December 15, 2008

Simplify My Serve . . . Please!

We have all heard it - the serve is the most important stroke in tennis. It's the one time you have absolute control over the ball and you dictate exactly where it's going and what the other players will do in response. So I am the first to agree about the importance of the serve.

The problem for me is I just haven't gotten my serve to the point of being any kind of "weapon" in a match. And I think its just because there are just too many things to think about when serving. If you practice serving with an instructor, I'm guessing the litany of "service tips" sounds familiar to you: "Keep your chin up. Keep your tossing arm up longer. Get your toss out in front. Further in front. Accelerate the racquet before you hit the ball. Aim to the right of the target. Aim more to the right. Apply more spin. You're not keeping your chin up . . . " and blah, blah, blah.

The problem is I can't remember all of these things when the time comes to hit an actual serve in an actual match. Right now, I need a "simple serve" - something worked down to the most basic level that I can actually apply and feel good about in a match. So I've decided for the next few matches, I will try to think about only 3 things when I'm serving. And I'll work on these 3 things by practicing serves on my own over the next several weeks. And when these things become a part of my serve to the point where I don't have to think about them quite so much, I'll add something else. I'm not saying I won't EVER try to do EVERYTHING right. But I have enough to deal with mentally during my matches and I'm sure I would relax so much if I could just focus on a few things when serving.

Your list of 3 things might be a little different from mine. But try simplifying your serve by thinking about just 3 things. Here are my 3 simple things:

1. Toss - I get it. The whole serve depends on putting that toss in the right spot. I get impatient and just throw it up and hit every toss, no matter what. I am going to take my time and wait for a good toss (not the perfect toss, just a good toss).

2. Placement - I am going to try and put my serve in a specific spot, hoping to control what happens in the next shot or two from there. For example, if I can serve wide and draw the receiver off the court, maybe the net girl won't move quite fast enough to close up the middle giving me (or my partner) an easy winner down the middle that will have little chance of going out.

3. Spin - For me, this is the difference between my first serve and second serve. If you're my receiver, you might not see any difference in those two serves. But I am going to try and at least think about spin before I hit each serve and see if I can make your job a little more difficult.

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