Everyone has their own personal serving technique, and how that techniques relates to their serving zone can mean the difference between a good serve and a fault.
The goal of this Step is to give you an objective way to measure the relationship of your serving technique to your serving zone, but before you can see how your serve relates to your serving zone, you must first see what your serving zone looks like.
THE DIMENSIONS OF YOUR SERVING ZONE
As you stand at the service line imagine that you are standing in a hallway that leads across the net into the service court. This hallway has Width: a right side, a center, and a left side (see below).
Your serving zone also has Depth: a 3-Depth, a 2-Depth, and a 1-Depth. The same as your Contact Zone. (see below)
And lastly, your serving zone also has Height: a 3-Height, a 2-Height, and a 1-Height. Again, the same as your Contact Zone. (see below)
What you see now is a picture of a 3-dimensional serving zone; a serving zone with width, depth, and height.
And if you stretch your tossing arm straight forward into the center of your serving zone and imagine touching a window that extends up as high as you can reach your racquet, you also have a flat surface upon which to measure the vertical alignment of your racquet at contact.
THE SERVING SEQUENCE
The Serving Sequence is a Contact Sequence that involves Movement (the toss), Countermovement (your swing), and Contact (the event that occurs when the ball and your swing come together at the contact point).
Your serve is the only time in tennis when you get a chance to control of all three parts of the Contact Sequence.
1. You control your toss (Movement).
2. You control your swing (Countermovement).
3. And you control the location of contact (Contact Point).
Yet the serve is perhaps the most difficult stroke in tennis to master.
In Step 1 and Step 2 you learned about using an imaginary window as a representation of your contact zone as well as how to use a predefined depth of contact to measure and improve the timing of your contact.
In Step 3 you will learn how using an imaginary window to measure and improve your entire Serving Sequence: your toss, your swing, and your contact.
When I teach players to serve in the zone, one of the first things I have them do is measure their contact point relative to the dimensions of their serving zone.
There are differing opinions about where your contact point should be on your serve, but for your flat serve I suggest a point of contact located at a 3-height, 3-depth, and somewhere close to the center of the serving zone.
This is your 3-Point
The photos below show several different views of the 3-Point within a player’s serving zone.
CALL YOUR CONTACT POINT
A great drill to observe the contact point on your serve is to hit ten consecutive serves from the deuce court and call your point of contact every time you serve.
In other words, rather than just tossing the ball up in the air, hitting your serve, and seeing whether or not it goes in, the objective of this drill is to become more aware of the exact location of your contact point.
Did you make contact at a 3-height, a 2-height, or a 1-height?
Did you make contact at a 3-depth, a 2-depth, or a 1-depth?
Was your contact point in the center of your serving zone or was it on the right side or left side of your serving zone?
Then hit ten consecutive serves from the ad court and continue to call your point of contact. Call the height, the width, and the depth of each contact point on your serve.
The idea of this drill is to become more aware of your contact point relative to your serving zone. It won’t take long before you are able to measure the exact point of contact on every serve.
This practice of calling your contact point is not meant to correct your serve, but rather to give you a very honest look at where you are making contact when you serve.
If you want to make corrections to your serve, then the first step is to make corrections to your contact point.
And that means correcting your toss.
TOSSING TO THE 3-POINT
Most recreational players (and many open level players) have an inconsistent toss which leads to an inconsistent contact place as well as an inconsistent contact time.
Developing a consistent time and place of contact on your serve means developing a consistent toss, and a consistent toss can be defined as a toss that consistently goes to the same location in your serving zone.
One location to use as your target location is the junction of a 3-height and 3-depth in the center of your serving zone. So a consistent toss would be a toss that consistently went to your 3-Point.
Consistent toss, consistent swing, consistent contact point – all makes for a consistent serve. So why do players have so much trouble with their serve?
The answer to that question lies in what you do with your eyes.
Here’s what I mean:
If you are having trouble with the consistency of your toss, then check to see what you are doing with your eyes when you toss the ball on your serve.
Are your eyes focused on the ball when you toss?
Or are your eyes focused on your target when you toss?
Try this easy exercise to see where you are looking on your toss.
Stand approximately arm’s length from the fence and reach your racquet up as high as you can to a point on the fence.
That’s your target; that’s your 3-Point.
Now, using your normal tossing motion, toss the ball up in the air and see how close it comes to your target – your 3-Point.
Repeat the toss five to ten times and observe what you are focused on with your eyes as you toss the ball.
Are your eyes focused on the ball, or are your eyes focused on your target on the fence? Are you focused on the ball or on your 3-Point?
After practicing your toss against the fence, hit ten more serves into the deuce court and ask yourself this question:
What are you doing with your eyes on your serve?
Are you using your eyes to target your contact point or are you using your eyes to watch the ball?
FOCUS ON THE 3-POINT
Now try hitting ten serves from each court, but instead of watching the ball as you toss it in the air, try focusing on your 3-Point with your eyes just prior to tossing the ball.
This strategy of visually targeting your contact point prior to tossing takes a change in your focus and requires you to concentrate on what you are doing with your eyes, NOT what you are doing with your serve.
You probably don’t think about what you are doing with your eyes when you serve. More likely, your swing thoughts deal with some aspect of your serving technique (and the list is huge!) or with aiming your serve to a specific target across the net.
But the one thing you probably don’t think about when you serve is what you are doing with your eyes. This takes concentration, both mental and visual, so be prepared for an exercise in serving that feels different right from the start.
STEP 3 REVIEW
1. Set Up Your Serving Zone:
Visualize a hallway leading to the court you are serving into.
Visualize a window at arm’s length in front of you inside your serving hallway.
2. The Toss:
Look up to the 3-point on your imaginary window prior to your toss.
Toss to the 3-point on your imaginary window.
3. The Swing:
Swing up and flat through your imaginary window.
Make contact at the 3-point (vertical racquet strings).
The Short Version:
1. Focus on the 3-point.
2. Toss to the 3-point.
3. Contact at the 3-point.