The kick serve separates decent players from very good players. It’s not hard to understand how to hit it, but it’s difficult to do it well and consistently. A great kick jumps up at the returner. A bad one sits there and then gets pummeled. The key to a great kicker is learning how to hit up on the ball from 7 o’clock to 1 o’clock. Pat Dougherty of Nick Bollettieri’s academy says: “Your swing will barely penetrate the plane of the baseline. Don’t look for your swing or followthrough to go toward your target.”
• The contact point for a kick serve is lower than the contact point for a flat serve. The ball should also be over your head, rather than out in front. When the ball is in the proper place, it will force you to hit up.
• To master the upward motion, lead with the edge of your racquet. And don’t hold back. To generate a lot of kick, you need to be loose and produce a lot of racquet-head speed very quickly, Dougherty says. Your racquet should be at top speed at contact, not after contact.
• Shoulder rotation is essential for a top-level kick serve. Dougherty’s best players rotate their shoulders so much that their backs face the net. Then they lean into the court to get under the ball.
Master Other Strokes:
Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of TENNIS.