How to make your serve more effective

This is a monthly contribution by tennis coach Marcin Bieniek, who will explain the importance of a good serve and give us tips on how to make our serve as effective as possible.

There is no doubt that serve is one of the most important strokes in tennis. If we look at the top level, many points are built on powerful and precise serves, so that the next winning shot is just a formality. The lower levels are not much different. The better the serve, the easier it is to win the point, so it is priority to work on serve and make this stroke a weapon.

Karolina Pliskova was the 2016 WTA ace leader with 530 aces, compared to No.2 Serena Williams who hit 324 aces.

Beginners look at the serve from different perspective than advanced athletes. Beginners’ goal is to put the ball into the service box to start the rally. Advanced players’ goal is to get advantage with serve and force the rival to return easy ball so they can hit winner or put even more pressure on the opponent. It is not surprising that level of performance requires different skills to be successful, but one thing is common for all tennis players: they have to improve their serve.

There are a lot of ways to work on your serve. You can improve power of delivery to scare your rivals. You can make sure that serve is more precise, so there is no problem to place the ball to the specific spot even under pressure. Another way to improve your delivery is by working on spin. Slice, flat, topspin and kick variations are available, so players have to try to possess all of these advantages. As you can see, there are many opportunities to make your serve a really dangerous weapon, but it can happen only if proper practice routines are incorporated on a daily basis.

Sabine Lisicki holds a record for the fastest WTA serve — 210.8 km/h (131.0 mph).

Improving serve is no different than working on any other stroke. If you want to win more service games, you have to spend a lot of hours on conscious on-court and off-court practice drills. Serving once a week is not enough to be dangerous, so you can’t expect great results if you don’t put enough work. Fortunately, I have a simple plan for you that you can incorporate even today. These 3 areas are crucial to develop solid stroke and win matches in an easier and faster way.

1. REPETITION

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. You probably hear that all the time, but there is no magic. If you want to achieve good level of performance, you need to hit a lot of balls. The advantage that serve has over other strokes is the fact that you can work on it on your own. You don’t need a coach or partner to improve delivery. All you need is motivation, balls, and basket to be able to perform 60-80 shots in a row.

A tennis ball basket will help you focus on your serves.

Look for a basket that you don’t have to bend for balls at the bottom. This Babolat Tennis Ball Cart is great, as well as this Gamma Ballhopper Pro Plus Basket.

2. TECHNIQUE

Venus Williams, former serve speed record holder

It all comes down to proper technique. You can make a lot of reps, but if they are improper, they can bring you more harm than good. That is why I recommend to consult professional tennis coach about your serve and later on focus on improvement on your own. I know that one hour of private lesson can be expensive, but I can guarantee you that if you will get bad habits, it will cost you much more later to correct it.

3. STRENGTH

The stronger your body, the more opportunities you have to serve effectively. Don’t take me wrong. Strong body doesn’t mean you have to look like a bodybuilder. Strong body means that you can connect all body parts and accelerate the racquet at the end of this coordinated movement. That is why you need some off-court practice to prepare your body for tennis demands. Great way to do it is by using a medicine ball. Do 3-4 sets of 10 reps of shadowing the serve while throwing medicine ball 3 times a week and you will see a big difference in your delivery.

Look for light weight to be able to be dynamic. I recommend this Topspin Medicine Ball.

Serve starts all points in tennis, so it is time to really consider this stroke as your potential weapon. Your body type and height are not limitations – you can serve well, but you have to be aware how to make your delivery more dangerous. Work hard and win easy!

Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website TennisIsland.us. He is also an author of Enjoy Tennis Blog. Marcin has been working with USTA, Top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. Currently he is working with Top 200 ITF female junior. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA. 

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