Now that the first day of tennis practice has arrived for many middle and high schoolers, there will be a sudden panic and rush to the practice court to improve the most difficult stroke in the game of tennis: the serve. It doesn’t matter if you are a new player or a seasoned senior player, the serve can be your most elusive stroke. Whether you are trying to learn or master your serve there are three key factors to your success.
Three main issues with the serve
1. Ball toss
2. Hitting at full extension
3. Head up
1. Ball toss: If you have an inconsistent serve you probably have an inconsistent toss. This is the number one problem with poor serving. A couple of things to remember to help you get that perfect toss. If your ball goes into the net you toss may be too low. If your ball goes long, your toss may be too far behind you. If you are chasing your ball to hit it, lord knows where it will go. How do you fix these problem? Easy, practice, practice, practice! Not the serve, just the toss. Place a bucket just in front of you where your ball should land if you where serving. Now toss the ball until you can get it to land in the bucket twenty times. Make sure your elbow is locked, wrist back and you are tossing to a height high enough for your racquet to be fully extended above your head. (Raise your racquet to full extension and hold that spot in your head to know how high to toss) Remember it is a gentle toss, think of yourself gently tossing an egg.
2. Hitting the ball at full extension: With our desire to hit a powerful serve we tend to hit down on the ball and usually into the net. Focus on making sure your arm is fully extended and you are making contact with the ball at full extension. Many players tend to keep their elbow bent and consequently hit down on the ball. A great practice exercise is to practice throwing the ball into the service box. When you want to make a big throw you attempt to release the ball higher. (This is why baseball players tend to have a good serve) You would often see our family with softballs rather than tennis balls on the tennis court.
3. Keep your head up: Dropping your head when you make contact is probably the most common mistake. If your ball is going into the net check that you are keeping your head up. If you drop your tossing arm too early your head will naturally come down. So think about keeping that tossing arm up as long as you can. To practice keeping your head up, slow down your serve and exaggerate holding your head up as long as you can. Try not to look to where your ball is going to land because this will cause your head to pull down.
So whether you are a seasoned tennis player or a new player trying to make the school team, with a little practice you can nail that serve. When your serve is failing you think toss, extend, head up and see if you can get it back on track. Most importantly, practice, practice, practice!