The final instalment of our Summer or Serving guide enters the tricky territory of the kick serve. Perhaps the hardest serve of all to execute effectively we still think you should have a go! Here's how to get started
Facing a good kick serve can be daunting for the returner. After the ball hits the court (often quite a bit before the service line) it rears up intent, it would seem, on jumping the court fencing. The result is that the receiver has to take the ball at something like shoulder height which makes it very difficult to control. It's reasonably safe against double faults as the ball has plenty of clearance above the net and as the server isn't going for the lines, it is less likely to go out - and that's why the pros love it as a second serve. So as server, what's not to like?
The problem is that it is really difficult to master. The trick is to break it down into its various elements
Do go on line to check out training tips. Try this one on the kick serve from Tennis Evolution
Fed up with the chopper or handshake grip? While that may be a reasonable option, to help you disguise the shot, moving toward a backhand grip may give you a better chance of adding top spin to the ball. As you have to add a lot of powerful spin to make this serve work you should experiment with this.
Thinking of right-handers, for this serve you need to be hitting the ball further toward your left shoulder and over or even behind your head. Standing more square on to the court will help.
Worried that the whole world will see what you are up to? As you learn this serve this may be inevitable but if your kick is good it will more than compensate. As you get more proficient at all these serves, by changing your body position, bending your knees or adapting your toss for the flat and slice serves, disguise become more possible.
See also our summer of serving guide to where to stand and how to toss the ball.
Applying top spin
The principle of the kick serve is simple enough - you are trying to apply topspin to the ball. It's the same spin that your topspin backand or forehand uses and it has a similar effect, arching the trajectory of the ball, bringing it down quickly and causing it to continue to spin as it kicks off the court. You need to swing fast to get this spin.
As with the slice serve, you are aiming to brush up on the ball, but this time, if the ball is a clock face, your racket is brushing up from 7 o clock to 11 o clock. Alternatively, think of the racket travelling in an upwards, vertical path.
Aim for at least twice the height of the net. It may feel as if you going to send the ball way over the back fence but if the spin is correctly applied, it will fall neatly into court and keep moving to the receiver's left. This is why it is such a good serve to your opponent's backhand. They are going to have to hit a high back hand ball and almost no one likes that.
MAKE A CIRCULAR FOLLOW THROUGH
For right handed players, the racket is moving from left to right, your wrist turns and your palm faces the back of the court, then it scoops around to finish in front of the body. This takes some getting used to, so try it in slow mo, and in two stages, finishing with your palm facing back and the racket parallel to the baseline, then letting your arm come through in front of the body.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
- Don't go through the ball or push through it
- Don't rush; you will absorb more if you take it slowly
- Don't worry if you keep hitting the ball with the edge of your racket; it's a common mistake but means you are getting close to hitting it correctly.