Showing posts with label Tennis Serve. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tennis Serve. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


I’m not a fan of using repetition to practice when training players. I use repetition drills very rarely. Repetition drills are when a player has to hit many balls one after the other, either from a basket feed or with someone at the other end giving you the same ball.

Repetition drills contain very little that is similar to match-play. I understand it looks good to people watching the lesson from a distance outside the court and on Instagram posts but repetition drills offer very little to players wanting to develop a new technique or pattern for their next match.

Often coaches feel that they have done their job by showing the student the new technique and then drilling it many times through repetition. They believe the transfer of information (the new technique being taught) from practice court to match court should happen automatically and is the players responsibility.

This is false. It’s the coach’s job to introduce the new technique AND to create a “Bridge” to match-play so that the player can integrate what they have been taught.

Part of creating that “Bridge” is the ability to recall the key elements of the new technique.  By training the recall abilities of the player you are ensuring a smooth transition from practice court to match court.


I focus mostly on training a player’s RECALL of a new stroke or match-play pattern. Here’s an example which can be used by you for any stroke or pattern you desire…

“John” was trying to improve his serve so that it’s a bigger weapon and can do more damage to his opponent in matches.

I worked with John on his front foot, in the knowledge that a technically better front foot will improve his timing, feel and power, and that will translate into a much better service weapon.

This is the stage I deviate from conventional training methods. Many coaches would have John hit from a basket, perfecting the serve and the front foot in particular for the remainder of the lesson.

This is the “Repetition Method” of teaching a stroke. With basket repetition the player is solely practicing technique by means of muscle memory.

Training a player using the “Recall Method” is different and much more effective than the repetition method, especially later when the player needs to use the technique in matches and under pressure.

Here’s how I trained John’s ability to Recall the key elements of the front foot. There were 5 key components I used that you need to be aware of when training your players:

1.    Common Errors

John and I took note of the common errors that were occurring as he tried to implement the improved front foot during the serve. 

One of those common errors was his tendency to shift his weight onto, and off his Front Foot too quickly during the serve. John was rushing the technique and needed to spend more time on top of his front foot during the service motion.

By identifying the most common errors that occur the player can focus on these common errors and be more aware of their remedies

2.  Strengths and Weaknesses

I asked John which service target was his least preferred option when serving and he told me it was the serve down the “T” (middle) on the deuce side.

This is where we focused our attention mostly in the drills and points that followed.

Make the player aware and practice those vulnerable parts of a player’s new technique that have the potential to cause problems later in matches

3.  “Point” focused

After a very short time of showing John the front foot technique we very quickly progressed to playing points.

The reason is I see no value in repeating the front foot technique many times from a basket, when under match conditions later other factors will be tested. Those “Other Factors” cannot be tested while hitting from a basket.

If you are training tennis players always remember that tennis is competitive and includes scoring… all new techniques must be taught with the understanding that the new technique must help the player win points and that it must hold up under pressure in matches.

4.  Consequences

If there were no consequences to us making errors or playing poorly what would be the point in trying to improve!

Creating consequences for John helped him improve the front foot faster. While playing points John was faced with the following consequences (you can try to introduce these consequences to your players also):

SCORING: Because we played points and kept score (short tie-breaks are perfect), if John’s serve didn’t perform well he lost points and obviously then found it difficult to win!

RESULT: If John didn’t use the front foot well the ball tended to go long over the service line (out). If he used the front foot well the serve would be much better. 

He got immediate feedback on his new front foot technique based on the whether the ball went in or out – consequences!

DECISIONS: Serving from a basket (repetition) doesn’t involve decisions on what type of serve you want to hit. During the points the decisions John made each time he served had consequences.

He had to perform the new front foot technique AND make good decisions about the speed and placement of the serve and live with the consequences such as his opponent
attacking his 2nd serve, approaching net on the Return or simply continually putting him under pressure because his serve is not good enough.

Don’t wait and expect the “Bridge” from practice to match-play to develop automatically. It just won’t happen.

By teaching recall whenever you work on a new stroke or pattern you are ensuring that the player is prepared for up-coming both technically and mentally.

Saturday, April 6, 2019


If you can’t hold serve you can’t win the match 

That’s how important the serve is in tennis. Players with average groundstrokes but great serves have done well in tennis, particularly on the faster surfaces.

The serve is not a complicated stroke but it can be prone to break down under pressure in matches. It’s important therefore to understand the key elements of the serve so that under pressure you can focus on 1 or 2 things that will make it work for you.

Here are the 2 key elements I recommend you focus on when under pressure in matrches. Each of the two elements, if done correctly, will cover any problems you may be having with your serve.


