What is a good serve? What qualities does a serve have for us to consider it something we can be proud of? In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, we're talking about the qualities that make up a good serve and which ones are the ones you should concentrate on. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
It's time for another episode in the Simple Serve Tips series! In this series, we’re getting up close and personal with the tennis serve. We all know that there are so many moving parts to the serve and it can be hard to get a handle on all of them. So, in this series, we’re looking at the entire serve picture – every little bit of it and how each piece can be improved upon to make your serve a better, more reliable tool in your game.
What Makes A Good Serve?
This week, we're talking about just what makes a good serve. I'm going to let you know what I think and why I think this is a good topic to think about if you want to improve your serve.
There are a number of qualities that go into a good serve. And I'm talking about the qualities of the serve that you hit and that you have to return. I'm not talking about the different components of the serve, like your toss or your racket motion.
So what qualities does a serve need to have for us to consider it to be good? That's what we're talking about. And let me tell you where I'm coming from on this because I think that might help you understand why I think this is an important topic. I've mentioned that I'm teaching an adult beginner tennis clinic. Every time I teach this clinic, the beginner players come up with some really good questions. Questions that require me to come up with really good answers. Not just some typical tennis pro retort.
When teaching the serve, one of the things that these beginners wanted to know was what were they supposed to do to get a good serve. Specifically, they wanted to know how to put more pace and power on their serve. And I explained to them that there are a lot of qualities of a good serve, not just pace and power. And so their beginner serve could be a very good serve despite not having a lot of pace or power.
And when you're thinking about how to improve your own serve, I think it's important for you to think about these other qualities that you might add to make your own serve better. So here are the five qualities I think a good serve can have and the progression of how you should add them to your serve.
Let me throw in a footnote here – I'm talking about a good serve for us everyday, recreational tennis players. Yes, we're very competitive. Yes, some of us have incredible serve and that is a goal we should all be reaching for. But I'm not talking about what the pros are doing here. I'm not talking about working your way up to hitting a 130 mph serve. I'm talking about a really good, solid serve that an everyday, recreational player can definitely achieve.
1. Get The Serve In
The first quality a good serve must have is that it must go in. And I say this because I think often you see players who have hard, flat bullet serves and you realize when you play these people, after a while, you don't have to worry about that serve too much because 8 times out of 10 the serve in out. And you're willing to give them those 2 out of 10 bullets that they actually get in and ace you because, most of the time, you know the serve will be out and they're going to follow it up with a puffball on the second serve.
So the first quality of a good serve that you should be aiming for is to have a serve that is consistently in.
2. Hit Various Targets With Your Serve
I believe the next thing that you should be aiming for is the serve can hit a specific target. You can move your serve around in the box and you can choose a target and pretty consistently hit it. And really, for most of us, all this requires is that you just start thinking about it. You practice it. You choose that target. You think about it when you hit your serve and you go for that target.
And your targets can be as simple as the serve up the T, up the middle. The serve out wide. And the serve at the body. And maybe to start out with it's just up the T or out wide. But I think, once you're been able to master a serve that you can consistently get in the box, the next thing you want to be working on is targeting your serve.
This will help you in setting up your game plan so much. If you know that you're going to hit that first serve out wide, then you know you can come in and be ready to volley up the middle. Or you can hit the serve up the middle, let your partner know what you're going for, and set your partner up for the poach.
3. Add Spin To Your Serve
The third thing I think you need to work on is spin. Spin is important because it helps keep the ball in the box. And definitely, when you're looking for a second serve, something to follow up with your first serve, you need that second serve to be something that reliably goes in. The thing that will help it reliably go in is spin. It will help you to relax when you know your second serve will go in. And, when your first serve is giving you trouble, you can use your second serve as a first serve. And keep using it until you're relaxed and are ready to try your first serve again.
4. Add Depth To Your Serve
The fourth thing I would work on is depth. Hitting deeper serves, hitting shallow serves. For me, I can hit deeper serves and I do try to hit those. I'm not so great at making the shallow serve, certainly not good enough that I go for that as an intentional thing. But hitting a deep serve is great because the deeper that the serve goes in the box, that results in that much less room and that much less time that your opponent has to hit a return.
5. Add Pace To Your Serve
The last thing I would try to add to your serve is pace. Hitting that hard, flat serve with pace that makes the serve so quick that it becomes difficult for your opponent to return. I think pace is great. But I play very few ladies who use pace as the strongest of their serve. I'm sure there are more men who can do it. And if you can do it, that's great. For a recreational player, however, I would put pace as the fifth thing in this progression of qualities that you should work on to improve your serve. And that's just because I think the other four qualities I've mentioned are more important and can give you a much better serve than pace. I also think those four are all easily achievable my almost any recreational player.
Having said that, don't think that I'm not working on adding pace to my ball. Because I am. Because at the end of the day, just because I can move my target around and hit with spin and hit a deep ball, if its not coming fast enough at my opponent, they've got plenty of time to move around and hit whatever kind of return they want. So everyone does not to get some pace on their ball. However, I think these other things can do more to improve your serve before you get to adding pace.
The Five Qualities of a Good Serve
So, in summary, here are the five qualities I think go into a good serve:
1. A good serve goes in.
2. A good serve hits its target.
3. A good serve can be hit with spin as needed.
4. A good serve can be hit with depth.
5. A good serve can be hit with pace.
If you're working with a pro, be sure and have a discussion about the qualities of a good serve and make sure you're working on the aspect of the serve that you think is most important for you right now.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
Check out the links from this episode and the other episodes in the Simple Serve Tips series:
- Simple Serve Tips: Where You Should Stand When You Serve – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 103
- Simple Serve Tips: How and Why to Use the Continental Grip on Your Serve – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 105
- Simple Serve Tips: What Is The Right Service Stance For You? – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 107
- Where to Stand When You're Serving – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 60
If you'd like to check out my first tennis gift guide for this holiday season, with links to other guides I've done in the past, just click on this link:
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