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Kick Serve vs Top Spin Serve: Which Is Better?

Recently, I’ve been learning about the kick serve as I was interested in finding a way to improve my second serve, and give myself a better chance of winning the point.

My general approach has been to hit a flat (sometimes slice) first serve and always a slice second serve. Depending on the opponent, sometimes I find my second serves can be returned back with interest and I lose the point.

So I needed some more variety, and it seemed to learn a kick serve was a great step forward in improving my overall game.

Kick Serve – Ambiguous Meaning?

After watching several Youtube videos, I realized there is some ambiguity with the term ‘kick’ serve.

Some people just think of it as a serve that just ‘kicks’ up off the court, but it needs to be defined better than this. 

If you think of a clock, with a kick serve you toss the ball more over your head, and you brush up behind the ball with an approximate 8 to 2 initial swing path (if you’re right-handed).

This has the result of making the ball kick up and bounces to the right after it’s landed.

Some refer to this as a twist serve.

How To Hit a Top Spin Serve

An actual top spin serve is practically impossible, as you need a 6 to 12 initial swing path. But if you can get close to this, assuming you toss the ball over your head towards your left shoulder (like the kick serve), the ball will just bounce up higher (like if you’ve hit a top spin forehand or backhand)

So in summary:

Kick serve (twist serve) = Ball jumps and moves to the right upon landing

Top Spin serve = Ball jumps up upon landing.

I’m sure there are other variants of this and if you read various forum posts, it seems you can have different types of kick serve, including one which involves slice. 

But for now, let’s keep things simple!

KEY POINTS – You need a continental grip, or even a touch to the backhand side (like an eastern backhand grip).

Also, you need to toss the ball more towards the left-hand side (if you’re a righty)

Pros & Cons – Kick Serve vs Top Spin Serve

Even though these serves are slightly different they do share some advantages and disadvantages.


  • Due to the imparted top spin (with slight side spin on the kick serve) the ball will tend to dip as it travels over the net. This gives the server a lot more margin for error in getting the serve to land in the box.
  • It means you can hit the serve with a bit more power and be less cautious. Therefore the top spin and kick serves are great options for the second serve.
  • After the ball lands, the ball will kick up so your opponent will have less time to react. Both serves can also push your opponent further back so it makes it harder for them to hit a winner.

The kick serve has one advantage though:

  • It can push the opponent further out wide which leaves the court more open for you to hit a winner.

An advantage of a top spin serve (if you can get close to a 6 to 12 swing path)…

  • The ball can bounce up into the body meaning it can surprise your opponent and give them less time to react.


  • A genuine top spin serve is practically impossible to emulate. At best, you can hit a 7 to 1 swing path which is essentially a mild ‘kick’ serve.
  • If you don’t get enough depth on either a kick or a top spin serve, the ball can sit up nicely and the opponent can easily hit a winner.