SERVE LIKE TSONGA
In 62 matches in 2009 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga smacked down 609 aces and won 79% of his first serves. What makes the big man’s serve just so, well, big?
1. Tsonga has a very aggressive and wide starting stance, which already demonstrates his intent to use his legs by bending his knees in his first movement. While composed, it is a very dynamic start position.
2. He quickly draws in the back leg into the beginning of a powerful launch position. His short style of raising his racket is unusual. He lifts the racket like he just picked it up off a table.
TIP: More players a re shortening their preparation by lifting rather than taking the racket back which is easier to time.
3. Here is the key to Jo-Wilfred’s huge power. He has a fantastic leg bend and rotated shoulders getting a full pre-stretch of his powerful chest muscles, which will unleash towards the ball.
SERVE TIP: If you are able to serve keeping your front foot still and hit a serve without losing balance then you know your toss is pretty accurate. Unless your ball toss is reasonable it is difficult to serve well.
OBJECTIVES: TWO BOXES, ONE SERVE
Do you find yourself hitting aces into the deuce court and throwing double faults into the ad court? You are not
alone. Many players favour one service box over the other, and make changes to their action, particularly the ball toss, to compensate. The trick is to trust your serve - and adjust your geometry. Try rotating your stance and move along the baseline to ensure that serves down the middle cross the lowest part of the net.
4. The body is driven up o the ground by the legs and the racket is in a classic hammer position, travelling at increasing speed to nail the ball. Notice how straight his body is in the air, using his full height.
5. The wrist has pronated, adding extra power to the fast moving arm. The second major point to the quality of his serve is even after contact he is able to keep his body almost straight and head up.
TIP: This is the point where many servers begin to collapse and drop their heads lo sing power and consistency.
6. The arms are symmetrical, which is very unusual, because he follows through on the right side of his body. While unconventional, this aids topspin for the second serve.
TIP: Tsonga’s landing is balanced, his back is straight and his head is up.
PRACTICE DRILL: SERVE, SERVE, SERVE!
A great drill to improve consistency is to serve 10 in a row. If you achieve this, score 15-0, then 10 more and the score becomes 30-0. If you miss a serve you lose the point. You can even consider playing a set like this. The number of serves can vary according to your standard. To make this more demanding imagine splitting the service box into smaller sections, so the target becomes one quarter of the box.
Images by: Mike Frey, AMN Images