Friday, 12 September 2008

Reliable First and Second Serve

I've always struggled with getting a reliable second serve. I'm one of those guys who can do damage with his serve when it's working but when it's not I double fault regularly. Obviously your serve is only as good as your second serve so I've tried lots of ways to make it solid. In general I find that once I've warmed up properly and played myself in my serve starts to get consistent.

The problem is that in many matches this means I often lose the first couple of service games leaving me at a big disadvantage. Also my serve can just go hay wire for a game and then I lose another. Of course I just need to lose one service game per set to lose it so it's often a problem.

The methods I've tried to make my serve consistent are pretty standard
  • take some pace off
  • don't jump into it
  • focus more on spin
They help a bit more sometims I feel they actually hurt my serve more than help. Primarily because they don't help me develop a rhythmn. Related to some previous posts I feel your body has it's own set routine for all tennis shots. That's what practise is about, instilling that routine. There are things your body finds easier to adapt these routines to than others. The things I've tried often end up changing the timing of things (taking pace off), taking things away (don't jump), or adding something (more spin) to the natural routine. This all ends up as one extra thing to think of. thus I'm thinking more about the technique of serving than I am about beating my opponent and reacting quickly etc.

so my new approach that makes things much simpler is to practise varying the height of my ball toss. My reason being, the bigger the serve the higher the ball toss needs to be, in general. Therefore to make a more reliable serve with less pace with out changing anything about my serve I can just throw it lower or hit it at a lower point, depending on your perpective. The beauty of this is that the timing and routine aspects of the serve will all be the same. I don't have to adjust, add or even remove anything. I just throw the ball up and hit it. I'm free to think about the spin and direction I'm going to apply and once I get comfortable and relaxed I'll begin thinking much more about tactics than about the serve.

The nicest feature is that when I want a bigger serve I just have to get good at placing the ball high enough and forward enough. This does put pressure on my ability to toss the ball accurately but then that's all part of the game.
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