What Is A Kick Serve? | Ultimate Guide

Wow.

I can only dream of hitting a kick serve like this.

In the past couple of months I’ve been really interested in learning how this is done.

I can use the slice and flat serves reasonably well, but I’d like to add some more variety to my game, and improve my serve overall.

The kick serve is a hard serve to learn and it will take a lot of work to use it effectively, but I’m hoping with regular practice I will be able to master it sooner rather than later.

Here’s a detailed article on the kick serve..

what is a kick serve

What Is A Kick Serve? How Does It Work?

The kick serve relies on a relaxed arm that has enough power to whip around the body moving up and over before connecting with the ball. Due to the incredibly fast racket-head speed when performing a kick serve, the tennis player is able to put a large amount of top and side spin on the ball.

Due to the top spin, the ball will dip as it flies through the air and kick up off the court after it hits the ground.

This can make it very difficult for the opponent to get to the ball in time to return it correctly, as they can be forced out wide due to the side spin.

A well rehearsed kick serve allows the player to have even more control over the ball than they would have with other types of serves.

Unlike a slice or flat serve, with a kick serve you actually toss the ball slightly behind you or above your head.

This allows you to brush up on the ball when you make contact and follow through around the right side of the body.

When performed correctly, kick serves can be very difficult to return.

They are generally quite easy to hit, as they don’t have the pace of the flat serve, but they are difficult to get back, making them a great choice against competitors of all abilities.

The kick serve is particularly a great option when used on clay courts.

It can be used specifically to attack the weaker side of an opponent or to pull the player off to the side of the court so they will have more trouble getting to the serve.

One caution with a kick serve is that because it does bounce so high after hitting the court, it may allow an opponent to get underneath it and return a very shallow shot.

This will cause the return to fall short at your feet, which can be difficult to get back.

how to hit a kick serve step by step

How To Hit A Kick Serve | Step-by-Step

The Grip

The kick serve requires a continental or eastern backhand grip. Usually the eastern backhand grip helps you generate more spin, but the continental can help you hit the serve with a bit more power.

The eastern backhand grip requires players to put their base knuckle across the top bevel of the racket. The thumb should be extended across the side plane.

Not only is this a powerful grip, but it is also incredibly versatile.

The continental grip requires you to put your base knuckle further to the right, across the second bevel.

The Stance

Most people can use their normal stance when serving a kick serve

However, a closed stance is going to be a much better option for a powerful kick serve. The front foot needs to be pointing at the net post if you are right-handed, and the left net post if you are left-handed. This makes it easy to quickly adjust for any differences in your stance when playing.

The Toss

The toss is the most important part of the kick serve.

It needs to be higher than normal and also needs to be above the head. While most serves require the ball to be thrown up slightly in front of the body, and sometimes slightly to the right, the kick serve toss needs to be above your head, or even slightly left.

When tossed correctly, it’s possible to get sufficient topspin on the ball.

The Swing Path

When it is time to hit the ball, make sure you focus on hitting upwards and outwards to the side of the body.

To accomplish this, players must understand how to snap their wrist. A wrist snap will add more power to the serve and provide the necessary spin.

Body rotation is also important (although older players who have limited mobility can enjoy a strong kick serve without as much rotation in the body).  

Most players finish either by keeping their racket to their side below their elbow, or swing all the way around the ball towards the belly button in a sideways arc.

pros and cons of the kick serve

Pros and Cons of the Kick Serve

Pros

While not generally used as a first serve, kick serves are a great second serve option for a player to use during a match.

One of the biggest pros of using a kick serve is that it will bounce really high, and to the side, when it hits the court. Most players don’t expect this from a serve and will have trouble getting into position to correctly return the ball.

With practice, it’s also possible to control the amount of spin you put on the ball, sometimes hitting more topspin, than side spin, to get even more bounce.

The more topspin you can impart on the ball, the more it will dip. This gives you a much bigger margin for error to get the ball in the service box, meaning you can aim comfortably quite high over the net,

When used correctly and against the right opponent, a kick serve is a great weapon to pick up some free points.

Cons

One of the main downfalls of the kick serve is that it is generally very difficult to learn, and it is usually too hard for newcomers to learn how to use it effectively.

 This means that players who want to use the kick serve need to be willing to put in a lot of practice to ensure that they are able to hit this serve correctly to get the best use out of it.

Another problem with the kick serve is that opponents who are comfortable taking shots early when the ball bounces will be able to easily return this serve. When this occurs, the turn on the ball will be reduced and the serve will not be nearly as difficult to return.

Further Reading

Here’s an article comparing the kick serve with the slice serve

Here’s a blog post looking at the kick serve and the flat serve

mastering the kick serve

Mastering the Kick Serve in Tennis

Mastering the kick serve takes practice and time, and running tennis drills are the best way to do this.

By continually practicing not only hitting the ball, but how to throw it up and slightly back, you will be able to quickly perfect a powerful kick serve.

After you have perfected your toss and know that it will land right above your head or slightly left, then you need to focus on slightly bending your knees and bringing your hips forward.

This will help to prevent you from trying to arch your back to hit the ball. Many players do this because they are aware of the ball being behind them and they panic when trying to hit it.

When you toss the ball, make sure to bend your knees and push your pelvis forward, which will keep you balanced and evenly distribute your weight.

Make sure that you do not look down when springing up and swinging.

By keeping your waist straight and even, you can fully extend up and control all of your upward thrust while uncoiling your body.

Once the racket drops, keep the elbow at shoulder level.

To make sure that you have plenty of power in your kick serve, pay attention that you swing up on the ball. This will allow you to not only clear the court, but to also correctly aim the ball.

