toss and rythm as suggested by Tim Gallwey here starting at 6:08
Everybody has their own service rythm. I like to think about the serve as three steps in the rythm da(toss) - da(trophy pose) - da(hit the damn ball).
If I get the rythm right I will hit a decent serve even when the toss is a bit off.
 

lim

Semi-Pro
Flat serve is the most rhythm based shot IMO I would consciously make a toss/timing adjustment but if you really aren’t seeing the ball well more often than not I would just revert to 2 kicks. Much harder to play your way into flat serves going into the tail end of a second/third set when you’re already expecting your energy level to drop off compared to the first set. With 2 kicks you can still keep your intensity level up (assuming you hit with high RHS and not just roll it in) which will help you stay offensive minded in your service games versus hitting a defensive 1st/2nd serve which will immediately put you at a disadvantage
 

t_pac

Semi-Pro
It's sounds to me like y'all don't have days where the readjustments aren't enough.

So maybe it's less common than I'm thinking, or maybe I'm overblowing this because it felt so frustrating.

I kept fixing stuff and thinking about toss etc then falling back out of the fix I just made. I felt like serving underhand I was so frustrated.
I feel your pain.

I've been having some major serving woes recently, on a shot that used to be a real weapon for me. Think Zverev levels of 2nd serve anxiety lol.

All I can really do when this starts to manifest is focus on the rest of my game. After all, if I have no confidence holding my serve my only option is to be super aggressive when I'm returning to try and break my opponent enough to stay in the match.

Eventually this confident, aggressive mindset works it's way back in to my serve and things (usually) start to come together again.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
Mid match meltdowns (magnitude of them will vary) can have numerous sources - but if we exclude things like fatigue, hunger, dehydration, etc. and focus only on the mental aspects of them, what we find most often is stress from doubt and lack of confidence or a few bad recent errors insidiously creeping in and getting the better of us. The reality is that in most cases, our bodies physically/reflexively know what to do, and our challenge is really to get our brain out of the way and let the body do its thing. In order to do that, you have to quiet the paniced mind. This is about the "fight or flight" reflex (there are some other hormonal aspects to it as well - cortisol, etc.).

Anyway, it boils down to this: your non-executive (non cortex) brain function cannot differentiate very well between the stress of a second serve at Ad-out and a saber toothed tiger bearing down on you... so when it kicks in, your body goes into this fight or flight mode, and one of the first things that happens with that fight or flight mode is the executive functions (complex, higher ordered cognition, etc.) of your brain more or less shut down... further, fine motor control is also hindered greatly in "fight or flight mode". If you think about it, this makes sense for when a saber toothed tiger is bearing down on you - you don't need to be thinking about what you're going to do about your henpecking wife, or how you're going to get Larry the flintknapper to make you a new knife... you need to RUN RIGHT EFFING NOW, DUMMY!!!! RUN RUN!! GTFO!!!

This, of course, does not make sense when we're serving a second serve at Ad-out in a set deciding game... but our so-called "mammal brain" does not do a good job of telling the difference... it senses stress, and depending on the magnitude, begins cranking and shutting down our executive function and wrecking our fine motor skills (which we need more than our executive brain function to serve well)... To combat that, I use what psychologists call "grounding" techniques. The premise is that your brain cannot be in fight or flight mode, worrying about the saber toothed tiger AND SIMULTANEOUSLY be thinking "gee those pretty yellow and white moths flitting amongst the Queen Anne's lace over on the banks of the drainage pond sure are pretty on this fine summer morning". If you use your executive brain function to calm your mammal brain, you bring your fine motor skills back on line too...

These grounding techniques can take many forms and they are up to the individual... The bottom line on them is that they force your executive functioning brain to take control again and force the physical relaxation that will derail your "mammal brain's" panic that is trying to override your executive function. For me, I do a little deep breathing, physically imagine it banishing the stress and tension from my large muscle groups... I wiggle my toes in my shoes... take a look over at the drainage pond for a second and see if I can count the dragonflies or butterflies... look around me and silently name objects to myself "car", "baby stroller", "trash can", "lawn chair", "sliding board", "water cooler", etc. I let myself feel the sun on my shoulders, or the breeze on my face, or the dampness in the cool air, smell the charcoal grill from a block away, etc.

The above takes me between 5 and 10 seconds... then I step up to the line, feel myself get physically balanced, bounce the ball at least 3, if not 4 times perfectly back to my hand, and I try hard not to think things like "don't miss this one!", instead, I think "OK spin this one in, no big deal, catch the toss if it's sh*tty" and then... "OK here we go..." all of that takes maybe another 5 seconds...

Sometimes I still DF on that Ad-out serve though... but usually it's not because I was crapping my pants while I did it.
 
