A big serve is a huge weapon in tennis. A powerful and accurate serve can allow you to control play, keep your opponent on the defensive and win a lot of short points.
In order to serve well, you need to have reliable mechanics, an effective pre-serve routine and a range of different serves. In addition, top servers know how to disguise their serve, so their opponent can not determine what kind of serve is coming their way. Furthermore, you need to understand the psychology behind serving well. In my view, there are two kinds of psychology related to serving. The internal psychology and the external psychology.
The External Psychology
Serving in tennis is a lot like pitching in baseball. In order to be effective as a pitcher, you need to master a variety of pitches and a variety of pitching locations. A baseball pitcher needs to keep a batter guessing as to the location of the pitch, the movement of the pitch and the location of the ball. These same concepts hold true in tennis when the server needs to keep his or her adversary off balance, confused and, when possible, guessing wrong. In short, if your adversary does not know where and how the ball will bounce, it is very hard to react to it properly.
A great server can move the ball around the serving box with different speeds, different spins and with great disguise. Being able to serve down the middle, out wide and into your opponents body makes you a tougher player. In addition, if you can disguise your serve, you can create a lot pressure for your adversary. Coming in behind your serve and attacking the net periodically, will also help to keep you opponent guessing as to what you will do next and keep him or her off balance.
Adjusting Your Serve To Attack Your Opponent's Body Type
In general, taller players have difficulty handling a serve into their body. Tall athletes like to extend their arms on the ball, so a serve out wide or a serve down the middle may be easier for them to return effectively, than is s a serve which jams them. Taller players also often find it hard to manage a serve which skids or slides and stays close to the ground.
Conversely, shorter players tend to handle balls that are served into their body better than do taller players. Obviously, because of their shorter reach, balls which require shorter players to extend for are usually more difficult for them to return. Similarly, balls which kick up high can be tough for diminutive players.
Realize that these are general rules and there are always exceptions to them. However, you will find it useful to observe your opponents closely and see if these strategies seem to apply to their strengths and weaknesses. If you have access to video of your opponents’ previous matches, these would be useful patterns to note.
Adjust Your Serve For Different Surfaces
Realize that the tennis ball behaves differently on different surfaces. Clay, for example will slow down the pace of a big serve. On the other hand, a hard, flat serve can be a powerful and effective weapon on grass or on a hard court.
Adjusting Your Serve To The Score In The Match
Smart players consider the score when they step to the line to serve. If you are ahead forty-love, this is the time to be aggressive on your first and second serves. If you are behind in the game or the match, you may need to consider a more conservative serving strategy.
The Internal Psychology
The internal psychology refers to the players ability to develop the right mental state for serving effectively. Most tennis players who I coach want to “serve in the zone. " In order to do this, they need develop a state of mind in which they are relaxed, focused and confident. I teach tennis pros how to place themselves in a hypnotic trance prior to serving and how to develop the right blend of relaxation, focus and confidence.
Once players learn how to integrate tools like relaxation training, visualization, self-hypnosis and positive self-talk into their serving routine, they tend to serve quite effectively. These skills are not complicated, but they take a little time and a little practice. Mastering the mental part of serving is a lot like learning serving mechanics. I generally teach relaxation techniques first and then teach people visualization and then self-hypnosis.
Different players require different kinds of mental training and psychological tools. One tennis player needed a hypnotic trance which helped him to feel more confident. Another needed to breathe deeply five times before every serve in order to relax. A female player used hypnosis to eliminate distractions.
Many of these top players use our stay in the zone cd program prior to learn how to get into a mental state which has the right balance of the three elements mentioned above. This program has a total of more than twenty trances for serious athletes.
Once you master the internal and the external psychologies of serving your game will probably move up a few notches and you will start to win more matches.
If you want a program which will teach you how to develop the right mental state of mind for serving go to http://www.stayinthezone.com/get_stay.htm
Jay P. Granat, Ph. D. is a psychotherapist and the founder of http://www.stayinthezone.com He has written several books and developed several programs to help people perform to their fullest potential at sports, at work and at school. Dr. Granat, a former university professor, has appeared in The New York Times, Good Morning America, AP, ESPN, Golf Digest, The BBC and The CBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org His books include Zone Tennis and Get Into The Zone In Just One Minute. He is also the author of How To Get Into The Zone With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnosis, How To Lower Your Golf Score With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnosis, 101 Ways To Break Out Of A Hitting Slump and Bed Time Stories For Young Athletes. Golf Digest named Dr. Granat one of America's Top Ten Mental Gurus. He was recently featured in a documentary film on long distance running. Dr. Granat writes a weekly column for three newspapers.