What do you think about when your serve is off?

fundrazer

Legend
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.
Getting some Bob Ross vibes. I can just hear him saying "phtalo blue" and "happy little trees."

Maybe I will try this next time my serve goes awol. Happened yesterday actually.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
Truth or a good lie?

"Just get it in." That's the truth.

Most opponents at my level can't punish me for that and it gets the point started.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
If ‘serve is off‘ means many double-faults as seems to be the case for many posters, then I think no amount of mental grounding or mindset changes will really be a solution. Unless it is very windy or you have bad sun glare right in your face, serving many double faults means that there is a serious technique issue - usually inconsistent toss and lack of spin are the most common issues. I would suggest having a coach take a look at the technique and suggest some changes and then go do a lot of serve practice. If you don’t practice your serve a lot outside of matches, it might not hold up under pressure.

If ‘serve is off’ means lower 1st serve % or lower accuracy than on other days, then it can be corrected by looking for the root technique/physical cause (lower toss due to tightness, lower RHS due to sluggishness/tightness/lack of sleep, muscle niggles causing problems with rotating body, shoulder injuries causing pain etc.) during a match.
 

FedLIKEnot

Professional
When my serve is off or when it has abandoned me which happens more than I would like especially as I rely upon it so much I only think of the basics.

A good ball toss (and not chasing bad tosses)
A good contact point
And lastly aim for big easy targets often opting for spin and placement instead of pace.
 

chic

Professional
I think the people suggesting grounding techniques are probably on to something. Sprained my ankle the day after I made this thread so hopefully whatever funk I was in is over (ironically I was doing a hitting session mostly just working on serves).

My serve is usually good and my second serve is better. Earlier this league season I had been avging 3-4 DF per set. Which is high but acceptable for the way I hit. Saturday it was like 2-3 per game. I would focus on toss, leg drive, or rhs and get 3-4 good serves then have a chain of 2-3 DF, or tentative, or terrible toss serves.

This was across 18 games, so 9 service games and I couldn't fix it with my normal focus points the entire time. My normal "grounding" methods are watching the ball a la 'the inner game's or focusing on my memory of kyrgios slo mo videos. The latter of which I'm realizing I haven't watched in a while and have faded. So I guess this will be my step one.
 

chic

Professional
Truth or a good lie?

"Just get it in." That's the truth.

Most opponents at my level can't punish me for that and it gets the point started.
I think there's merit to this but ime I have a hard time if I slow my serve down. I don't practice slow serves so the accuracy isn't that much better *and* I struggle with how to construct the point after rolling the ball in since I'm normally starting off with a fastball.

Honestly it might merit hitting slow serves and playing 11poimt games just as a learning exercise so I have that tool in the toolbox. But it's not something I have to pull out mid match (nor have I needed it I went 8-3 in regular season)
 

nyta2

Semi-Pro
i think about the basics...
sloow down my motion
make sure toss is high enough (tendency to short toss when tight)
catch all tosses that aren't right
don't muscle the ball, think "smoooooth" and loose
breath/grunt
eyes on contact

if my first serve (flat or hard slice) isn't working... revert to kicker for first serve...
 

toth

Professional
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.
I find it 7-8 breath taking not enough.
For more there is no time between points.
Did i miss something?
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
A match a week ago ... a remarkably easy win (1&2) for a change ... I was serving well, probably at over 75% first serves in.

I rarely double fault as I have developed a very safe yet effective 2nd these days.

But that day ... missed the first long, no problem ... 2nd serve as I toss the ball my brain tells me: "you didn't put on sunscreen" ... double-fault. How ridiculous.
 
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 is off, I think about a couple things. First, is just getting it in. Not worrying about speed very much at all and just making sure I avoid second serves. But second, I'm always looking for ways to mentally gain an edge. While I incorporate underarm serves into my game fairly regularly, maybe I need to increase the number of underarm serves I hit.
 

toth

Professional
I think now, one key could be the know-how imparting topspin at the second serve.
For me it is the point for sure...
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
When my serve is off, I think about a couple things. First, is just getting it in. Not worrying about speed very much at all and just making sure I avoid second serves. But second, I'm always looking for ways to mentally gain an edge. While I incorporate underarm serves into my game fairly regularly, maybe I need to increase the number of underarm serves I hit.
Not to derail, but in 20 years of playing tennis (I started playing late in life), I have never underhanded serve. I've got a pretty good 2nd serve, underhand serving has never even been a consideration for me, not even as a surprise tactic.
I've never even tried an underhand serve when I'm by myself practicing serves.

Also, I have probably had maybe 3 underhanded serves AT me in 20 years.... I'm not sure it has ever worked (my wheels towards the net is pretty good). Doesn't bother me in the least, doesn't upset me or make me think gamesmanship.