The front foot is the “Bridge” for your serve. It’s the transfer point for your forward movement during the serve.

If this “Bridge” is weak or not operating well enough your serve will lack power, timing and balance.

The Front Foot is therefore responsible for…

1.   Supplying Power

2.  Is the source of Timing

3.  Creating Balance


The wrist puts the ball in. It adapts within the contact zone to meet the ball early, late. Left or right. It is the steering wheel for your serve.

The wrist also transfers the energy within the swing into the ball. Much the same as you throw a ball or crack a whip, your wrist can increase the velocity of the racquet head by accelerating during the swing.

The biggest single problem with most serves is a stiff/ locked wrist. Make sure your wrist is relaxed and flowing in order the transfer efficiently the energy sent to it by the Front Foot.

The Wrist therefore has 2 important functions when serving…

1.   Finding your target

2.  Accelerating the racquet head

Within these two techniques you have the answer to any problem you will experience.

During practice sessions focus on isolating these important two elements to solve problem issues that arise.

Sunday, February 24, 2019


The wrist plays a really important role in the serve. It not only allows you to generate more power but also gives you greater feel for your targets.

In order to perform these jobs the wrist needs to be supple and relaxed.

The most common issues associated with players with serving problems stems from them having wrist that fail to function well, usually because the wrist is locked.

It's really important to have a loose wrist when you serve. Apart from a loose wrist allowing you to generate more power and give you more feel, a loose wrist will also take the pressure off your shoulder joint and therefore prevent injuries in the long term. 

Here are some key check points to help keep your wrist loose on the serve:

1.  Ensure the take back is relaxed
If the take back is relaxed it's almost certain you will hit the serve with a loose wrist. If you are stiff or tight on the take back it's difficult to change to loose during the swing.

Look to see how loose the take back is in the video. Divij Sharan doesn't "carry" the racquet back as if it's a heavy object. He allows the weight of the racquet to "break" the wrist and to relax his arm... there's no tension here at all.

2.  Hit the serve with your wrist, not your arm
The mindset to adopt is one of hitting the ball with your wrist, not your arm. The wrist is the dominant focus when you serve.

A serve with a dominant arm will always be still and lack the power and feel you need.

3.  Release the wrist on the finish of the serve 
As a check point to ensure that your serve is relaxed throughout the serve try to finish with a soft wrist. 

Avoid squeezing the finish and tightening. Often a habit of tightening the finish or the serve creeps into the whole service motion without you realizing it.


Saturday, June 27, 2015


The serve is a unique shot in tennis because its the only "closed skill" shot we hit, meaning we control all the elements from start to finish. All other shots are "open skilled" which means we must react and adapt to what our opponent sends our way.

I believe a big part of serving well is the attitude you bring to serving. If you feel the serve is merely a way to start points then your serve will never be a true weapon. I believe that the serve is your premier weapon and the best opportunity to win points quickly and consistently. You should maintain an aggressive and confident mindset regarding the serve.

Having a more positive, aggressive mindset over time also creates "instinct" that helps you maintain control of your service games, maintain momentum with your service games and the ability to get yourself out of those tricky break point situations that come along sometimes. 

In order to create instinctive service shot selection when a player doesn't have it a coach can introduce key components of service shot selection and the required service mindset by giving the player "tasks" to perform during service games in a match.

These tasks should be introduced during real competition matches to be most effective but can be practiced before tournaments on the practice court also.

I like to give players five tasks, one for each service game. The player focuses on his/her task for one complete service game. The player completes each of the five tasks in rotation, returning to task #1 after they complete task #5.  I make sure that each service task, if done well, will almost certainly set-up a strong service game that should win that game.

Here are 5 examples of service game tasks:

  1. Attempt 2 service aces in this game
  2. Win the 1st and 3rd points of this game
  3. Win 75% of your service points in this game
  4. Win the 1st and 2nd points of this game
  5. Don't commit two consecutive errors in this game

The coach should monitor the players performance during the match and do a post match review of the tasks. Soon the player will begin to think instinctively, adopting the aggressive, confident and smarter persona you were looking to develop.

Saturday, May 10, 2014



The ball toss is one of the most common ailments with many players when serving.  Ana Ivanovic is a player who struggles with her ball toss constantly. 

For many years I have taught the importance of using an intelligent wrist instead of focusing on the ball toss. However the toss is important because the wrist can only operate effectively if the ball is within a reasonable range.  If you have to reach or in some cases step to reach the ball, as Ivanovic does often, your serve will suffer with inconsistency.

