How to Master the Kick Serve in Tennis
As a tennis player and coach, I know that having a good serve is such an effective weapon to help you win games and matches. A great kick serve can be the ultimate weapon on the court. It is normally used as a second serve as it tends to allow for more consistency when compared to a fast serve. It is also used as an element of surprise to mix service patterns up. It can be especially effective on a clay court or hard court where the ball bounces high.
Let’s delve into more detail about the kick serve when to hit the serve, and how you might want to improve your serve to have the best kick serve out there…
What is a Kick Serve?
A kick serve in tennis is a spin-heavy serve that bounces high after crossing the net. A kick serve, also commonly known as a topspin serve, is hit with an upward spin and also hits across the ball to varying degrees. This gives the ball forward and sideways rotation, making it bounce high and away from the opponent. The kick serve’s spin can make it more challenging for your opponents to return the ball effectively.
When Should You Use a Kick Serve?
You should use a kick serve when you want to throw off your opponent’s timing or create an opening to attack the point. It is most effective when you hit it wide to open up the court. The kick serve is also the perfect option when you’re serving against an opponent who stands too far behind the baseline or attacks the net aggressively.
How to Hit a Kick Serve?
I am going to break down the kick-serve into chunks. Miki has shown us the full action in the video above and we will also refer to another article we wrote on how to hit a serve previously.
- Stance: First, you should adopt a platform or a pinpoint stance. In a platform stance, you keep your feet stationary during the serve while in a pinpoint stance, you bring your back foot up to the front foot before the swing. Both stances have their own merits and can be effective for a kick-serve.
- Ball Toss: The ball toss for a kick serve is crucial. You should aim to toss the ball slightly behind and to the left of your head (for right-handed players) or slightly behind and to the right of your head (for left-handed players). This allows you to get underneath the ball and generate the necessary topspin. Look at the photo below of Miki who not only has thrown the ball slightly behind him, you can also see the arch of his back as he leans back to hit up and through the ball.
- Where to Hit the Ball: For a successful kick serve, aim to hit the ball at the top and slightly to the side. This contact point allows you to brush up against the ball, generating the topspin necessary for the kick serve. Note how the racket is to the left of Miki’s head in the picture below.
- Swing and Follow Through The swing and follow through for a kick serve are keys to achieving the desired topspin. Your swing should be low-to-high, emphasizing the upward brushing motion against the ball. The follow-through is where you can accentuate the topspin. As you hit the ball, allow your racket to finish high and to the left (for right-handed players) or to the right (for left-handed players). You sometimes see players almost taking off when they rip a kick serve.
- Where to Aim: You should aim to land your kick serve deep into the opponent’s service box. The spin will then cause the ball to kick up and out, making it difficult for your opponent to return. A top tip is to aim at the middle of your opponent’s service box and the spin and movement will naturally drag the ball down.
Benefits of a Kick Serve
- There are numerous benefits to incorporating the kick serve into your game. I am not the biggest server and struggle to generate power so my serving combination tends to be focused on precision and spin. The kick serve gives me optionality when thinking about my service game.
- Some opponents are used to a quick-serve coming at them, they stand at the back of the court and enjoy when the ball comes onto them quickly. Serving a kick serve of varying pace and spin can disrupt an opponent’s rhythm.
- Tennis is a pressure game and a serve is not the easiest shot. I have found times when I am under great pressure and my serve starts to falter. By having a kick serve in my locker it means I can turn to it when needed, it is more reliable than my first serve and can get me back in the game.
- Another significant advantage of the kick serve is its ability to open up the court by sending your opponent wide. By targeting the outer edges of the service box with a well-placed kick serve, you force your opponent to stretch and reach for the return, often pushing them off the court. This should leave you the court to hit a glorious winner into. Easy!
- It allows you to come to the net. The kick serve can provide you with the time to allow you to approach the net. With the ball bouncing high and moving away from the opponent, they are often compelled to return with a defensive shot.
Which Players Have the Best Kick Serve?
In the men’s game, when talking about the brilliant execution of the kick serve, we cannot overlook two prodigious talents from Spain – Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz. Both players consistently deliver impressive kick serves, driving their opponents wide off the court. It’s great to watch them arch their backs as their serves almost send the receivers into the crowds, stretching them beyond their comfort zones.
On the women’s tour, I always thought Ash Barty had a fantastic kick serve, it was consistent and had a beautiful trajectory to it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the kick serve the same as the topspin serve?
Yes, the kick serve is another name for the topspin serve. The only difference is that a top-spin serve tends to spin straight whereas a kick serve hits the ground and spins sideways, normally away from the opponent.
Can beginners learn how to hit a kick serve?
Yes, beginners can learn how to hit the kick serve with proper training and technique. Learn it early and it will be with you your whole tennis career. And do not be worried if the ball flies into the side netting when you’re learning, it happened to me!
How do I know if I’m hitting a kick serve?
You’ll know you’re hitting the kick serve if the ball spins and bounces high after crossing the net. Watch for the movement of the ball.
The kick serve is an essential technique that every tennis player should learn, as it can provide a competitive advantage during games. A well-executed kick serve can be tricky to return and put pressure on your opponent, ultimately leading to more wins.
I find this serve particularly effective when your opponent is on the defensive, forcing them to move back or to the side, thereby opening the court for your next shot. The kick serve also works well as a surprise move during crucial points in the match to keep the opponent guessing.
When practicing the kick serve, focus on perfecting your ball toss. Aim to throw the ball slightly to the left (for right-handers) of your head. This will allow for the racket to make contact with the ball at the right spot, facilitating the necessary upward and sideways spin. Remember, practice makes perfect. Invest time in mastering this serve and it will become an invaluable weapon in your tennis arsenal. Let us know how you get on.