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You’re Only As Good As Your Second Serve

Post 16 of 40

The Second Serve, The Toughest Shot in Tennis to Master

The serve is probably the most difficult stroke in tennis to teach, learn, control, and master.  With that said, the second serve is even harder to master.  Why is the second serve such a difficult stroke?  After all, isn’t the second serve the same as your first serve, but a little slower?  Here in lies the big misconception of many recreational players!

Actually, the second serve should be hit just as hard, if not harder, than the first serve.  Or to be more technically correct, the second serve should be hit with the same racquet head speed as the first serve, or with even more racquet head speed.  You see, on the second serve you want to create more spin, either side spin or top spin, or a combination of both.  This increased spin enables you to clear the net with a safe margin of error and the spin brings the ball down into the court.

Why is the Second Serve Such a Problem?

The problem most recreational players have is they use an eastern forehand grip on their serve (a.k.a. “the frying pan service motion”).  This grip doesn’t enable them to create much spin on either their first or second serves.  You usually see these players try to hit a really hard, flat first serve and if they miss (which they usually do due to the lack of spin on the ball) they “patty cake” their second serve in the service box.  Then they wonder why they keep on losing!

The Answer to the Second Serve Dilemma

The key to a good serve, and especially a good second serve, is to use a continental grip (a.k.a. “the hammer grip”).  This grip will enable you to create a slice (side spin), topspin, or kick (combination of side and topspin) serve.

So what is the continental grip?  To achieve the continental grip you must hold the racquet in your hand so that your index finger bass knuckle and the heel pad of your hand are on the second bevel of the racquet handle (see picture).  The reason this grip is also called the hammer grip is because this is the same way you would hold a hammer to hammer in a nail.

The continental grip gives you the opportunity to “come over” the ball and produce spin.  This spin enables you to “hit out” and not be tentative during a tense moment like hitting a second serve.  And, as mentioned earlier, this spin enables you to hit the ball harder and higher over the net for a greater safety margin, and this spin also brings the ball down into the court.  With all these benefits, why wouldn’t you change to a continental grip on the serve?

Why Wouldn’t You Change to a Continental Grip?

There are a number of reasons why players don’t change to a continental grip on their serve.  The main reason is changing a stroke means taking a step backwards.  While you’re learning this new stroke, your serve will be less effective than even the “frying pan” serve was.  But, if you stay with the continental service grip, I guarantee that your serve will only get better in the long run.  Before you know it, you’ll be serving with the grace and ease of Roger Federer.  And who wouldn’t love that!!!

See you on the courts!


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