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TENNIS TIPS: Maximizing leg drive on the serve

September 2, 2013
By JAK BEARDSWORTH ( , Lake Placid News

The serve, like every other shot to one degree or another, is a whole body effort - that kinetic chain again. On the serve in particular, leg drive is a key component in maximizing that chain.

Above you can see that I've engaged my legs. As the ball-tossing arm begins to move upward, the upper body begins coiling, and the knees simultaneously bend. Arm up, legs down.

Note that I'm in the process of dropping the racket head into the full back-scratch position from the loading stage where the racket is initially cocked up. And my tossing arm is still extended. Up on the ball of my lead foot, I'm readying myself to jump up and into the ball-striking moment. That's effortless power in contrast with the "arm serve" we see all too often in club and rec tennis.

Article Photos

Photo by Shaun Ondak
Jak Beardsworth shows how each component of the kinetic chain is utilized during the serve.

My head is up and my eyes are plotting the optimal moment of racket-on-ball impact - an effective cue, versus the usual "watch the ball." Avoid pulling your head down prematurely at all costs - perhaps the biggest challenge in serving - which always leads to dysfunctional trunk flexing and tosses invariably dropping too low.

Even if you're an old-schooler and not a jump server - as all of today's pro players are and have been for years - at least rising up onto the ball of your front foot during and through the hitting zone will only make you a better server.

Way back when, jumping was not permitted, yet the very best in the game still served effectively with even limited upward movement into the ball, although with predictably lower tosses than today's pros. Some might be able to remember huge-serving Roscoe Tanner's "low" toss which some mistakenly thought he struck on the way up.

If you are a modern day leg-drive jumper, maintain your balance through the follow through by kicking your trailing leg back while landing on your front foot. Since you've landed well into the court with your toss in front, remember to recover your defending position fairly quickly back behind the baseline, but without rushing the serve's finish.

If you find - no when you find - that you're now getting a little more pop on your first serve delivery, and you're drawing shorter responses, then OK, remain inside the baseline to begin taking advantage.

Remembering the classic Jack Nicklaus quote, "Bad putting goes through your whole bag," one could also say bad serving goes through your whole game.

Stick with it, it's always a work in progress.

Do your best. Always aspire higher. Love the game.


Jak Beardsworth, USPTA Elite Pro, is available for lessons at the Crowne Plaza-Lake Placid Club., 941-626-0097,



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