Note: A USTA player I had matched against numerous times had a shoulder injury and served his whole match underhand, but he warmed up underhand and explained himself prior. Nice man, so no worries. Totally understood. I don't count that as an underhand encounter because it was the only serve he had. He couldn't serve overhand, so the whole "catch 'em by surprise" thing was moot. It was basically a feed with as much spin on it as he could.
 
Not to derail, but in 20 years of playing tennis (I started playing late in life), I have never underhanded serve. I've got a pretty good 2nd serve, underhand serving has never even been a consideration for me, not even as a surprise tactic.
I've never even tried an underhand serve when I'm by myself practicing serves.

Also, I have probably had maybe 3 underhanded serves AT me in 20 years.... I'm not sure it has ever worked (my wheels towards the net is pretty good). Doesn't bother me in the least, doesn't upset me or make me think gamesmanship.

Note: A USTA player I had matched against numerous times had a shoulder injury and served his whole match underhand, but he warmed up underhand and explained himself prior. Nice man, so no worries. Totally understood. I don't count that as an underhand encounter because it was the only serve he had. He couldn't serve overhand, so the whole "catch 'em by surprise" thing was moot. It was basically a feed with as much spin on it as he could.
I was a psychology major in college and am very into the psychology of tennis. For me, it just throws off the rhythm of the game, which is major for me. Underarm serves (not often but on occasion), moon balls, drop shots, lobs, I do everything I can to get in your head.

My serve isn't big anyways, so it's not like underarm serving is taking away that much of an advantage.
 
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chic

Professional
Not to derail, but in 20 years of playing tennis (I started playing late in life), I have never underhanded serve. I've got a pretty good 2nd serve, underhand serving has never even been a consideration for me, not even as a surprise tactic.
I've never even tried an underhand serve when I'm by myself practicing serves.

Also, I have probably had maybe 3 underhanded serves AT me in 20 years.... I'm not sure it has ever worked (my wheels towards the net is pretty good). Doesn't bother me in the least, doesn't upset me or make me think gamesmanship.

Note: A USTA player I had matched against numerous times had a shoulder injury and served his whole match underhand, but he warmed up underhand and explained himself prior. Nice man, so no worries. Totally understood. I don't count that as an underhand encounter because it was the only serve he had. He couldn't serve overhand, so the whole "catch 'em by surprise" thing was moot. It was basically a feed with as much spin on it as he could.
Imo underarm serves are a tool like any other. But realistically people shouldn't utilize them unless they earn them. If you have a generic 3.0-4.0 serve you're probably not doing yourself favors.

But if you serve well enough to force people to back up, you earn the uh option
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
Imo underarm serves are a tool like any other. But realistically people shouldn't utilize them unless they earn them. If you have a generic 3.0-4.0 serve you're probably not doing yourself favors.

But if you serve well enough to force people to back up, you earn the uh option
Agree.

My serves (1st and 2nd) are solid enough and reliable that I get my fair share of aces/return errors/net point from partner... I see no need to practice underhand.
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
I was a psychology major in college and am very into the psychology of tennis. For me, it just throws off the rhythm of the game, which is major for me. Underarm serves (not often but on occasion), moon balls, drop shots, lobs, I do everything I can to get in your head.

My serve isn't big anyways, so it's not like underarm serving is taking away that much of an advantage.
lol. I think playing people like you is funny... maybe not you, but people who play the psych game, and it doesn't work... I think it is funny when they melt. I've played against a few people that try to play mind games, and if they lose they get really really touchy. Also funny that you think being a psych major gives you a huge advantage on a tennis court. It might for some people I guess, but I don't need to be a psych major to recognize what opponents are trying to do mentally... and then it is up to their game.... is their game good enough.
 
lol. I think playing people like you is funny... maybe not you, but people who play the psych game, and it doesn't work... I think it is funny when they melt. I've played against a few people that try to play mind games, and if they lose they get really really touchy. Also funny that you think being a psych major gives you a huge advantage on a tennis court. It might for some people I guess, but I don't need to be a psych major to recognize what opponents are trying to do mentally... and then it is up to their game.... is their game good enough.
I don't think being a psych major helps my tennis game, just shows that I am into psychology. It's a mental challenge for sure playing me, but if you can beat me, I will be gracious and give you full credit.
 

shamaho

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?
What I do is tell myself to "find the rythm back" ...it's all in the rythm for me... while looking to find it, I don't care about pace, placement or whatever... I just want to find the rythm (some might call it groove)... once I find it, everything else falls into place. Usually takes me 2 or 3 serves (in the middle of the match it's points)....
 

