Trouble with accuracy?
I have trouble hitting a hard, accurate serve, and I have trouble being accurate during returns. How can I improve?
For returns, try not to rush the shot. If you don't have enough time to swing properly, take a step or two back. And concentrate hard. It's VERY easy to become too casual, especially on returns, because you're just waiting for the action. You should feel yourself stiffen up (in a good way) just before the serve. Literally "be on your toes", so to speak. Also, focus on the ball once the server throws it up. Seeing where it's going just a split second earlier can make all the difference...
Keep practising as that is the only way you will get better. Good Luck!!
Practicing serving requires only yourself, a racquet, and some fuzzy balls. Therefore, it should always be, in theory, the best shot we have. Practice the bajesus out of the serve and you *will* get it down eventually.
Generating pace on a serve is a question of biomechanics. (and some people cannot generate a lot of pace due to flexibility/strength limitations) Your legs generate torque and start the momentum towards the ball. Power travels from the feet and legs to the hips. Hips and abdominal muscles continue to generate racquet head speed. Finally the momentum travels through the relaxed arm and ends with a snap of the wrist. Ever popped somebody with a towel? It's the same principal with the arm. A relaxed arm will carry more power than a tight one. Pop your arm and wrist the same way you would pop someone with a towel.
Think of yourself as a spring. You wind yourself up, then let it all go at once. If you have a hitch in any of the phases, you essentially make the previous movement(s) irrelevant. Kenetic energy must pass, smoothly, from the legs to the hips to the arm, and finally, the wrist snap. But make no mistake, the real power is generated from the legs.
For returns there's a few simple things you can do. Accuracy is not a main concern until you become a very advanced player. Until then, you have to concentrate on clearing the net first and foremost, then have it land inside the baseline. If you cannot put the return in play, you give the points away to the server, putting absolutely no pressure on their service games.
Shorten your backswing on returns. Better the players, the faster the serve tends to come. You don't have enough time to take a big backswing. Advanced players tend to use the pace of their opponent's serve.
Which brings me to using the pace of the serve. Hold a tight grip on the racquet during a return. Use a small backswing and block back the return. Until college level, I would advise consistency on the return over accuracy. You want as many returns in play as possible. This will put pressure on the server to come up with good shots instead of getting an easy point.
Leave two hands on the racquet during returns. I hold my natural backhand grip during a return. If it comes backhand, I'm ready for it. If it comes forehand, it's slightly easier to make the tiny shift in grip to forehand rather than forehand to backhand.
Find a buddy and just take turns playing points out. He serves, for instance, 10 pts in a row. Then switch.
Tennis is about rhythm. The more returns you do in a row, the better your rhythm is going to be.
With enough practice you'll start to react more quickly to the ball. Watch the server for any "tells" he might be giving. (read: tossing the ball more overhead tends to be a kick serve. some people toss the ball out wide when slicing or sending the ball to the wide side of the service box, etc.) A toss more in front of a server tends to be going down the "T".
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