There's no better weapon in tennis than a big first serve. You know the basic elements: a Continental grip, full extension and pronation. Pat Dougherty, the serve doctor at Nick Bollettieri’s academy, stresses something else: chest angle. Dougherty uses a pole vaulter’s pole as an example. Before upward acceleration begins, the pole bends and the center of the pole, or its chest, points skyward. Your chest should do the same on the serve. “The chest angle is a critical fundamental that has been lost on many players,” Dougherty says.
• The faster your racquet moves, the harder you’ll hit a serve. It’s simple, yet Dougherty finds people don’t fully understand the concept of racquet-head speed. He often sees students reaching their peak speed after contact. The acceleration needs to come before the hit, and peak at contact.
• To increase the speed on your serve, it can help to step off the court. Dougherty asks students to serve balls into the fence behind the court. This takes the net and service box out of the equation, and it lets students concentrate on racquet-head speed and the proper contact point.
Master Other Strokes:
Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of TENNIS.