Learning How to Time Your Serve

I have already talked about the tennis serve in my article on becoming the master of your own serve, but today I wanted to take it a little bit deeper. In the first in a series of posts talking about the serve, which is the key stroke in your arsenal. A good serve, first or second is a great way for us, as amateur tennis players to establish our dominance in a game. A strong tennis serve will show your opponents that you mean business out there on the court, and will go some way toward giving you the psychological advantage as the game progresses.

Timing is everything when it comes to a good tennis serve. If your timing is off, then everything else falls further out of sync and you can easily find yourself double faulting your way out of the game.

Cartoon of a man serving a tennis ball.

Keeping a rhythm

It may sound rather self-explanatory, but a well-timed serve is all about rhythm. I’m not talking about how good you can dance, but rather having an understanding of the rhythm of your own swing, and the knowledge that it is a full body movement, not something limited to your arms and shoulders. Everything from your fingers to your toes plays a part in your swing, and being able to feel that through your entire body is a key.

 Andy Murray Serving

Say it with a Cadence

I was watching a video the other day, because yes, even I am always looking for new ways to improve my tennis game. I found a fantastic little video deep in the online archives, and in it, a tennis coach was talking about the serve and about finding the cadence.

He spoke about a simple cadence that could be spoken when serving that would help you keep your timing right.

Toss – Hit.

It is that simple, or at least, he made it look that simple. The premise of it was that you should spend equal time on the toss and the hit, so it you speak the words as you do them, your timing improves.

Toss (1, 2) and Hit (1, 2).

It seems straight forward, but it takes more practice than I or any tennis player would care to admit. Practice makes perfect, and a well-timed swing is not crafted overnight.

 Condensed timelapse of a serve

Stay in Balance

I have talked about the importance of balance in one of my earlier posts where I dwelled on the matter of footwork and generating power in your shots. To come back to that matter now, a well struck serve is heavily dependent on your balance. Balance between the height of the toss compared to the speed of your swing, as well as balance in your body.

When you are serving, your body is not in a natural position, you have limbs raised and limbs outstretched, you hear is up and you are thinking about several things all at once. If ever there was a time to have your balance sorted both inside and out, it would be before and during your serve.

 Federer ball toss

Finding that contact Point

The great thing about tennis is also the aspect that can make it the most frustrating when learning to play. The game is so unique. When learning to play tennis, we all face the same problems. From amateur tennis players to future Hall of Famers. You can have lesson after lesson from the best coaches in the world, but at the end of the day all they can give you is advice, because everything about the game of tennis is individual. The key aspect is finding that contact point. The part of your racket that is the sweet spot for your shots. Nobody can tell you where this is. You need to find it yourself. Once you have it, the rest will start falling into place, but everything you do, your swing, your ball toss, every movement of your serve will need to be adjusted from the perfect form you have been taught, until it becomes the perfect form for you.

POV Tennis Serve

Making sure you bring the same principles through to match day

The other key thing that you must remember is that it is all well and good perfecting your tennis techniques during lessons and practice times, but you must be able to carry it all through to match day. Being able to stand against the pressure of game day still come through with the goods is the sign of a good tennis player. As amateurs playing tennis, the pressure is not exactly back breaking, but it is there, mainly because we do not want to make fools of ourselves.

The pressure is always there, and it is always felt, and sadly to say, it is the biggest breaker of the timing we have worked so hard to find. Timing is delicate and if one small movement is out of sync, then everything else will be too.

Next time you are out there on the courts, close your eyes for just a moment. Take a deep breath, and start your game when you are ready for it. You don’t want to get accused of slow play, but you don’t want to rush yourself into making mistakes and losing the advantage you have trained so hard to gain.

 Tennis Ball Toss
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