A Serving Tip

Do you get frustrated by hitting serves into the net?  I do; and have a practice tip that could help correct the problem.

Deep vs. Short Serves

Most tennis teachers will advise you to “attack the short serve” – because it will probably be the shortest ball you will get (and just sitting there to be whacked).  But if you can put your first and second serves deeper into the box, your percentage of serve points won will increase.

I just played a practice singles match and was focusing on trying to serve deeper.  In only one game was I able to master the concept and got four serves deep and close to the service line.  I easily won all four points… two on missed returns and two on weak returns I was able to attack.

Practice Tip

In a practice singles or doubles match, tell your friends that any serve you hit into the net will be considered to be TWO SERVE FAULTS.  If it happens on your first serve, you lose the point on a double fault.  If it happens on your second serve, you not only double fault that point, you start the next one on your second serve.

See if that helps/forces you to serve deeper (even if you end up serving long).

Other thoughts on serving better?

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4 thoughts on “A Serving Tip

  1. Good insight George.
    Consistent ball toss will also aid in deeper serves.

    Howie, yes, toss too low and you are surely in the net. thanks, george

  2. Great idea, George. Not that I should comment, because my serve these days is downright stinky (owing mostly to problems I have been having with my toss, which is another topic), but several simple tips that I have learned over the years from the legends and that I always try to keep in the back of my mind to get service depth are:

    (1) Try to hit UP (and never down) on the ball no matter whether you are trying for a flat, slice or kick serve. Hitting up forces your wrist to snap at the point of impact, thereby adding both depth and a little extra pace to the serve, and also adding more spin on slice and kick serves especially both to put some “action” on the ball and to pull the ball into the service box better even as it bounces deeper in the box. (I think I originally heard this tip from Fred Stolle, but I am pretty sure Dick Stockton has also mentioned it to me.)

    (2) Don’t drop your head until the service motion has been completed. Dropping the head inevitably causes the ball to be hit short and, quite frequently, into the net. Therefore, keep your chin up through the entirety of the service motion until it is completed. (I know Brian Gottfried has made this comment to me a bunch of times, but I am sure there are others.)

    (3) Make a point of slowing down your service motion and delivery. When I start hitting short it usually means that I am tense and my muscles are tight and not relaxed. This makes me try to “arm” the ball instead of hit it with a fluid service delivery that involves the full body. I find that slowing down the delivery and allowing myself a bit more time to concentrate just before I begin the service motion allows me to relax a bit and loosen everything up. (Although I had heard this tip many times before, the last person who mentioned it to me was none other than Rod Laver last October.)

    (4) Also, make a point of not gripping the racquet handle so tightly, and move the hand down closer to the butt of the racquet instead of in the middle of the grip. A small portion of the heel of the hand should ideally even extend out past the end of the butt cap. I have heard the correct pressure to hold the racquet when serving should be like holding a humming bird — just tight enough so it won’t get away but loose enough that you won’t kill or injure it. Also, holding the racquet a bit past the butt cap allows for greater wrist snap and it is pretty much impossible to hit with a hammer grip if your hand is this far down the racquet grip. All of this adds to relaxation — and adds depth, spin and pace — on the service delivery. (This tip comes from none other than Roy Emerson. It is one of his long time favorites.)

    Obviously, there is a lot more to having a good and deep serve than this, and there are many better suited to comment than myself. But these little tips usually work for me when I start hitting the serve short or into the net.

    Marty, all are good Legend reminders. thanks, george

  3. Marty must never work. Question – I may be missing something but how do you ever get to a second serve in a game if your first serve miss makes you “double fault” and thus you are serving your first serve to the next service box?

    Mark, correct … if you hit your first serve into the net, it is a double fault! george

  4. Basically you are recommending that you practice getting only one serve. Having played Platform Tennis for 30 years has helped me focus on getting my serve in. I would love the pros do that, but it will never happen.

    Walt, actually, it is more focused on serving deep; but John Newcombe recommends playing practice matches having JUST one serve. thanks, george

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