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How to strike a serve like Stosur


Originally published on: 21/09/11 10:39

‘How to hit a serve like Sam Stosur featured in the September 2011 issue of tennishead magazine. For more details on how to subscribe, click here.

Tactics: Why kick serves work
Some of the game’s top players at times now use a kick serve as a first serve, depending on the surface. When it’s used on high-bouncing hard courts and clay courts it will kick up and take the opponent way out of court, forcing them to make contact with the ball above shoulder height. Having to make contact in such an uncomfortable position means the returner will find it almost impossible to be aggressive.

Creating spin: Racket head speed
As with groundstrokes, it’s the racket head speed that is the key to generating lots of spin and will make the difference between a kick serve that really fizzes off the court and one that sits there waiting to be hammered back down your throat. Even though you’ll tend to be hitting a second serve when you use the kicker, don’t hold back. The huge spin on the ball should bring it dipping back down into the box. Good luck!

The Australian has the perfect start to her service action. Her left arm is straight in order to promote a consistent ball toss and she rocks back as she begins the toss to load her weight onto her back (right) leg.

Key Point: See how Sam holds the ball with the ends of her fingers. It enables
a more consistent ball toss rather than the ball rolling out of the palm which can cause the ball to arc in the air making it tough to time.

Sam’s serve is quite like Stefan Edberg’s – she loves to hit heavy ‘kick’ serves. She creates spin by using an extreme backhand grip and this allows her to open the face on impact and slide the racket across the ball.

Although there’s much to admire, I still feel Sam could get even more consistency and bounce from her serve by using a deeper knee bend. She isn’t able to drive herself upwards and forwards as much as she could.

The shoulder tilt (left shoulder above right) has gone as she looks to extend her serving arm upwards to impact the ball at its highest point. Her weight is beginning to propel her into the court, helping her generate easier power.

Key point: See how the ball has been placed just slightly over her left shoulder. This will help her as she slides her racket from right to left as you look at it. If it’s too far to the right she’d then be forced to curl round the outside of the ball, hitting a slice

I get the feeling Sam, at times, bends her left arm into her side a bit too quickly rather than across and out. This has the detrimental effect of pulling her head down. This stops her keeping her eyes on the ball a fraction longer.

A perfect ending – her weight is inside the court, the left foot is flat allowing her to quickly regain her balance, her right leg is counterbalancing and her eyes are focused on where the ball might go next.

Golden rule: Unlike a flat serve when you want the feeling of hitting down into the court, with a topspin serve you want the feeling of the ball lifting off your strings. The ball will kick off the court as it comes in from a higher trajectory and out of your opponent’s comfort zone.



Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.