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jhick

Hall of Fame
In my youth, I got good at hitting bad tosses. I can't remember the last time I caught one of mine and had to retoss (I haven't done it in many years). Ironically, I believe hitting bad tosses actually help me learn the slice and kick serves. I think 35 years of playing the game and the repetition of tossing has gotten me to a point where I don't even think about my toss, it's just a natural start to my service motion. The main things I tell myself if I'm missing serves are this: if the serve is tending to go long I focus on getting the toss more into the court in front of me, and if my serves are going into the net I focus more on reaching up to hit the ball (versus coming down on it). Since my serve is one of most dominant parts of my game, occasionally get into trouble when I make the mistake of trying to get too precise if I run into a good returner that is handling my serves well.
 

BenC

Semi-Pro
I have reminders for the things that keep breaking down, mostly low or wayward tosses, other times not coiling enough.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
The premise is that your brain cannot be in fight or flight mode, worrying about the saber toothed tiger AND SIMULTANEOUSLY be thinking "gee those pretty yellow and white moths flitting amongst the Queen Anne's lace over on the banks of the drainage pond sure are pretty on this fine summer morning".

All of that is to say that I use what psychologists call "grounding" techniques. These take many forms... for me, I do a little deep breathing, physically imagine it banishing the stress and tension from my large muscle groups... I wiggle my toes in my shoes... take a look over at the drainage pond for a second and see if I can count the dragonflies or butterflies... look around me and silently name objects to myself "car", "baby stroller", "trash can", "lawn chair", "sliding board", "water cooler", etc. I let myself feel the sun on my shoulders, or the breeze on my face, or the dampness in the cool air, smell the charcoal grill from a block away, etc.

The above takes me between 5 and 10 seconds... then I step up to the line, feel myself get physically balanced, bounce the ball at least 3, if not 4 times perfectly back to my hand, and I try hard not to think things like "don't miss this one!", instead, I think "OK spin this one in, no big deal, catch the toss if it's sh*tty" and then... "OK here we go..." all of that takes maybe another 5 seconds...

Sometimes I still DF on that Ad-out serve though... but usually it's not because I was crapping my pants while I did it.
I mentioned this before a long time ago on some forgotten thread ... I use a grounding technique taught to me by some coach back in my college days (soccer for the nerves before a penalty kick or for shoot outs).
Find an object in the distance, and in your mind take a small brush and paint it a different color using small careful strokes.
I usually pick a bush, a tree or a cloud. I usually paint it some form of deep blue.

It takes under 10 seconds and I am completely settled down.

Works nicely before a serve or a tough return.
 

megamind

Legend
Great thread. Great read. Appreciate everyone's thoughts, but I here are my personal faves for my 4.0 Zverev like game (as in 2nd serve is my weakness lol, everything else is pretty decent, oh, and I have a Gravity too, go figure...)

When my serve is off, it’s usually because my toss is not consistent or I‘m feeling sluggish and don’t have enough racquet-head speed (RHS). The RHS problem usually happens if I’m tired from playing too much the previous day and didn’t have enough recovery time between matches or enough sleep - also can happen if I am hungover which was more common when I was young.

If the toss is not being affected by the wind, then the problem is usually that I’m tossing too low and contacting the ball too low - I adjust by trying to keep my toss arm up higher which usually fixes the toss problem and I also focus on having a higher contact point by using my legs more.

If my RHS speed is too slow, it causes me to hit flat serves too long and my 1st serve % comes down. In this case, I stop trying to hit flat serves and use a slice or top-slice instead as my 1st serve until I feel warmed up enough. When the balls get older and less lively, I can go back to hitting hard, flat serves and keep them in the box.

Also, if I’m feeling tight late in a set or against a tough opponent who is hitting great returns, I make an extra effort to relax my arm/shoulder before the serve by letting that side of my body relax and shake my arm loosely a few times.

When my serve is off, it’s usually because my toss is not consistent or I‘m feeling sluggish and don’t have enough racquet-head speed (RHS). The RHS problem usually happens if I’m tired from playing too much the previous day and didn’t have enough recovery time between matches or enough sleep - also can happen if I am hungover which was more common when I was young.

If the toss is not being affected by the wind, then the problem is usually that I’m tossing too low and contacting the ball too low - I adjust by trying to keep my toss arm up higher which usually fixes the toss problem and I also focus on having a higher contact point by using my legs more.

If my RHS speed is too slow, it causes me to hit flat serves too long and my 1st serve % comes down. In this case, I stop trying to hit flat serves and use a slice or top-slice instead as my 1st serve until I feel warmed up enough. When the balls get older and less lively, I can go back to hitting hard, flat serves and keep them in the box.

Also, if I’m feeling tight late in a set or against a tough opponent who is hitting great returns, I make an extra effort to relax my arm/shoulder before the serve by letting that side of my body relax and shake my arm loosely a few times.
 

socallefty

Legend
When I am in trouble in a service game (15-30, 0-30 or down break-points), I go through a multi-step grounding routine.

