In recent blogs I have referenced the need for a greater emphasis being put on service practice and training. The serve is the easiest shot to train in terms of the time available and ability to get the job done.
Here’s what I mean.
You don’t need anyone to practice with.
You can serve a number of balls without it taking up a lot of time. It’s pretty easy to hit 60 - 80 balls in 20 -30 mins.
You can do it before normal sessions start, at the end before you go home, on courts before school starts or straight after school.
So why do ALL coaches think this is so important?
It’s the 1st shot in any rally and you have absolute control. (There are no variables)
It’s an opportunity to take control of a point.
It can relieve pressure on the rest of your game.
Having a great serve is probably the biggest advantage you can have in the game.
Having a great second serve is imperative in the modern game.
At what age should players start practising serving independently?
The below is my personal opinion on what time and how many serves players should be considering.
Right at the time players decide they want to play at a competition level, so for most players when they decide they want to play JDS event, this is the time to start doing some extra serves. At this age create some games around serving and make it a little more fun.
When players progress to playing AR events they should be looking to have 3 - 4 serving sessions per week of up to 40 balls per session.
At 13, as players are entrenched into tournament competition they should be serving most days of the week and serving up to 60 balls each session.
At 15, players really need to be hitting a similar no of serves each day that they would serve in a normal tournament day. Eg If I play 2 singles and 1 doubles match a tournament day. That equates to something like 25 – 30 services games at an average of 6 points per game and approx. At 60% of serves in your looking at, 8 - 9 serves per game x 25 – 30 games 200 – 270 service points per day.
One of the biggest problems with not serving most days is injury. During tournaments in recent years there has been a big spike in serving related shoulder injuries, this could likely be a result of an overload due to an increase in serves hit during events in comparison to the daily / weekly service load that players have been practising.
While I think 200 + serves is unrealistic on a nearly daily basis but certainly 2 sessions per day of 60 -80 serves is achievable.
What should I do when I am practising Serving?
There are 6 target areas you need to be able to hit regularly and accurately. Wide, Body and Tee on first court and the same on second court equalling 6 service directions. Then on top of that there are 3 different types of serves you should be trying to perfect. Flat, Slice and Kick. So, if you work on those terms there are 18 different serves that need to be trained and perfected. Now if you were to only hit 10 of each of those serves it already adds up to 180 serves. Over the course of a week players should have hit 40 – 50 of each particular serve, equating to between 700 and 900 serves per week. This should be built up over a number of weeks if you are not already doing a reasonable serving volume.
The other important consideration is technique. It is important that you and your coach have a good understanding of what are the technical fundamentals of the serve and how they look. To help in this area we try to use videoing, so a player can see what they are doing. In most cases the feel you have doesn’t match up with what you are trying to achieve technically. Players should as much as possible video using iPhone's etc a portion of each serving session and review those serves to see if what they think they are doing is actually matching what they are doing.