All club tennis players dream of having a first serve that blasts their opponents off the court and provides them with a lot of free points.
A powerful first serve puts pressure on your opponents and forces them to be defensive on their return of serve, giving you a big advantage. They will often hit the ball short if they return it at all, leading to opportunities to put the ball away.
But the majority of club players have trouble hitting a first serve with true pace and the reason is almost always technique.
The most important thing to realise is that you don’t want to muscle the ball on your first serve, but use the kinetic chain in a fluid motion to create fast racquet
Here are key things to remember when trying to increase pace on your first serve:
Make sure the ball toss is just in front of you and in line with your contact shoulder so you can move into the ball at contact.
Make contact at full stretch — the higher the contact point the better the angle to clear the net with pace.
Drop the racquet behind your shoulder to increase the range of motion coming up to the ball.
Coil the hips and shoulders after your ball toss. Ideally, your opponent should see some of your back if you have coiled sufficiently.
Bend the knees as you throw the ball and then explode upwards to make contact, driving through the legs. At contact your arms and legs should be extended.
Maintain racquet motion after contact and follow through forward initially and then down and to the opposite side of your body. The racquet should end up pointing at the fence behind you.
The serve needs the legs, the core and the shoulders to all be strong and efficient to maximise power. When you are in the gym, focus on exercises like squats, planks and shoulder presses that concentrate on these three muscle groups. Also rotator cuff strengthening exercises should be done regularly, but with lighter weights. Big biceps and chests won’t give you any help with your serve.
The throw is almost the same motion as a serve, so increasing your throwing power and speed will have a direct correlation to your serve speed.
Use the kinetic change to power up your serve and take your game to another level.
Tennis coach Warren Urquhart is the owner of Cayman Sports Limited, which provides tennis classes at the Camana Bay Sports Complex and elsewhere on Grand Cayman.