The serve is the one stroke that a player controls. The sun, the wind, and your opponent’s shots are variables that you cannot control; thus, your serve can be a weapon if you learn how to perfect it.
STEP I: PRACTICE YOUR SERVE
Most players don’t spend enough time practicing their serve and then they wonder why it breaks down under the pressures of a match.
A: Practice the ball toss.
Before you toss the ball, you need to decide which serve you are going to hit. The toss for the first serve remains the same whether you are hitting a flat or slice serve; however, to hit a serve with topspin, your toss has to be adjusted.
- Toss the ball in front and slightly to your right in the 12-1p position for the flat or slice serves.
- Toss the ball slightly behind you in the 11a-12p position for topspin.
B: Practice hitting the serve
The goal is to improve your consistency and also to practice increasing your pace and improving your placement accuracy. When you practice before playing a match, you are developing muscle memory and confidence in your stroke. Thus, in a match situation when tension is an added variable, your serve is less likely to break down.
STEP II: MENTALLY PREPARE FOR THE SERVE
These are simple things you can do that are very effective when employed.
- Choose your serve and visualize it.
- Take a few full breaths before your serve; the objective is to get relaxed.
- Bouncing the ball a few times before you toss the ball serves two purposes: it focuses you and calms your nerves.
STEP III: KNOW YOUR FIRST SERVE
Every player has a favorite serve; it’s their go to serve when they are in trouble or when they want an easy point. Most players use the continental grip or a slight variation of that grip to execute their serve. A relaxed grip is critical for an effective serve because it allows for more racquet head speed and thus more power. It will also aid in a more appropriate follow through which leads to more control. Gripping your racquet too tight is a common issue that impedes wrist action and follow through.