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Serving With A Purpose

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Sherapova serving motion
Photo: Flickr/supersteve3d

Practice serving drills with a defined purpose for better performance in matches

By Stewart Russell, Partner, Universal Tennis Management

Once players are proficient in their service game, “purposeful serving” becomes an integral part in setting the tone for a positive outcome for both singles and doubles players.

For example, so-called “target serving” has long been a staple instructional method for most tennis coaches. The following is a drill that might help clarify a server’s intended purpose in more detail:

I like to use four targets (wide, body right, body left, and “T”) instead of the traditional three (wide, body, T). You also can stagger the targets with depth into the service box to work on spin. For instance: short/wide, adding a spin component for slicing and kick serves.

Singles players — The desired outcome should be to get a somewhat predictable return/response that affords the player/student the ability to shade to their strength as the all-important plus-one stroke.

Doubles players — The desired outcome should be to get a somewhat predictable return/response that affords the player/student net partner the opportunity to poach. Speed is important, but location is paramount!

Key points of emphasis
Hybrid serve — This can be a first or second serve. The in-between speed that limits the ability of the returner to attack the net person. The ¾ speed serve should be practiced just as much as traditional first and second serves.

Four zones instead of three cones — Students feel the ability to still swing to a zone as opposed to aiming at a cone and understand margins better. The speed of the serve is an important variable when discussing limiting returners options, but location is vital.

The average length of an ATP/WTA point is approximately four to six shots. Please practice making stroke one more purposeful to make shot three easier!

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