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Serves for singles play - grouped by serving position

 

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Serving tips

Jason's serve

Returning serves

How to hit a consistent lob

 


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These serves are grouped by serving position: middle, right, left, etc. You want to hit different serves from the same position and with the same service/swing motion to prevent your opponent from anticipating your serve. Don't change the direction of your body to change your serve. Keep your body pointing the same way for each serve, but drop the ball a little forward or back of your lead foot to alter the direction of the ball. The extra second it takes your opponent to react makes a huge difference in the quality of your opponent's return.

Assume that you're right handed, serving to a right-handed opponent for most of these serves unless otherwise specified. You can also try out all of the doubles serves here, except for the ones which are served down the middle of the court.

Over 10 Serves with identical starting movements from center court

All of these serves start with you in position to hit a power serve: knees bent, racquet up. Ball is dropped in the exact center of the court for all of these serves and you are standing to the left of the ball. Serving from the center gives you the advantage of already being in a good position to cover your opponent's return.
  • Drive serve to left side - have ball hit the left side wall in far back court (hits side wall about 3 feet from back wall) to make opponent stretch further for it
  • Drive serve to right side - practice till you get this, since you need it in case your opponent "cheats" to the left a bit to get to your left side drive serve. You need to have a credible alternate threat to keep him "honest". Also needed when you play a lefty.
  • Hard Z drive to the right - the ball passes behind you after it hits the front wall, left side wall. Then it hits the floor, then the right side wall just inches in front of the back wall. The ball then travels parallel to the back wall, too close to it to allow opponent's racquet behind it.
  • Hard wraparound drive jam serve to the right - like the Z above, but the angle is wider so that it hits the front wall, left wall, back wall very low behind you, and dies just when it reaches the right wall. Hit this very low and hard, or else it can be picked off.
  • Crack jam to the left - hit the ball very hard and low, aiming for the crack where the left side wall and floor meet, just beyond the short line. If it doesn't crack out, it still remains at an awkward angle (traveling sideways) to get to and set up for. This serve is so hard to even get to that it's one of the few serves in doubles where the opponent is sometimes forced to dive, to get to it. There's another jam identical to this one, except that the ball hits the floor/crack just beyond the dotted safety line and dies on the floor near the back wall. This one is easy for your opponent to get to, but it's coming at him sideways with little time to setup to hit it well. All of the versions are the same on the right side.
  • Jason Mannino half lob - description with graphics here.
  • Half lob to right side - Hold the racquet sideways (i.e., horizontal, parallel to the floor), then hit the ball so it solidly strikes the racquet (the strings solidly bite into the ball) close to the handle and put spin on it by letting it almost roll a bit towards the racquet tip as though you're trying to push the middle, then the tip of the racquet through the front wall while letting the ball roll on it. (Don't sling the ball, that's illegal.). The racquet should stay horizontal throughout the swing. The ball hits the front wall about 6+ feet high, a few feet to the right of the center of the front wall, hits the floor a few inches past the dotted safety line, and a few inches from the right side wall. Then it kicks up and rolls along the right side wall where it dies on the back right wall corner. It's important that the ball hits the right side wall on the way UP (right after it first bounces on the floor), during the ball's ascent (not on the way down). This gives it an awkward flight to short-hop. The ball should die a foot high, or lower on the back wall.
  • Soft Z to the right - hit the front wall a few feet from the left side wall about 10-12 feet high. Ball hits left side wall, crosses in front of you, not behind you. If the ball passes in front of you, you can always keep track of where your opponent is. Ball lands inside the dotted safety line on the floor, hits the right side wall, and dies on the back wall.
  • Super cool soft Z to the right - the problem with the above soft Z serve is that an opponent with good timing can simply short-hop the ball as soon as it crosses the dotted safety line and blast it anywhere he wants while you're still trying to get out of the service box. I use a variation of the soft Z that doesn't have that problem. This serve is easier to hit if you drop the ball a few feet to the right of center; more details on that below. Drop the ball so it bounces up about 4-5 feet high and hits the front wall extremely close to the left side wall, maybe a foot from the side wall and about 8 or 9+ feet high. Then it hits the left side wall and crosses in front of you. The goal is to have the ball make its first bounce on the floor just past the dotted safety line extremely close to the right side wall. What this does is create an awkward bounce off the right side wall which is very hard to short hop. To be a great serve, the ball must then die one foot or lower on the back wall. If it dies earlier, it's too shallow and will be an easy setup for your opponent. If it dies higher on the back wall, your opponent can pick it off the back wall for a setup. The serve will not work if it doesn't land very close to the right side wall when it first bounces on the floor. Otherwise, your opponent has a long stretch of space in which to short-hop it. It's very difficult to serve at first, but as in many things, it becomes easier after a while. While it's extremely hard to roll out, the opponent can hit it hard if he waits till it slows down when it's very high in the air a few feet before it hits the back wall next to the right side wall. Because he's taking it high in the air in far back court, you have many options for a put-away shot when he returns it because you're in front. You can cut it off and dink it into a corner, or wait till it comes off the back wall. Serve the ball soft enough so that there's no bite into the right side wall. This will make it die on the back wall more perfectly and consistently. As I mentioned above, the serve is a lot easier to execute if you drop the ball 2 or 3 feet to the right of center, and it's more effective because it travels more sideways in front of the back wall. The serve still works dropped in the exact center, but then it must hit the front wall closer to the front wall, only a foot to six inches from the left side wall. I'm used to doing that, but it's not realistic for most folks. If your opponent is hitting the ball hard in his power zone, serve the ball a little higher until he has to reach awkwardly to hit it hard. Keep upping the height unless the ball starts bouncing too high off the back wall. If the opponents rush up to short-hop the ball every time, you may try hitting a disguised wrap around jam serve as this goes to their backhand when they're running to the right. Is this serve only good if you're playing against a lefty? Nope. It works against rightys too. This serve also works extremely well hit backhand to the left side.
  • Drive the ball down the middle, right at your opponent's body. The goal is to obtain a weak return because he doesn't have enough time to move to the left or the right to swing at it, so he bunts at it. This is a surprise serve to only be used once in a while.
  • Nick lob to left side - ball is lobbed very high, hits the front wall a few feet below the ceiling, and nicks the left side wall about 5 feet from the back wall, and 3 feet high. It then dies in the corner a foot or less off the back wall. It doesn't matter if the ball doesn't make it all the way to back wall as long as it first nicks the left side wall very deep. The virtue of this serve is that it can't be cut off early, and forces the opponent to hit from very far back court. This need not be disguised because it's so slow that an opponent can set up for it without anticipation. Find a spot on the front wall to aim for if you don't execute this serve intuitively.
  • Nick lob to right side - same as above. If you serve this to a righty, make sure that it goes very deep before it hits the right side wall or else it will be easy pickings for a short-hopper!
  • Half-lob nick serve - the ball hits the front wall about 9 feet high, then hits the right side wall about a foot above the floor, a little more than the half way point between the dotted safety line and the back wall. Then it bounces on the floor for the first time and kind of jets out in a hard-to-predict way, then dies near the back wall. Don't hit this too shallow or else it will be easy to short hop.

