Kick Serve

Learn how to generate the famous “kick serve”.

The video below provides an excellent explanation and illustration on the mechanism of a kick serve. You will loved it. Watch it!

There are 2 types of kick serves – the Topspin serve and the Twist serve (or American Twist Serve).

The kick serves are typically used as second serves (the Flat serve is for the first serve), as you need to make sure your serve clears the net and yet not give your opponent the chance to attack your second serve.

You can also use the kick serve as a first serve, especially if you can hit it with a strong topspin.  The faster your racket slices the back of the ball, the more topspin it is given and the higher the bounce it has in your opponent’s court.  And if you hit the Twist serve (see below), the bounce will also go towards the side, making it even harder for your opponent to retrieve.

For both types of kick serves, the ball would clear the net about 3-4 feet above it, and produce a high bounce, which keeps them out of most players’ favorite hitting zones (see diagram).

But the difference between the two kick serves is that the the topspin flies more or less straight, whereas the twist curves to the receiver’s right in the air and to your opponent’s left once it bounces. This makes the twist serve harder to read and return (but it’s also harder to execute).

Here’s the basic technique for hitting a kick serve:

1. Change your grip to one that is close to the Eastern backhand or the Continental forehand grip.

2. You should hit the ball about 6 – 12 inches lower than the peak of your toss (when hitting a flat serve, you hit the ball at the highest point).

3. Toss the ball behind your head (with a flat first serve, you would toss it in front, slightly to the right for a right hander and to the left for lefties).

4. The point of contact should be above and just behind your head on the left side (for a right hander, vice versa for lefties) i.e. at 11 o’clock with 12 o’clock being right above your head (1 o’clock for lefties). The farther back you hit the ball the more spin you can impart to it and the higher the ball flies.

5. When contact is made, your racket should brush up the back of the ball. To hit a topspin, cut the racket vertically upwards at a slight angle about 7:00 to 1:00 (upwards and left to right). To hit a twist, move your racket across the ball at a bigger angle about 8:00 to 2:00 (see picture).

Now let’s look at the kick serve more closely:

1. Toss the ball so that if you don’t hit it, it would land behind your head and to the left of where your head would be at the time of your swing.

2. In order to hit the ball that is falling behind your head, you need to bend your knees, arch your back (like a bent bow) and turn your shoulders.

3. As you release the ball from your hand, bring your racket to the back of your head as usual. Pull your serving arm behind your head as far back as you can. In order to add power to your serve you straighten your knees and body, extend and reach up while your legs spring up from the ground. As you do so, bring your serving arm and racket forward. By doing so, you are transferring all your kinetic energy from your knees up to your shoulders and to your arm.

4. As you hit the ball, straighten your elbow and transfer the kinetic energy to your wrist as you brush your racket upward across the back of the ball.

5. As the follow through begins, your feet would return to the ground and your back straightens as your arm comes down.

Most beginners find it difficult to hit the kick serve at first. One of the most common errors is to try to spin the ball towards the service box instead of up and as a result, the serve does not clear the net.

One way to overcome this is to serve on your knees. Being on your knees you are forced to serve up and allow the spin of the ball to bring it down to the court. 

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