Archive for the ‘Serves & Returns’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Tennis accuracy again. The serve

Last week I showed you a video of coach Mauro Marcos hitting forehands for accuracy. I decided to take the same kinds of drills to the service boxes.

I slowed everything way down and simply aimed at targets that would pull someone WAAAAAAAY off the court.

Yes, I’m sure we all love to see a 125 mph out wide serve, but truly I’ve been beaten terribly by a 60 mph serve that took me so far off the court I’d need a bicycle to get back.

Get yourself some cheap cones at Sports Authority or simply use tennis ball cans. Put them at 3 feet from the service line on the wide side line of the service box. Swinging nice and smooth try to hit the target area consistently.

When I slowed way down I was able to hit angles that would run the opponent into the next county. Like coach Mauro said, “Accurcy first, power later”. I’m going to hit really slow for about a month until I can at will hit those targets. Then I’ll add a tiny bit more power. If my accuracy suffers, I’ll go back to hitting slower.

I really believe this exercise will help you devastate your opponents with wide serves.

PostHeaderIcon Wide Tennis Serve means late night Stosur moves on

I stayed up really late last night to watch the latest ending match for women at the U.S. Open. Samantha Stosur defeated Elena Dementieva in some of the highest quality women’s tennis I’ve seen in a long time.  What I noticed during the match was the effectiveness of the wide kick serve Stosur hit repeatedly to the ad court.

Samantha Stosur

Samantha Stosur hitting a kick serve to the ad court

Samantha is only 5’7 1/2″ tall (1.72m) yet she hit that serve over and over at a decent pace. Even though Dementieva got to the ball virtually every time, only once in a while was she really able to smack a back hand that took control of the point. Most of the time Dementieva was so far off the court that Stosur was able to take control of the point.

If little Samantha Stosur was able to take control of one of the most in shape, fast and fantastic groundstrokers ever by hitting a serve out wide, I think it might be a good idea if we practiced it too.

Just take a rope or extention cord and put one end at the centerstrap and the other end on the wide corner of the service box. On the ad side try to serve to the right hand side of the rope and on the deuce side try to hit to the left hand side of the rope. Hit slow at first and only increase your speed when you can consistently hit your target.

Put this into play in a match and watch your fat buddies scramble.

PostHeaderIcon Innovative tennis serve with 12 backscratches :)

PostHeaderIcon I quit serving . . .

 . . . for a day.

This weekend was hot in Virginia Beach. It was supposed to be in the low 80’s and it was actually in the low 90’s. 10 degrees makes a big difference. I was practicing my serve after my ball machine groundstroke practice and I pretty much sucked. I was hot, sweating like a pig and, as always on a hot day at the courts here, no one to complain to.

I thought to myself, “Self, you’re tossing all over the place. You’re burning up out here hitting balls that have no chance of going in. You’re teaching your muscles nothing except to be ready for chaos on each serve. . . this has to stop.”

So, I started going through my entire serve ritual and motion as if I was going to serve, but I didn’t hit the ball. I just started practicing my toss . . .maybe I did 50 of those before the heat got to me.

I went home that night and started reading everything I could get my hands on about the toss. Of course, there was some conflicting info from different coaches, but I didn’t let that deter me.

The best info I got was at John Yandell’s membership site Tennis I read indepth articles about the toss and tossing theory. I watched high speed video of about 50 pros to find one close enough to my serving motion to emulate. I practiced in the house that night.

The next day every couple hours I would go out side and do the same drill in my driveway as I was doing on the court the day before. Things were feeling pretty good.

I then went out on the court and tried things out and I had a big improvement over the previous day. I only had to make some small changes to get things back on track.

The point is that hot, miserable day made me stop and concentrate on one piece of this giant puzzle called a serve and improve it a little.

So, quit serving for a day (or more if you need to) and work on your toss. It will save you hundreds and hundreds of wasted practice serves in the future.

PostHeaderIcon Tennis serve toss drill

I was doing a video shoot this past weekend with Coach Kyril of and Coach Mauro Marcos. During the break I was pondering how high I should toss for my serve.

Throughout the weekend I kept hearing from these guys, “Toss higher, toss higher”. I wanted to really get some gauge of how high I really was tossing. When you are out in the middle of the court it’s hard to have a reference of how high the ball is actually going.

Tennis serve tossing drill

You can practice your toss by getting near a wall.

