serving up a winner

For what seems like the hundredth time, you squeeze the fuzzy ball, letting it roll around in your sweaty palm. Stepping back, you bounce it several times, rhythmically, almost as though you were dribbling it to a song in your head. Faster and faster you pound the ball into the clay surface, red dust shooting up from the contact point. You are on the brink: anxious but ready.

The ball shoots out of your hands, climbing skyward. Arching back, you gracefully extend your weapon into the air. Your body resonates as you make contact with the ball in midair. Forcefully the ball races downward, setting aim on its target. Momentarily you pause, and then position yourself for the possible return. Suddenly an ominous voice booms from overhead:

“Fault!”

You sigh disgustedly. If only you were able to get the ball into play, then everything else would fall into place. You know that you cannot win a tennis match without winning your service games. These 5 tips should help clear up any poor serving techniques that you may have inadvertently developed.

1.) Have confidence in yourself: This may be hard at first, especially when you repeatedly slam the ball either into the net or into the next court. If you don’t have the confidence that you can serve, then you won’t be able to, period. It reflects the idea that if you start out negative, then you must work twice as hard to get out of the negative frame of mind, and extend into a positive one. So why not start out confident: it will save you a lot of time mentally overcoming your negativity.

2.) Toss is the key: Tennis coaches preach that the toss is the most critical aspect of the serve. Given that it begins the serving process, it is obvious to see that if your toss is errant, then your serve will be errant as well. Make sure your toss is high enough. If you find that your serves go long, chances are your toss is too low. To ensure that the ball goes in the court, you need to hit down on the ball, which is impossible to do if your toss is low. When you toss it low, you are essentially hitting straight through the ball instead of downwards, effectively aiming your ball far and out instead of nearer and down. Practice the toss: don’t be afraid to catch a toss if it isn’t to your liking, according to Tennis Magazine. It is always better to be cautious than sorry, come match time.

3.) Bend those knees: If you don’t bend your body, then your power is coming strictly from your upper body. Much needed strength and power comes from the lower body. Bending your knees enables you to put your entire body into the swing, instead of allowing your serve to become solely arm motion. Let your racquet drop down your back. Think of it as scratching your lower back with your racquet. The lower the better: that way, when you extend your arm, you get more power since your arm has had more time to gain momentum while raising to the contact point.

4.) Snap, Snap, Snap: No, not snap your fingers like you would to a catchy song. Snap your wrist: hard. This allows the racquet to take the effective downward swing that a good serve requires. If you don’t snap hard, your racquet will not make contact soon or hard enough, and the ball most likely will sail long. Make sure that you snap your wrist in a crisp, clear motion for the greatest effectiveness.

5.) Follow through: Your serve doesn’t end when the racquet makes contact with the ball. This is the equivalent to a resolution in a fiction novel: you cannot just end a story at the climax, just as you cannot end a serve at the highest point of racquet meeting ball. Make sure your arm follows through after the ball takes off. Your racquet should end up across your body on the opposite side of your serving arm. This means that if you are a right-handed server, your racquet will end up towards your left hip. This downward motion from hitting the ball to ending the racquet at your hip ensures that you have hit down instead of out on the ball, meaning your serve will most likely go in the court.

So get out there. Don’t just read this and think: ‘Well I can’t do that; it’s too late to change my habits now.’ As always, there is no time like the present. Pretty soon you will no longer be the one sighing disgustedly on the court. Your opponent will be the disgusted one, because they won’t be able to get a racquet on your killer serves.