If you want to learn how to master the kick serve, you have come to the right place. This is one of the most difficult shots to learn in tennis, because it requires a lot of coordination and physicality to develop.
In most cases, players struggle with hitting the big kicker due to several factors. These include poor technique, an incorrect swing path, an inconsistent toss, and using the wrong finish or follow through. Sounds familiar?
Well, you simply won’t be able to hit a big bouncing kick serve without correcting all of these aspects. On the other hand, I’ve seen players who are able to get topspin on the ball. However it is only at the expense of the accuracy and consistency of their serve. Hence, they often end up hitting the ball straight into the net or missing out wide.
If you find that you’re struggling with these same types of mistakes on your kick serve, continue to read on. In this tennis article, I’ll outline five steps to develop a world class kick serve. First, I’ll reveal the best grip and stance for the kick serve. Then, I’ll discuss where to exactly toss the ball to develop the right swing path. Finally, I’ll explain how to finish on the kick serve to get massive topspin like the best tennis players.
Additionally, I describe two of my best drills to help you create massive topspin and completely dial in your kick serve. Consequently, you’ll be able to get your serve to explode off the court and have your opponent struggle to return a high bouncing ball.
Let’s get your kick serve rockin’.
1) Kick Serve Grip
First of all, you need to have the correct grip. Most players don’t hold the racquet correctly; they either grip it too tight or squeeze their fingers together. It’s very difficult to develop solid technique and hit an amazing kick serve, unless you have the right grip. Hence, I recommend using a continental grip, where your index finger is spread and the heel of your hand is off the grip.
Once you feel comfortable with a standard continental, I prefer moving the grip a little bit towards the backhand side. This is what I call a strong continental grip. It’ll allow you to get up and over the ball to hit a proper kick serve, as the racquet face can naturally open up. Consequently, it is easier to create massive topspin on your tennis serve from the start of the motion.
Next, we have to go over the stance. I have found out that many players struggle with their kick serve because they aren’t using the correct stance. For example, I’ve seen players who use a pinpoint stance and bring their back foot up. Therefore, they’re unable to turn their shoulders properly and make their body face forward.
If you don’t have a big shoulder turn, you’re going to be more susceptible to hit a slice serve. Hence, I suggest players get into a platform stance, which I consider is the best stance for the kick serve. I believe that it’ll allow you to have a great shoulder and hip turn on the first move. Likewise, it can help you get into a proper trophy position easily and with a relaxed wrist.
We’ve gone over the grip and stance so far, two overlooked and essential components for developing an elite kick serve. Let’s move into the toss now.
A lot of players have a hard time with their toss on the kick serve. This is because they place the ball too far in front or towards their dominant shoulder. Besides, they’re leaning too far forward, or even falling forward at contact. As a result, they end up hitting the ball into the net, which is hindering their ability to hit a solid kick serve.
In order to fix this common mistake, you’ve got to toss the ball over your non-dominant shoulder. As a righty, you should get the toss more to the left for creating massive spin on the kick serve. However, the more the toss moves to the left, the more you have to hit up on the ball. On the other hand, you’ll toss the ball more to the right as a left-hand player.
You want to feel like your toss is arching over the head, and you’re making contact with the ball around your opposite shoulder. Thus, you’ll be able to create a circular motion on your swing path, by going up and over the ball. When you do it, your body is going to feel more stable.
This may seem strange as the ball is already so high. But you have to exaggerate hitting the ball higher over the net to clear the net. Therefore, you can generate the amount of topspin that you want. If you want to master the kick serve, don’t toss the ball so far in front. Instead, move the toss back behind you a bit more and hit up on the ball.
If you’re still having trouble getting enough kick on your serve, consider focusing on how you finish. This is a serve area that many tennis coaches don’t concentrate on; however, it’s critical for your serve success. I recommend finishing on the same side of the body instead of bringing the racquet all the way through. If you’re left handed, you’ll finish on the left side of the body and the same theory applies for a righty.
At the end of the swing, you should have your hitting arm bent and racquet strings facing towards you. Moreover, you should finish with the hand away from your body to create proper spacing. Now, I’ve seen that many players finish with their arm straight which causes heaps of tension. Thus, always keep in mind to have a relaxed arm throughout the motion to avoid any shoulder pain and discomfort.
I learnt this particular finish from studying former pro tennis players including Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, and Pete Sampras. All of them got massive topspin on their tennis serves by finishing on the same side of their bodies. If you start to experience slight pain on your shoulder while working on this technique, you should immediately stop.
5) Visualization Technique
The last step to master your kick serve is to really visualize your targets when you’re serving. Don’t just picture a spot in the box where you want to hit the ball. Instead, I recommend visualizing an arc that the ball will follow over the net.
See the ball travel up high over the net with lots of clearance, before diving down and bouncing where you want. If you focus on your shot path being high over the net , it will greatly help reduce your mistakes in the net.