RickySpanish

New User
Lately my only 2 thoughts during my serve have been my toss and trying to remove all tension in my serving arm. The later has really saved me from shoulder issues and greatly improved my serve speed and consistency.
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
The two most common things l see are usually toss location (not high enough or not into court enough), and second is trying to take off too much just trying to get it in.

I understand the "just try to get it in" mentality, but for the guy trying to find his serve, l say swing away at 80%. You slow your swing down too much and now everything else is out of time/rhythm too. And you've lost spin generation too, which may help bring the ball into the box.

2nd serve, yeah, of course, just get it in. Take your chance at a great return, otherwise, just get the point started.

1st serve, swing. Take a full cut at a slice serve rather than a flat. Position yourself so you are serving over lowest part of the net, even if that is into middle of the box and it is patently obvious. You are not trying for service winners, you're trying to find your serve.

Heck, if your 2nd serve is good (kicker or good slicer), hit two second serves.
 

chic

Professional
The two most common things l see are usually toss location (not high enough or not into court enough), and second is trying to take off too much just trying to get it in.

I understand the "just try to get it in" mentality, but for the guy trying to find his serve, l say swing away at 80%. You slow your swing down too much and now everything else is out of time/rhythm too. And you've lost spin generation too, which may help bring the ball into the box.

2nd serve, yeah, of course, just get it in. Take your chance at a great return, otherwise, just get the point started.

1st serve, swing. Take a full cut at a slice serve rather than a flat. Position yourself so you are serving over lowest part of the net, even if that is into middle of the box and it is patently obvious. You are not trying for service winners, you're trying to find your serve.

Heck, if your 2nd serve is good (kicker or good slicer), hit two second serves.
Yeah this isn't the question that was being asked tho . . .
 

chic

Professional
Ok.
2 thoughts: good toss and solid swing speed.

We good?
Lol it's not really what I was asking but definitely lines up with most of the advice people had :p

I think I just want a magic pill that solves mentality issues when tired :X3: but some people had some good advice about breathing and mental routines.
 

ChrisG

Semi-Pro
Lol it's not really what I was asking but definitely lines up with most of the advice people had :p

I think I just want a magic pill that solves mentality issues when tired :X3: but some people had some good advice about breathing and mental routines.
Whenever I struggle with my serve, it doesn't last the whole match, only a game, or even a point or two that make me think something is going wrong.
I instantly say to myself, next 1st serve, forget about speed or power, it needs to go in. So I concentrate on the weaker shot of my opponent (usually BH) and serve a smooth and gentle serve there.
You get 2 benefits:
- surprise effect : opponents who are waiting for another serve bomb going long would be very surprised by a a lower speed well serve going in. It's the same as the slice effect on a long hard hitting rally. You'll get a lot of unforced return.
- less pressure: now you know you can get the ball in and that you don't need to get your biggest serve at each ocasion to win the point, then you'll feel more relaxed towards the next serve and you'll get your serve routine back very quickly, allowing you to hit big again
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
Wow…I’m surprised that so many players equate “serve is off” with double-faults and the focus seems to be to just get the second serve in. Makes me wonder how many DFs most posters average in a set during a match - I’ll start a thread with a poll as I’m curious.

I would have thought that there would be more players for whom ‘serve is off‘ means less first serve % than usual or less serve accuracy than usual trying to hit specific target spots. This can be corrected by making some adjustments. But, if servers are worried about making too many DFs during many matches, they need to work on their serve technique outside of matches.
 

chic

Professional
Wow…I’m surprised that so many players equate “serve is off” with double-faults and the focus seems to be to just get the second serve in. Makes me wonder how many DFs most posters average in a set during a match - I’ll start a thread with a poll as I’m curious.

I would have thought that there would be more players for whom ‘serve is off‘ means less first serve % than usual or less serve accuracy than usual trying to hit specific target spots. This can be corrected by making some adjustments. But, if servers are worried about making too many DFs during many matches, they need to work on their serve technique outside of matches.
While I agree with you the context of my original post was 'what do you do or think about on a drastically off day in the moment'. Normally I focus on toss and legs, but on this day I could only fix my serve for 3-4 serves before I was back to shambles.

Normally thought the same league season I avgd 3-5 df a set, which I consider acceptable for the way I serve (although I'm working in that as well).

So the context of the post was DFs
 

TennisDawg

Professional
When my serve is off it’s generally because I have spaced out and forgotten to do a proper racquet drop and accelerate for RHS. If I’m playing against 3.5 in singles I will still win the match as I seldom double fault. If I’m playing doubles my serve is vulnerable and I’m hoping my partner can put away any sitters at the net. I find that I can practice my serve and hit it very well then I lose focus during match play. I’ve identified the problem and it’s muscle memory from a self taught serve that I still occasionally have to deal with.
 
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