- First I try to say some banal sentences in my mind. The effort to remember and say the sentences usually wipes out memories of the last points and the situational stress as it gives my brain something else for focus on. I use sentences like “Life is a Journey - no one said it will be easy” and “Into every life, some rain must fall”.
- Then, I close my eyes briefly and try to visualize a couple of images to calm me down further and I also do deep breathing then. I like nature and animals and so, I visualize an image of an elk grazing in a meadow just before dusk (actual image I saw in Yellowstone once) and a second image of a close-up of a tiger‘s face.
- I step up to the serving spot and then think “What will Pete Sampras do?”. This puts me in a confident state of mind and I usually visualize serving an ace to a particular corner of the box. Then, I start my service routine. I might not serve a lot of aces, but I usually serve big serves at a high % after I go through this routine.

The actual sentences and images don’t matter - the idea is to have a 3-step routine that erases the recent memories of previous points, calms you down and then puts you into an aggressive, confident mindset. I‘ve been doing this for more than 15 years and it works well for me.
 

megamind

Legend
When I am in trouble in a service game (15-30, 0-30 or down break-points), I go through a multi-step grounding routine.

- First I try to say some banal sentences in my mind. The effort to remember and say the sentences usually wipes out memories of the last points and the situational stress as it gives my brain something else for focus on. I use sentences like “Life is a Journey - no one said it will be easy” and “Into every life, some rain must fall”.
- Then, I close my eyes briefly and try to visualize a couple of images to calm me down further and I also do deep breathing then. I like nature and animals and so, I visualize an image of an elk grazing in a meadow just before dusk (actual image I saw in Yellowstone once) and a second image of a close-up of a tiger‘s face.
- I step up to the serving spot and then think “What will Pete Sampras do?”. This puts me in a confident state of mind and I usually visualize serving an ace to a particular corner of the box. Then, I start my service routine. I might not serve a lot of aces, but I usually serve big serves at a high % after I go through this routine.

The actual sentences and images don’t matter - the idea is to have a 3-step routine that erases the recent memories of previous points, calms you down and then puts you into an aggressive, confident mindset. Works for me.
ok

Step 1: I believe in the sureshs
Step 2: Visualize sureshs serve
Step 3: Think "what would sureshs do?"
Step 4: Ace

but for real, I'll try this technique
 

tsamo

Rookie
When I am in trouble in a service game (15-30, 0-30 or down break-points), I go through a multi-step grounding routine.

- First I try to say some banal sentences in my mind. The effort to remember and say the sentences usually wipes out memories of the last points and the situational stress as it gives my brain something else for focus on. I use sentences like “Life is a Journey - no one said it will be easy” and “Into every life, some rain must fall”.
- Then, I close my eyes briefly and try to visualize a couple of images to calm me down further and I also do deep breathing then. I like nature and animals and so, I visualize an image of an elk grazing in a meadow just before dusk (actual image I saw in Yellowstone once) and a second image of a close-up of a tiger‘s face.
- I step up to the serving spot and then think “What will Pete Sampras do?”. This puts me in a confident state of mind and I usually visualize serving an ace to a particular corner of the box. Then, I start my service routine. I might not serve a lot of aces, but I usually serve big serves at a high % after I go through this routine.

The actual sentences and images don’t matter - the idea is to have a 3-step routine that erases the recent memories of previous points, calms you down and then puts you into an aggressive, confident mindset. I‘ve been doing this for more than 15 years and it works well for me.
Nice steps!
I'll try them at a later point when I get the chance.
In my case, most times it's a mental thing, so I try not to think about it and empty my mind before hitting the next serve.
More times than not it works too!
 

toth

Professional
If my serve is off, i lusually lose fifty-fifty matches...
I have very little chance in this situation, expecially if my opponent attaks my sec serve.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
If I have issues serving I think about at pace second serves to get rhythm. I have seen too much advice for people to "just get it in" or taking off the pace, which I think doesn't support natural flow. Second serves should be a bit less pace and usually with more margin for error, but are something that has been practiced and can still pressure an opponent. If it is a really bad day I just do second serves, middle of the box to get the point started. Mentally I make it like a practice where I am feeding the player a ball they can hit and that helps remove any pressure and usually gets points started. You lose 100% of the points you don't get the serve in while even with a duff serve you know the opponent is going to be able to hit, and maybe even hit well, the ball is in play and you have a chance.
 

zaskar1

Semi-Pro
Bad serving day from me, just could not get comfortable. I knew the toss was the primary problem but I could not get it to stay adjusted. I'd slot a couple nice ones then get tentative or miss-place it again.

I think the main takeaway is I've been lazy and not done enough upkeep this week. But, sans better prep: what are your mid match mental resets, little tricks, or strategy adjustments when it just won't do the thing?
chic
for me, its the consistent toss. i try to adjust to tossing it more over my head and not in front, and slowing the start of the swing and finish by pronating
lately i havent been doubling that much, as i might double fault once or twice in three sets of doubles.
of course i dont get many free points, but at my level, placement seems to win points
z
 
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