Once I gave a lesson to a good athlete who was struggling with his serve. He loved to smack the first serve as hard as possible because when it went in, it was virtually impossible for anyone to return.
The problem was that it only went in about once out of 10 attempts and 10 percent of the time is just not good enough.
I watched his service motion; it was basically a strong throwing motion. That’s good. His toss was also reasonably consistent. That’s good too.
The problem with this guy was that he was trying to do too much with his first serve. It was all or nothing, followed up with a puny second serve. The first serve roared, the second one squeaked.
I asked him, "what’s the purpose of the first serve?"
"To win the point," he answered.
I told him, "the purpose of a first serve is to put the ball into play."
I had to get it into his head because he had the wrong concept. I couldn’t go any further with him until I straightened out his thinking.
We talked about consistency, placement, depth, spin and pace. All the ingredients which make up a fine serve.
Then it was time to practice.
Gary Sherby is tennis director at Racquets and Togs Tennis Center, 115 Bradford St., just off the downtown square. His tennis tips appear Sundays.