Player to Player: Swing Speeds of Serves

April 22, 2011 09:55 AM
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For, and Offering, Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

Player to Player:
This week's question from Ayanna:
I am 18 and I play in Girls' 18s singles tournaments and I plan on playing in the 2011 ITA summer circuit. For the last couple of years, I have trained with guys. Because I have not met many female hitting partners, practicing with the guys has improved my game tremendously. However, when I do play in a practice match or in tournament against another girl, who has just as much competition as me, I lose some self confidence in my game and allow some matches to slip out of my hands; I have the tendency to beat myself. How can I tackle this problem and what actions can I take during practice to mentally tackle this situation so that I will execute my best game equally with the girls as I do with the guys?
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing, and include your name and hometown.

Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!
Last week's question from David:
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
Should the swing speeds of a flat first serve and a topspin second serve be the same? I have heard that the second serve swing should be as fast (or faster) to ensure enough spin is imparted on the ball. What is correct?
Player Responses:
Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, Fla.:
Tennis is a game of analog moving yet many want binary answers; a one or a zero , a yes or no pr a right and wrong for every answer. There are only four things you can go wrong in tennis: hit too long, wide in the net and the fourth is obvious. Everything else is your game. Just put and keep the ball in place longer than the other guy is what it takes to win.
Some things you simply figure out by doing. Let's start with common threads, the "down together up together" or backswing and toss. Right from the start is where many think they have to brush up or across the back of the ball so the swing has to be faster. This is only partially true. Only after the loop, the racquet head needs to accelerate yet move forward to impart spin / flat and direction with enough speed to get the job done. The problem is they try and do everything at the same speed.
The flow of the service motion has a slow constant movement for the "down together / up together" part. It is as the racquet head falls for the loop is where swing speed is developed. That speed needs to continue to accelerate through the follow through with the racket ending with yolk in hand as to prepare for what is next.
How much head speed is up to you. You determine that via Learn Practice Play.
John G., Sarasota, Fla.:
In short, "yes" your second serve swing speed should typically be about the same as your first serve swing speed. The difference is that on the first serve more of the racquet head speed is directed toward the horizontal plane (the ball moves faster) while on the second serve the speed is directed more toward the vertical plane (imparting more topspin – hence, more safety.)
I’ve been modifying my own serve recently and have found that, when things go wrong, I have a tendency to back off my racquet head speed on the second serve. This creates disaster! I find I must commit to the second serve even more (make sure my racquet is moving) when I’m having difficulties. "Patty-caking" the second serve is not what will help you.
Eric R., Santa Rosa, Calif.:
You heard that the second serve swing should be as fast or faster than the flat first serve. You heard correct information , assuming that you are a tournament player with the crucial ability to hit topspin on your serve. Many club players have the "just get it in" slower motion second serve simply due to inexperience ( or lack of ability.)
Greater swing speed = Greater spin + Higher safety margin.
That formula works for everyone that can become comfortable with a Continental Serving Grip that allows the wrist to impart the brushing up motion on the serve with a topspin high bounce as the result. You did not say what your age and ability level is right now. Your coach should advise you about the individual variations that you may need. If you are young and /or new to tennis then you may need to build this skill set in a graduated series of steps.
Click here for's Player to Player Archive