Most tennis players want to learn how to hit a kick serve, because they understand the inherent advantages of possessing a kick serve that bounces high and away from the returner.
The problem is, few club tennis players have been able to master the tennis technique behind the tennis kick serve, mainly because it requires exquisite timing in addition to synching the body perfectly to unleash on the kick serve.
Every great tennis player will own a kick serve, and while this type of spin is less powerful than the flat serve it can be a major asset on the second serve due to the increased amount of topspin and clearance over the net providing the much needed safety during a tennis match.
Principles behind how to hit a kick serve
The serve is frequently regarded as the most important shot in tennis because it is the shot that begins the point and therefore determines largely how the point will be played out. Often, when we think about players with great serves, we think of the players that hit with the fastest speeds and have the most aces.
While this is true to some extent, another skill that the great servers possess is the ability to hit different kinds of spin serves. There are also great servers who specialize not in hitting the fastest serves but in hitting the best spin serves.
Any good serve, whether by virtue of its speed, placement or spin can be an ace or service winner. Good serves also often force short returns that can be put away easily. Variety in spin and direction, as well as disguise is just as important as speed.
How to Hit a Kick Serve: Mastering the Use of Spins
The major types of spin applied on the serve are topspin, back spin and side spin. Almost all serves have a certain degree of side spin. It is how side spin is combined with either topspin or back spin that determines if a serve is going to be a kick serve, twist serve or slice serve. A kick serve is predominantly a top spin serve.
A twist serve has as much topspin as side spin. A slice serve has backspin and side spin. Spin increases the air resistance on the ball, thereby making it move slower than a flat serve. However, this disadvantage is significantly offset by the increase in the margin for error available and the control provided.
For this reason, spin serves make the best second serves. There is a saying that you are only as good as your second serve. It is true that double faults are a mortal sin in tennis because you are basically giving away points for free.
Spin also greatly affects the trajectory and bounce of the ball, making it awkward to return and preventing the returner from establishing a rhythm. For right handed servers, a kick serve bounces high and slightly to the left of the returner. A twist serve bounces high and farther to the left of the returner.
Differences between the Slice, Flat and the Tennis Kick Serve
A slice serve bounces low and bends to the right side of the returner. For left-handers, the directions are all reversed. Therefore, if you want to improve your serve and have a very reliable second serve, you will need to learn how to hit a kick serve, a twist serve and a slice serve, to go along with your basic flat serve.
For many players, the flat serve is their bread-and-butter first serve. For many left-handed players, it is the slice serve, because this goes wide to the right-handed receiver’s backhand. However, there have been players in the history of the sport who have specialized in how to hit a kick serve. These players include Stefan Edberg and Patrick Rafter, both former top-ranked players and two-time US Open champions.
The US Open is played on fast hard courts and both of these men are serve-and-volley players. The ball bounces high and fast so kick serves are very much useful for setting up a quick dash to the net. The spin makes the ball travel slower through the air, giving them more time to close in to the net.
Benefits of using a Tennis Kick Serve
The high bounce makes hitting a passing shot difficult for the returner. Today’s top singles players don’t serve-and-volley anymore but they still do in doubles. If you want to develop a similarly aggressive, net-rushing style, you have to master how to hit a kick serve.
The technique of the kick serve begins with the right grip. The continental and eastern backhand grips are the main acceptable grips. A variation of the continental known as the hammer grip is also used.
The difference between the two is only in how the fingers are spaced along the handle. The eastern forehand grip is not recommended for the kick serve because the tendency with this grip is to hit only flat serves.
The proper toss is the most crucial thing to learn in how to hit a kick serve. The ball should go up over your head and if you don’t hit it, it should bounce slightly behind your left shoulder. Therefore, the peak of the toss will be almost directly over your head.
Technique on How to Hit a Kick Serve
The general technique of how to hit a kick serve uses the same principle as for producing all other kinds of serves. The directions or sides noted will be for a right handed server. If you are left-handed, simply change each direction to its opposite. At the beginning of the motion, the weight is on the back leg.
The shoulders and hips are turned sideways. As you toss the ball, take the racket back in your usual manner. You can use either the platform or pinpoint stance, whichever is comfortable. The platform stance has the feet about body width apart, while the pinpoint stance has the feet closer together. Toss the ball up over your head and look up to it by turning your head up. You should keep your head up all the way through contact and even slightly beyond.
Trophy Pose for the Tennis Serve
As you take the racket back and go into the trophy pose, your knees bend and your hips, trunk and shoulders coil. However, because the ball is directly over your head, your back will automatically be slightly more arched than on a flat or slice serve, where the toss is more forward.
The forward swing phase commences when the kinetic chain is set in motion. The legs push down on the ground with the balls of the feet. The hips uncoil, followed by the trunk and then the shoulders.
How to Hit Kick Serve with the Correct Contact Point
At the same time, the racket head is taken down by cocking back the wrist. As the shoulders uncoil, the right elbow goes up, leading the forearm, wrist and racket, which remains pointed downward. The shoulder-over-shoulder motion continues as the rest of the body continues to uncoil. By this time, the legs have already extended and propelled the body upward to the ball.
The right way of contacting the ball is another unique and crucial thing to learn in how to hit a kick serve. The arm extends, the forearm pronates and the wrist whips the racket head sequentially in a very fast manner to hit the ball. However, instead of just hitting the ball squarely, the ball is hit from the 7 o’clock to 1 o’clock position (5 to 11 for lefties).
Brushing Effect used on the Kick Serve
The wrist makes the racket head move in such a way that the ball is hit in this manner. It brushes upward along the back of the ball and slightly from left to right. Topspin and a little bit of side spin is applied on the ball. Because of this motion, the follow through will finish on the right side of the body. Through proper weight transfer and timing of the hit, the ball will be a very heavy one that is difficult for the opponent to attack.
The finish of the kick serve should take the body inside the court but the landing should be balanced in order to make recovering for the next shot much easier. Alternatively, after landing, immediately sprint to the net.
How to Hit a Kick Serve Using it to Your Advantage
The kick serve is most commonly aimed at the backhand wing which is usually the side less adept at handling high balls. However, in order to be truly effective, your kick serve should have variety in direction as well.
Practice aiming it to the right hip in order to jam the returner. You can also hit it occasionally wide to the deuce side, making it bounce high to the forehand. Keep your opponent guessing by changing it up. Also, mix up your kick serve with other kinds of spin serves as well as your flat serve. Through constant practice, you will learn to be proficient with it. Above all, use it in a match in order to gain experience and confidence with this particular shot.
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