By Michael Greene, Adult/Junior Development Director, Windward Lake Club
For too many recreational players, having a reliable serve is more elusive than winning the lottery. One of the biggest reasons for this is an improper grip coupled with poor serving mechanics. While all of us would like greater consistency, better depth, pinpoint accuracy, increased power and diabolical spin from our serves, none of this is attainable without proper technique.
In addition, many players try to go for too much too soon without first understanding the process of building/developing a skill like the serve. When it comes to your serve, picture a ladder where each rung represents increasingly more difficult aspects of the serve such as consistency, depth, placement, power, and spin. All of these performance-based goals are only achievable by first starting at the ground level and learning the proper fundamentals. This essential piece is easily overlooked because of the ever-increasing opportunities and pressure to play competitively. Such players will become increasingly frustrated and may open themselves up to acute or chronic injuries.
For those who take the time to first establish the right grip and quality serve mechanics, climbing the ladder of skill development will result in a serve that is not only effective and reliable under pressure, but also a lifelong weapon. Here are some practical exercises for beginners and anyone whose serve may need a refresher:
For those who have difficulty…
- Maintaining the proper service grip, spend time off the court holding the racquet in the continental/hammer grip. A great time to do this is at the end of the day when you are watching your favorite show. Do this a few minutes each day and before you know it, it will become second nature.
- With the throwing motion associated with serving, practice throwing a spiral with a small hand-sized football.
- With the rhythm of the arms working together, make your own “serving sock” by placing a tennis ball inside a sock that stretches to about 27”, the length of a standard racquet. Practice the rhythm of the arms going down together/up together along with the entire swing as you feel the weight of the ball at the end of the sock move through the air without any hitches.
The following is a simple on-court progression for developing your service motion.
Court Position: Start half-way between the service line and the net for Steps 1 & 2
Step 1: Toss-Turn-Catch (For right-handed players, start sideways to the net and your right hand by your right ear.)
- a) Toss to the imaginary 1 o’clock spot in the air
- b) Turn your body to the front
- c) Catch the ball at the 1 o’clock spot in the air with your right arm fully extended
Step 2: Toss-Turn-Tap
Same as Step 1, except start your racquet by your right ear.
Court Position: Move back to the service line for Step 3
Step 3: Toss-Turn-Tap and Follow Through (This is commonly known as the half serve.)
Make sure to finish your follow-through on the opposite side of your body with your racquet on edge between your arm and side.
Court Position: Move back half-way between the service line and baseline for Step 4
Step 4: The “bridge” between the half serve and full serve
- a) Start the hands together, but only move the racquet arm down and around into the half serve position.
- b) Pause for 3 seconds
- c) Toss-Turn-Tap and Follow Through
Court Position: Move back to the baseline for Step 5
Step 5: Full Serve – Rhythm of the arms along with the hitting portion.
*Remember to take your time, be smooth and fluid, and repeat each step until you have a consistent toss and are balanced when you are finished.
Hometown (City/State): Suwanee, Georgia
How did you get involved in teaching tennis? My first experience teaching tennis was at the age of 16 as a summer camp counselor where tennis was one of the many scheduled activities. However, I would say my official training began at the age of 18 when one of the local pros, Poncho Sanhueza, took me under his wing at the public tennis courts in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.
Best part of your game? The Mental Side: Analyzing my opponent’s weaknesses; then planning and executing a winning strategy.
Dream doubles match would be me and… My dad; a great athlete who I idolized growing up, but never got a chance to compete with due to the crippling effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis at a young age.
When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… Spending quality time with my family, watching previous seasons of “Survivor,” or playing too many games on my phone.
My favorite tennis memory is: There are so many, but one of the top tennis memories is attending both the Australian Open and US Open in the same year, 1992.
My favorite professional player is: I typically like to cheer for the underdog. However, it was Roscoe Tanner when I was growing up, since I am also from the Chattanooga area and attended the same high school, Baylor.
#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: My ultimate passion for people. Tennis allows me the opportunity to not only develop relationships with people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, but to be a positive influence in their tennis games and overall lives.
What important tennis message do you want to promote? Tennis is more than a sport. No matter what age, tennis serves as a pathway for a longer, more enjoyable and meaningful life.