tennis coaching - the single most important stroke
What's the single most important stroke, the one you much
practice the most, put the most energy and time into and is going to win
you the most games? Some will say the forehand loop, some the backhand
chop, but to maximize you winning potential, these are both wrong. The
one stroke you should practice most is the serve, YES the serve!
You can practice every other stroke in the book till the cows come home,
but in a game you may never get the opportunity to play them, because
you opponent control the game too well, or you are unable to set up the
ball to play that stoke. Serves you are guaranteed to be able to play,
and not just a few, but half the points in a match!
I've pointed this out to many players, and all agree that it's
important, but for the majority the real importance simply does not sink
in. For the few that do 'get it' and practice serves on a regular basis,
their game shows immediate improvements, and often results in them
advancing a grade!
On serves you have complete control over all of these factors:
- type of spin
- amount of spin
- speed of the ball
- placement of the ball to any location on the table
You must use this control to your advantage! Use it to
either win points outright, to setup a third ball attack, or even to
intimidate your opponents with your huge arsenal of variations!
Although the serve of many top players may seem to like a simple and
effortless motion, there is a lot of effort going into them, but it does
not show since they have become so efficient at it and disguise it so
You should put a lot of energy into most serves if you want them to be
effective and win you points. Sometimes this energy will go into speed,
sometimes into heavy spin, and sometimes it does not go into the ball at
all, but into a fake motion to make it appear like you're putting a lot
of speed or spin into the ball, but the energy should almost always be
So if you're putting so much energy into the ball, how do you make sure
it does not bounce off the end of the table? Well the key is for short
serves to put this energy into spin instead. You can do this by hitting
varying the spot where you contact the ball. For example for a fast
swinging pendulum serve, if you hit the back of the ball, you'll get a
lot of speed, but if you contact the side of the ball, you can make the
ball bounce very short and slow, but with a huge amounts of spin. Try it
and you'll see what I mean!
Mix this up with contact points a little more towards the top or bottom
of the ball, and serve this in a range of locations, and you have a wide
variety of serves with variations in spin, speed and location, all from
a single swing with only subtle visible changes.
The key point in practicing these serves is NOT to get as much spin as
possible (although this can already win you many cheap point in lower
grades), but to focus on variation and disguising the type of serves
that you're playing.
I'll leave further tips on serves for the next article because it's a
huge subject, but I can guarantee if you do practice your serves
regularly, it will improve your game. The real good thing is that you
don't even need a partner to do it... all you need is a box of balls and
access to a table. So give it go, you will not be disappointed!