The Serve is Your Moment of Total Control
The service is one of the game’s cornerstones. It is the only time in a match when you are in total control of what is about to happen. The philosophy of serving changed along with the service rule change. That is, now that we can’t disguise the impact between racket and ball, the placement of the service is most important.
There are a few different types of forehand serves: the outside in; the inside out; and the clean under, or no spin serve. It is important that you are able to do all of these serves as your opponent might have more problems with one than he or she does with the other. We should also master the depth of the serve, both long and short.
The serve is also a setup for your favorite 3rd ball attack. Make sure you are aware of the consequences of your serve. If you serve long, step out and get ready for the inevitable long return. Don’t set yourself up for a surprise. If you serve heavy under-spin, be prepared for a short reception or a long push, and so on. Mixing up your serves from forehand to backhand is a good way to change the rhythm of the game.
Two very important factors of the serve are the ball’s height at impact with the racket, and the racket speed at the point of impact. If the impact is too high the angle of the ball will be too steep and the serve will be too high or long. To have a high racket speed you should try to relax your forearm, hand and wrist during the stroke. It is impossible to generate a good, strong spin with a slow racket speed at the impact. If your back swing is too short it is also hard to reach a high racket speed.
When you do long serves the first bounce should be close to the baseline and the impact low so that the serve will be as flat and as fast as possible. On short serves the ball’s first bounce should be close to the net as well as close to the top of the net.
Here are some key points to good serving:
- The Toss: A consistent toss is a basic and necessary skill for good serving.
- The Impact: Let the ball drop, don’t impact with the ball too high.
- Racket Speed: Try to have a high racket speed when you want to create a lot of spin.
- The First Bounce: On long serves the first bounce should be close to the base line. On short serves aim closer to the net.
- Variation: Try to vary the spin, placement and length of your serves. Also mix between forehand and backhand serves.
- Split Vision: Check out where your opponent is standing when s/he is attempting to receive your serve.
- Set up: Serve so you can use your best shots after the serve.
- Originality: Some of the best servers have serves that few players use.
- Be aware: Be prepared for any possible reception. Do not set yourself up for surprises.
- Surprise: Save some serves to use at the end of the sets/game.
Practice a lot of serves!
You don’t even need a sparring partner. Try to think what kind of reception you will get from your serves and most importantly, keep your focus and quality high throughout your service session.