Hard drive serves from the left side

(Drives from the right side are identical but on the opposite side.) Stand about 6 feet from the left side wall (left of center court). Drop the ball to your right.

  • Hard Z to the left side. Hits front wall a few feet left of the right side wall, passes behind you (you quickly step to the right after it passes you so you're not in the way of your opponent's shot), hits floor close to left side wall about 2 feet from back wall, and Zs parallel and close to the back side wall. The goal is for the ball to stay so close to the back wall that your opponent can't get his racquet to fit between the ball and the back wall (can't get his racquet behind the ball), so he's stuck trying to swat the ball against the back wall just to get it to reach the front wall on the fly. Although low, Z drive serves are easy to cut off, they're sometimes difficult to control perfectly, so I always try a couple to see if my opponents hit them too hard so that the ball comes off the back wall for an easy setup for me. Actually, the higher the better in this case.
  • Z serve close to the short line - Try this to occasionally catch your opponent off guard. Hit a Z drive so low and close to the front wall corner, that it barely makes it over the short line, then hits the left side wall but doesn't come out very far so that it dies close to the left side wall just barely past the short line.
  • Hard drive to the far right.
  • Hard drive down the left lane to the left. Note: you or your racquet cannot cross the left drive zone line when hitting any type of drive. See also drive service zones.
  • Jam to the right- try to hit the crack where the floor meets the right side wall in between the short line and the dotted safety line. The ball should jump out at the receiver at an awkward angle and die at or before the back wall.
  • Right side wide angle jam - Once you see that your opponent is positioning himself far to the right to catch the Z early with his forehand, try a drive jam which can be disguised as a Z, with slightly less angle than the Z. For me, this works a little better when serving on the right side. This jam is hit like a Z but the angle is a little wider and ends up passing near the receiver's left side, instead of his right side. The ball hits the front wall several feet from the left side wall, hits the left side wall, then the ball hits floor near the middle of the back wall, and dies just before it hits the right side wall. Hit the ball very hard and low, so that it doesn't pop off of the right side wall for an easy setup for your opponent. It often catches opponents off guard because it looks like you're aiming to hit to their forehand, but the ball actually drives at their backhand.

Serves standing very close to side wall.

  • Half-lob serve so close right wall that its hard to get a good angle on the ball. The ball should hit the front wall about 8 feet high, travel parallel the right side wall without touching it, and after the first bounce, hit the back wall about 2 feet above the floor. The strategy behind this serve is to get the opponent to try and kill the ball, but since they're hitting it when it's 4 feet high, it's not likely to roll out, but instead come up a bit for a setup for you while you're up front and the opponent is still in back court.
  • Full, high lob serve so close right wall that its hard to get a good angle on the ball. Ball must first hit floor just after short line, not too close to dotted safety line. Cut the ball when hitting it (don't hit the ball flat, put under spin on it by holding the racquet more parallel to the floor than directly flat into the ball. I'm not sure how to do this on the backhand side of the court.) This causes the ball to go straight up after bouncing, so the ball is awkward (too high) to short-hop. Ball must die one foot high on back wall.
  • Unexpectedly hit the Jason Mannino half lob or a drive to the opposite side of you want to keep your opponent off balance for the half lob. (You can't disguise the full lob.)