How do you hit a kick serve in tennis?


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Serves hit with heavy topspin are said to "kick" because of their high bounce. Kick serves come in two varieties, straight topspin and twist (a.k.a. American twist). Picture someone on a mountain bike going off a big jump. A ball hit with a topspin serve would be like the front wheel spinning around and still aligned with the forward motion of the bike. A ball hit with a twist serve would be like that spinning wheel turned, typically, 30 degrees to the right. (We'll assume a right-handed server throughout this article.)

Most tennis pros hit either topspin or twist on more than 90% of their second serves. The reason is simple: at any given serve speed, the heavy topspin in both kick serves allows the server to hit at a much safer height. Without topspin, a second serve has to either clear the net within a dangerously small margin or travel at such a slow speed that it sets the receiver up to attack. With topspin, a serve can be hit at over 100 mph, clear the net by as much as four feet, and still drop into the service box, where it then bounces well above the receiver's comfort zone.

Of the two kick serves, the twist is the harder to return, because its sidespin makes it curve to the receiver's right in the air, then jump to his left on the bounce. Even experienced players often have trouble accurately anticipating where this combination of curves will ultimately put the ball.

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