(by Larry Hodges)
When serving, many players contact the ball on their racket in the same location each time. Many aren’t actually aware of what part of the racket the contact is on. They are dramatically limiting their serves by not understanding how varying the location of contact can vary the spin. Here are some basics.
- For maximum spin, contact the ball toward the tip. That’s the fastest moving part of the racket as you put your wrist into the serve. (This assumes your elbow or wrist are the axis of rotation. This changes in #3 below.)
- Using the same motion, contact the ball at the base of the paddle, near the handle. This allows you to use the same big spin serve motion and get little or no spin. This is especially effective for backspin and no-spin combinations – if you contact near the tip with a downward motion (under the ball), it’s backspin, while contact near the handle is no-spin. Opponents will often read the no-spin as backspin and pop it up. After a few no-spin serves, they adjust – and then they read the backspin as no-spin and put it in the net.
- For most serves, your elbow is the axis of rotation at the start of the serve. As you are about to contact the ball, the wrist becomes the axis of rotation. Just before contact, you can also rotate the racket so that the axis of rotation is toward the middle of the racket. This means you get opposite spins depending on which side of the racket you contact the ball on. This allows you to use the same motion and serve either backspin or sidespin/topspin. For example, with a forehand pendulum serve, you can serve so that, at contact, the tip is moving down (giving a backspin), but the area near the handle is moving up (giving a topspin or sidespin). It takes practice – have a coach or top player help you with this.
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