Watch your Service toss

 keep your eyes on the ball as you toss for serve  

   Are you having trouble with your toss? Pay attention to where you are looking as you toss the tennis ball. If you are already looking up above your head before the ball gets there, that may be the problem. You’ve heard of hand-eye coordination? Let’s call this the hand-eye connection.

Watch your toss
Watch your service toss from start to finish

   As you start your service motion, watch the ball in your hand all the way through the toss motion and into the air. This simple connection between your eyes, brain and hand will make your toss placement more consistent.

Want more pointers on your service toss? See our other tip The Service Toss

Tennis Strokes

Through the years I’ve given lots of tips regarding specific strokes and tactics. I think it’s good, once in a while, to step back, get general, and look at the basics. Below are some basics to the main strokes in tennis. You’ll see a theme in all of them, consistency.

Serve – Starting the point. That is the main purpose of this stroke. It is also the most important thing to remember. Start the point. Players at all levels get caught up trying to do too much with their serve and forget that to win your serve, you’ve got to get it in (preferably on the first serve). So how do you get it in? 1. Take a little off of it. The pros can blast aces, you can blast faults. 2. Reach up and hit the ball at the highest point you can. If you climb a ladder to the point where you contact the ball, you can see more of the service box over the net. The higher you hit the ball, the better your chance of hitting the box. 3. Add topspin to your serve. Use a continental grip (like holding a hammer), swing up with a motion from about 7 to 1 on the clock face.

Forehand – Once again the name of the game is consistency. And once again, one of the best ways to be more consistent is with topspin. With topspin you can hit the ball harder and deeper in the court, and give your opponent a difficult ball to hit. Use a western or semi-western grip (like holding a frying pan) and swing from low to high. Your follow through should go over your opposite shoulder.

Backhand – You guessed it, get it in. This one’s a little trickier. One hand, two hand, slice, drive. Your skill level and type of backhand determine the exact technique, but consistency is still the number one priority. 

Volley – Most people make the volley more difficult than it needs to be. Use a continental grip (like holding a hammer). Keep the racket out in front of you, step forward, and punch or block the ball. There should be little to no back swing.

 Overhead – There are a few important things to remember here… 1. Get the racket up into the ready position (back scratch position)  2. Turn your body sideways to the ball (similar to the serve stance).  3. Point your other hand at the incoming ball. This will force you to turn your shoulders and get the racket arm in the loaded position. Remember to keep your feet moving and use small shuffle steps to adjust to the flight of the ball.

Remember, consistency only comes through practice, focused practice. So get out there and practice the basics!

Kick ‘Serve’ Some Butt pt.2

Last week we discussed how the kick serve can help you win more points. This week we look at the mechanics of actually hitting the kick serve. This is a tough serve to master if you’ve never tried it, but well worth the effort in terms of winning results. Here are the general mechanics of the shot.

  •  Your feet should be pointed, roughly, at the net post (the more side ways to the court you can stand, the better)
  • Use the continental grip (like holding a hammer)
  • Hit up and forward on the ball (imagine the racket face going from 6 to 12 or 7 to 1 on a clock face)

I know this may be hard to visualize, so here is a good series of videos from YouTube that will help.

Kick ‘Serve’ Some Butt

Most of us think that the harder we can serve the better. That’s not usually the case. Of course if you can crush the serve every time, place it where you want, and get it in the box, then read no further. Ok, now that the mere mortals are still reading, lets look at a good serve option, the kick serve.

There are a couple of advantages to the kick serve, especially for doubles.

  • It allows the server more time to get to the net in a serve and volley situation. Since the ball is traveling slower from server to returner, the server has more time to move forward for a better volley position.
  • It makes the returner hit from an uncomfortable position (increasing errors or pouch opportunities). The higher bounce of a good kick serve makes the returner more prone to miss-hit the return.

Think about the opportunities that the kick serve can create as mentioned above and next week we will talk about how to hit a kick serve.

Here is some video from YouTube illustrating the flat serve versus the kick serve.

Maximize your Serve

Last time we talked about perfecting your service toss. This week we focus on maximizing the effectiveness of your serve. Many of us have issues with our serve. Whether it’s trouble with consistency, or a weak second serve, this stroke can start you off shakily.

  • The first priority is to get the first serve in as much as possible, even if you have to hit it softer. Opponents won’t jump on a weak first serve as quickly as they will a weak second serve.

  • Next, try to move the serve around…alternate hitting to their backhand, forehand, and right at them. Pay attention to which position works and go back to it.

  • Lastly, practice, practice, practice. All you need are a bag/basket of balls and a court. Don’t just hit balls without thinking. Play an imaginary game in your head. Are you serving down 15-40, 30 all? Playing a game in your head will help you duplicate and over come the match pressure that makes your serve breakdown.

Service Toss

For the next two weeks we will focus on the serve. It is the only stroke that you initiate, and as such, it is a source for errors and missed opportunities. Today we will look at the service toss. If your toss is bad it’s hard to get the ball in the box, much less, get the full benefit of this stroke that you have 100% control over.

The service toss yips are very frustrating and hard to cure, mainly because the problem is usually mental. If you toss the ball fine when you’re practicing or playing for fun, but have problems when the pressure is on, you’ve got the yips.

 As far as the mechanics of the toss, keep these points in mind.

  • keep your tossing arm straight

  • hold the ball with your finger tips

  • don’t flick your wrist, the only joint in motion should be your shoulder

 That’s it for the mechanics. Now for the mental issues. Try the following.

  • relax, catch any bad tosses and remember, it’s just tennis

  • visualize tossing the ball straight up a chimney

  • if the toss problems continue resolve not to let it affect the rest of your game

  • lastly, practice, practice, practice-strokes that are ingrained will be more reliable

Above all else, have fun out there and enjoy the process not just the outcome. Next time we work on getting the most benefit from your serve.

Serve and “Mosey”

Serve and Mosey

Last week we talked about putting away the angle volley. This week we’ll discuss one of the ways you get to the volley position. In doubles the strategy is traditionally, to serve and volley. In other words, serve and head straight for the net to join your partner.

Sometimes that strategy doesn’t work. For example, your opponent keeps crushing your serve back at your feet as you come to the net, or lobs your return over your partner. In these instances, and if you just don’t feel comfortable serving and charging directly to the net, try the “Serve and Mosey”.

Serve and Mosey simply means serve, hit a ground stroke as an approach shot, and come to net. This lets you concentrate on your serve, step into the court to hit an aggressive ground stroke and advance closer to the net than you would serving and volley at one time.

Remember, the best doubles teams still win the points at the net. How you get there is up to you. Try the serve and mosey.