By standing near a wall or fence that has some kind of reference on it (in this case the railing from the spectator area of the court) you can see how high you are actually tossing the ball and start to get a feel of how much arm you have to put into it to get it up that high.

Since you always want to toss out in front you can stand whatever distance you need to be from the wall. I was taught 1-2 feet for flat serve and zero to 1 foot for slice, kick and topspin.

It’s a handy little drill to add consistency to your serve.

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PostHeaderIcon Tennis underhand serve

The tennis underhand serve is a good thing to practice just in case you develop any rotator cuff problems. It’s not as easy as it looks, but it’s certainly worth having in your arsenal either as a surprise serve (which isn’t very well respected unless you’re Michael Chang)  or as a desperation serve to keep you playing when your shoulder can’t handle the normal overhead serve.

Click here to see  Jeff Cooper demonstrating the technique.

PostHeaderIcon Get your tennis serve in

There’s a dumb title to a posting. Of course, you’ve got to get the serve in. What I’m talking about here is in your first service game.

Avoid the temptation to hit a big powerful serve to intimidate your opponent. The first game of the match is a time when you get the serve in and aim it at your opponent’s weaker side.

You absolutely don’t want the person to get a giant boost of confidence by watching you double fault the first game away to them.

PostHeaderIcon Inexpensive tennis serve radar gun

Now don’t go injuring yourself trying to get fast serve speeds if you aren’t in shape for it. But this little radar gun can tell you where you are now and show your improvement over time.

Being a cheap device, it has its drawbacks.

1. It sits in the court, so there is a possibility you will hit it with the ball.

2. The display goes off very quickly after you get your reading.

3. It is extremely angle sensitive and will give a different reading for a serve down the T than from the same speed serve aimed at the corner.

The brand I have is called a “SpeedTracX”. On the box it says it will work for Tennis, Hockey, Soccer, Baseball, Snow Skiing, Racquetball, Street Hockey, Speed Skating and In Line Skating.

An inexpensive radar device can help you see how fast your serves and ground strokes are travelling.

 I was able to consistently keep my serve in the 70’s according to this device. What I don’t know is how this device compares to the devices used at a pro tournament. Obviously the quality isn’t as good, but what I’m wondering is what a pro radar device would read when this device reads 77 miles per hour.

This radar gun is positioned about the midway position of the service box. By the time sees the ball it is already 25 percent of the distance to it’s destination and the ball is already slowing down. I think (I’ll have to check this out) the pros are clocked as the ball leaves the racket. If that’s true, then my serve would probably be in the low 90s. Of course, I’m only guessing. If anyone wants to chime in here with some real info on radar guns, I’m all ears.

Oh, I forgot. The SpeedTracX will also clock your groundstrokes if you hit right over top of it. AND . . . .and this is a BIG “and”. The looser I would swing the faster the ball would go. Try to muscle it and the readings would plummet in the 50s.

Price: About $150.00

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PostHeaderIcon Tennis Injuries Can Do You Good

Last August I did about 1000 kick serves without pain or injury or even thinking anything about it. By mid september my entire right arm was numb down to the wrist and an MRI of my spine showed that I had a bulging disc . . . I think they said around the C5 vertibrae.

I could practice ground strokes with no problem, but serves were definitely out of the question. By December when I was due to shoot our training DVD I was able to hit very easy serves….at least enough to get my video done.

So what is good about this?

The injury really brought to light the fact that I was muscling my serves and that fact probably contributed heavily to my injury. As I very slowly started serving again I was forced to concentrate on a smooth and fluid service motion. I found that by just standing there i.e., no jumping into the serve, I could hit it just as fast as I could when I tensed up and really cranked it.

Also, during that recovery period I was forced to work on placement of the serve. This has also improved greatly.

One other thing I changed just yesterday while I was practicing on Easter Sunday. I changed my grip slightly toward an eastern backhand grip. Since I’m not hitting as hard as I was pre-injury, I figured I need to put some more action on the ball. This slight change of grip helped me do that.

The Eastern Backhand Grip gives me more action on the serve and more net clearance too.

So, you can see. Sometimes an injury can bring to light changes you need to make in your technique. Yes, it’s a shame when you are injured, but if you take the time to evaluate what happened to you, you just might become a better tennis player. 

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PostHeaderIcon Ace Attack Tennis Serve Machine

Yesterday I mentioned a tennis serve machine that I’m dying to try out.

Here are a few videos of the set up and the machine in action.

The video of the machine in action is a little repetitive, but you can clearly see the machine working.

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