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Tennis Tip #9: Finishing the serve

August 31, 2011
By JAK BEARDSWORTH
There are five distinct stages to the serve, the most intricate shot in the game: 1) visualization, 2) ritual, 3) racket loading/toss, 4) impact and 5) follow-through. In the accompanying image you can see that I am well past the ball striking moment and in the process of finishing my service motion.

My follow-through, or more precisely, the all-important deceleration of the racket, is near its ending point on the left side of my body. I have allowed it to arrive there with a fully relaxed “brakeless” technique by hitting through the ball completely unencumbered of any counter productive, trying-too-hard, excessive, inefficient muscle tension.

To promote this swing freedom you can also see that I’m gripping the racket down low — which I also employ on all my shots — with the butt cap fitting neatly into the concave palm of my hand. This position contributes to the kinetic chain connection of the hips, shoulder, arm and wrist to generate easy racket speed, equaling power.

None other than Pete Sampras — whom I saw recently on the Tennis Channel still serving bombs with, would you believe, a puny wooden racket (Donnay Borg model) in a bring-the-wood-back charity event staged by, who else but John McEnroe — is the best example of this all-time.

I’ve also jumped off my front foot up into the ball striking moment, and then have landed in the court. To maintain balance I have “kicked” my right leg back which also contributes to a biomechanically smooth hitting action.

No worries, this is not a foot fault. Nor is yours if you’re not a “jumper,” and it’s your back leg that lands in the court. In either instance, the ball is being struck prior to touchdown.

Many older players — myself included — first learned this latter technique even before there was a Donnay Borg model. Would you believe that leaving the ground was against the rules back in the day? The front foot had to remain on terra firma, so players used the front foot as a pivot to accommodate the back leg swinging around and into the court, and that technique remains.

So, whether you’re an old-schooler or you’ve embraced today’s approach doesn’t matter, you’ll still need a sustained free wheeling, full range of motion follow-through to fully maximize your serve.

Whether swinging fast or slow (typical of many clubber second serves), avoid slamming the “arm brakes” on after you’ve struck the ball. Understand that it actually takes 3 to 4 feet of the swing path for the human body to bring the racket to a sudden stop which, unfortunately, is not uncommon, and results in swinging and braking beginning at the racket-on-ball moment. Not good.

Instead, try being more like Pistol Pete.

This marks the final installment of the 2011 Summer Tip Series. I hope that you have found them helpful and motivating to always aspire higher.

Good luck!

Jak Beardsworth (USPTA) is based at the Crowne Plaza-Lake Placid Club, and in the winter at Vivante on Charlotte Harbor in Punta, Fla. He can be reached by email at JB1tennis@comcast.net, by phone at 941-626-0097, or through his website www.JakBeardsworthTennis.com

Article Photos

Finishing the serve.
Photo by Shaun Ondak

 
 

 

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