Kick Serve Drills in Tennis

Here are some useful drills for the kick serve that I’m trying at the moment.

This a great video if you’ve never tried the kick serve before.

This is great for learning the right swing path, which for me, is the hardest part of the kick serve.

Jaff Salzenstein has some great advice on breaking down the kick serve.

Here are some useful tips on getting in the right trophy position, and practicing the kick serve from there. This method helps eliminate some of the common mistakes that can occur early on in the swing.

And here’s the kick serve in all its glory (with Jeff again). The amount of kick he generates is awesome.

One day, I’ll get there 🙂

How to Return a Kick Serve in Tennis

To be honest, understanding the kick serve will give you the best chance at hitting a good return.

As we’ve seen, not only is this a tough serve to learn..

…but it’s also a very hard one to return.

Stand Further Back

One option is to drop far back, even behind the baseline, so that the ball can reach its full peak and start to drop down.

The problem with this strategy is that it will force you out wide on the court, due to the spin on the ball, but it does make it a lot easier to get a good swing at it and allow you extra time to hit your return.

Another problem with staying back when returning a kick serve is if the server is able to come in to the net and use the tried and tested ‘serve and volley’ method.

Move In And Hit It Early

The other option is to move in and try to take the ball early.

By moving inside the baseline of the court, you may be able to get in touch with the ball before it gets too high. This can be tricky to time, but can be easier than trying to hit the ball after it has peaked.

This allows you a better opportunity to return the shot and to be on the offensive instead of putting yourself in a position where you will constantly be defending yourself from additional attacks.

These guys explain some great tips on how to return a kick serve.

FAQs

Does racket type make a difference on a kick serve?

This is a question that many new tennis players have because they want to make sure that they have the best chance to hit a powerful serve with their racket.

While most rackets are great for hitting a kick serve, it’s important to note that rackets can make a difference. Rackets with elongated spots that extend up the tip of the racket will be much better for hitting the kick serve, as the ball will move faster when hit here as opposed to anywhere else on the racket.

How do I add more power to my kick serve?

It’s a common misconception that the power from a kick serve comes from the arms, but it actually comes from the entire body.

Players who want to add more power to their kick serve can do this by powering through their legs, up through their hips and torso, and through the shoulders, arm, wrist, and racket.

Relying on the whole body for power will add more force to the serve.

Does the grip really matter?

Yes, the grip plays a huge role not only in the power of a kick serve, but also in how easily it can be controlled. Without the right grip, players won’t have enough strength in their hand and in their wrist to be able to execute the serve properly.

Poor grip can cause the wrist to rotate slightly when hitting the kick serve, which will greatly decrease the power and control of the serve.

Does the location of the toss play a role in the serve’s success?

Some players opt to toss the ball to the 12 o’clock position when preparing for a serve. This will result in a lot of power and prevents the player from accidentally overtwisting when hitting the ball, which will help to protect the body years down the road.

Additionally, this results in a better disguise of the serve, which can help to catch opponents off guard.

Other players toss the ball closer to 11 o’clock, which is more over the shoulder. This results in more sidespin and can cause the opponent to have to move more around on the court when trying to return the ball.

clay tennis court photo

Why does shoulder tilt matter?

When players try to hit up on the ball, they need to make sure that their shoulders are aligned correctly to make this possible.

By pushing one shoulder down slightly to the ground and stretching the other arm up, players will have a much better chance of getting up and on top of the ball. Holding both shoulders in a static position won’t result in nearly as much control.

Does the toss really play a huge role in how much spin the ball has?

Yes. When the ball in the toss is rising, then the ball will have underspin. Balls that are hit when they are falling will have topspin. Finally, if the ball is hit while it is completely stationary at the peak of the toss then there will not be any spin.

Therefore, to get more kick on your serve, you want to hit the ball when it just starts to fall.

Who has the best kick serve in tennis?

Although most professional players have fantastic kick serves, Andy Roddick certainly has one of the better ones.

Not only does he have the power behind his serve to send his opponents running, but the ball bounces incredibly high after hitting the court, which makes the serve even more difficult to return.

He manages to coil his lower body while keeping a narrow stance, which allows for a lot of power to shoot up through his body and his racket before colliding with the ball. This, in turn, creates an incredible serve.

While some tennis players will cut their serves short, Andy Roddick has great follow through with each of his serves. This means that he enjoys additional thrust and motion from the serve, as well as the ability to perfectly guide the ball into position.

The serves happen incredibly quick and result in a powerful hit that sends the ball flying across the net and swerving to the side before bouncing high, making it very difficult to return.

Going back further, Stefan Edberg also had a very good kick serve.

hard tennis court photo

Can the kick serve be used on any surface?

While the kick serve is great on solid and clay surfaces, it’s not a great option for carpet or grass. This is because the ballwill more likely bounce right into position for your opponent. It will actually end up in the strike zone, which is fairly easy for a skilled tennis player to return.

What is the highest kick serve?

The highest kick serve is generally around seven or eight feet high, which seems incredible to us mere mortals.

Even though it is possible to hit serves that result in this much bounce, it is difficult and requires not only a lot of power, but also an incredible amount of control.

Conclusion

If you are serious about improving your game, I think everyone should try and learn the kick serve. When you mix it up with slice and flat serves, it makes it a lot harder for your opponent to anticipate what you are going to do.

It takes practice, a lot of practice, but I hope over the next few months I’ll be able to get my serves kicking up more.

Do you use the kick serve? Or are you more comfortable with flat and slice serves?

Please leave any comments below.

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Author: Graham Scott

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