The usual cure for a wayward toss is to work on the toss arm so that the ball can be placed in the perfect position for the ball strike.  Ana Ivanovic told me that coaches have been trying to work on her left arm toss for years.  They had tried a variety of drills and gimmicks but the problem still persisted. It was after hearing this that I started looking for an alternative method of creating a more accurate toss.

The problem with players who have erratic ball tosses like Ivanovic is sometimes not a question of training the toss arm; with Ana it’s actually a coordination issue involving both arms. 

A simple drill I like to use to create coordination between the left and right arms is to have the player close their eyes and serve without the advantage of sight.  Think about what happens without sight.  If you can’t see the ball you are forced to resort to feel and timing to hit the ball.

What begins to happen without the advantage of sight is that the toss arm is forced to "find" the racquet arm.  For a few minutes the player will miss the ball completely.  Initially you will swing too soon or too late. You may also swing either too far to the right or too far to the left. With some feed-back from a coach or a friend standing beside you as to where the mistakes are occurring, you begin to calibrate your toss and your swing. Slowly you begin to make some contact, usually “framing” the ball, but soon you are coordinating the rhythm and placement of the ball instinctively.

Once you can consistently contact the ball with your eyes closed you have created true coordination on your serve. You will soon be hitting most of the unsighted serves into the service-box. 

Stop focusing your efforts on your toss arm and start spending time working on the coordination of both arms.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014



In both men’s and women’s tennis the serve has become an extremely offensive weapon.  In today’s game if you can’t win free points with your serve you will struggle to win matches against the best players. 

The most noticeable change has been within the women’s game where the top women players now have extremely offensive serves compared to only 5 years ago.

When you attempt to hit bigger serves you need to propel your whole body forward and into the shot through the use of the legs.  

I have noticed that when players practice out of a basket they nearly always position the basket behind them at the baseline.  This makes sense if you don’t want to walk far to get the next ball.  However it can also create a bad habit of serving and stopping the forward momentum after hitting the ball. The player will limit the forward movement after serving because their next task is to collect a ball from the basket behind them.

Here is a simple trick to promote forward movement into the court after hitting the serve

When practicing the serve, position the basket 2 meters in front of you, in a line towards your target service box.  After each serve, continue the flow of the serve and walk forward toward the basket on the follow-through.  Pick another ball (one ball only) out of the basket and walk back to the baseline to hit the next serve.

Once you have hit several serves you begin to “cheat” by walking directly over the baseline and towards the basket without hesitation.  This is the habit you were looking for, a forward movement into the court after serving.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


To Snap or Pronate, Which is Best?

There are two theories on how to hit a serve.  There are people who believe that “Snapping” the wrist is the best way and others who believe that “Pronating” is the best method of serving. The difference between the two options is difficult to detect visually.

When you Snap the wrist to execute the serve the racquet-head tends to finish with the tip leading and the right and left edges going through contact almost symmetrically.

When you Pronate to hit the serve the left edge (in the case of a right-hander) tends to lead the racquet through the ball.

For me, both styles do the same thing when executed correctly. Both Snapping and Pronating, when done correctly, promote a wrist that dominates the arm during the serve. Whenever the arm dominates the wrist during the serve the result will be a serve lacking feel for your target and reduced racquet-head speed.

A dominant wrist that Snaps or Pronates will give the serve the timing, accuracy and “pop” all players seek. Here are some ideas to help the wrist dominate the arm.

1.  Sitting on the Chair Drill
Sit in a chair facing the court and throw from the sitting position. In order to mimic the exact chain reaction used when serving, align your arm with your chest and make sure your under-arm is parallel with the ground.

Try to throw the ball as far as you can without a follow-through.  Throw only from the wrist.  Soon, the chain reaction from your forearm, through the wrist and into the hand will improve and this will translate into a more intelligent wrist when serving.

2.  Baseline/ Net Band/ Service box Drill

Stand in the centre of the baseline and try to hit the baseline by using a “late” wrist. A late wrist will create an open racquet-face on contact with the ball, sending it long. 

Hit another ball into the service-box on your side of the net. Again, do this by timing the wrist, this time the wrist will need to be “early” on contact with the ball.

The last target is the white net-band.  By gaining experience of a late and early wrist you should now be able to time the contact correctly to hit the white net-band.

Be sure to make changes of depth through the wrist only.  By isolating the wrist to perform this drill you are educating the wrist to not only be more accurate but also dominate the arm during the motion.

3.  Sideline/ Centre Line/ Sideline Drill

Stand in the centre of the baseline and try to hit the singles sideline on the left side, the centre service-line and lastly the singles service-line on the right side.

As you do this exercise don’t make changes with your body position, but simply change the wrist direction.  By isolating the wrist to perform this drill you are again educating the wrist to not only be more accurate but also dominate the arm during the motion.