Here’s a small recap before I move on. The grip, stance, toss, finish, and visualization techniques are absolutely essential to master your kick serve. Once you feel comfortable on all of them, you can progress into the drills that I will cover in the next session.
Let’s keep going!
The Dirty Diaper is one of my best drills that I’ve used over the years to help my online and in court students. I believe it can help you to get extra power, control, accuracy, and confidence in your kick serve.
To perform this drill, you’ll need a towel or mat to kneel on. Take the towel and lay it on the baseline where you would normally stand to serve on the ad side. You’ll start on your knees; thus, you learn where to place the toss, how to hit up on the ball, and get it over the net.
If you are a right-handed player, kneel down with your front left leg on the towel. Then, place your back foot on the ground behind you to give you stability. If this position is very uncomfortable for you, you can try with both knees on the towel.
Next, choke up on the racquet so that your hand is holding the racquet where the grip ends. Use a continental grip and make sure your index finger is spread and that your hand is relaxed. Then, toss the ball so that it arches over your body and towards your left shoulder. As it arcs over your head, swing the racquet from right to left to connect with the ball above your left shoulder. Arcing the toss right to left allows you to hit up on the ball and create topspin.
From there, finish with your arm bent on the same side of the body that you made contact. Your racquet tip will point down, arms bent and the strings should be facing you. It’ll take time to get used to this position, but it is vital for producing a great kick serve.
Dirty Diaper – Standing Progression
Next is the standing progression. Get into a platform stance and try the Dirty Diaper from a half serve position.
Make sure your back foot is not staggered too far behind your front foot. Therefore, you can keep your balance at the end of the swing. With the half serve, the racquet will start near your head. It’s always easier to learn these movements with an abbreviated motion.
Stay choked up on the racquet so that you can keep the feel (ball control) when you swing. Once you can perform the dirty diaper, you can shift down to a normal hand position to hit a regular serve.
Stand next to where your towel was placed, and do your best to recreate the feeling you had when you were kneeling. While standing, practice the same type of toss. Hence, the ball can arch over your head without going too far in front of the body.
Hit up at the ball as it arches over your head without bending your knees. Then, focus on finishing in the dirty diaper position that you’ve been practicing. Get that toss far enough towards your left shoulder. Thus, you can use the correct swing path and hit topspin/kick on the serve.
Once you finish the swing, you have to get all your weight on your front foot. You should be able to tap your back foot on the court without losing your balance.
Tapping your foot is a powerful checkpoint to develop proper balance on your serve. If your balance is off, you probably didn’t use the correct toss. Once you master this drill with the choked-up grip, try it with the hand lower on the racquet.
Over The Fence Drill
Another great kick serve drill for learning to hit upon the ball is called “hit over the fence”. Stand one to two feet from the back and try to pop the ball over the fence. You really have to hit upon the ball to get it over the fence.
The acute angle you have to hit upon the ball will make it difficult to clear the fence. Consequently, it will force you to exaggerate this upward motion. Remember to use the correct kick serve ball toss (to the left and back behind the body for a right).
Move closer and closer to the fence seeing if you can still get the ball over the fence. Once you’ve practiced it consistently, return to the baseline and watch how much easier it is to clear the net.
Check out a structured serve routine below that can give you clarity on how to maximize your time on the court.
Kick Serve Routine
Kneeling Drill: Choked Up (25 Serves)
Standing Drill: Choked Up (25 Serves)
Standing Drill: Not Choked Up (15 Serves)
Standing Drill: Not Choked Up, Jump (15 Serves)
Hit Over The Fence Drill Choked Up (25 Serves)
Hit Over The Fence Drill Not Choked Up (15 Serves)
Full Kick Serves (25 Serves) – 5 Minutes
As I mentioned earlier, the kick serve can be a tricky shot to learn. Nevertheless, I believe that you can develop a professional kick serve by following these systematic progressions regularly . If one part of the serve chain falls apart, it’ll be difficult to build a solid foundation to hit amazing kick serves. That’s why I recommend working on your tennis serve fundamentals consistently.
Once you’ve developed a solid technique, you can go ahead to practice the kick serve drills outlined in the article. Consider working on them two to three times per week until it becomes second nature. These are guaranteed to transform your kick serve from an inconsistent weakness to a big-time weapon. As a result, you’ll force your opponents to hit challenging returns against your big kicker and win more tennis matches.
I hope you enjoyed today’s tennis article and acquired valuable insights on what it takes to hit a kick serve easily and effortlessly. My mission is to help committed and passionate tennis players get better with their serve and tennis game in a simple and efficient manner.
By Jeff Salzenstein, Founder Tennis Evolution
Jeff is a former top 100 ATP player and USTA high performance coach committed to helping players and coaches all over the world improve.
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