Written by Ian Westermann
Practice Drills — 11 August 2011
Tennis Serve Rhythm and Smoothness Drill

When you hit your serve does it feel like you’re trying super hard to accelerate the racket but you don’t actually get much out of it in terms of power or spin? If so you NEED to try this drill, it’s designed specifically to weed out parts of your stroke that may be quick and jerky, killing your potential for racket head speed on your serve.

All you’ll need is:

-A pair of soccer socks
-Four tennis balls

Make sure to watch the 2nd half of the video where I give tips on how to accelerate your motion and still maintain good rhythm and fluidity!

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  2. Hi Ian,

    Just one thing that I forgot mentioning and is to say "thank you so much for sharing". Those videos, images, comments ans thoughts are extremely helpful to me and without any doubts, would risk myself as saying: "To all players, being young, old, wannabe pro or reacreationals" A big thank you. Pierre

    PS: If I can be of any help for translating this to French and Spanish, let me know.
    To German, I am in the process of learning it, being currently in Berlin.

  3. I am having trouble with tennis elbow (actually, everyone tells me I have golfer's elbow since the pain is on the inside of my elbow). Two pros have told me it is due to my serve being incorrect. Any ideas for me to fix this?

  4. I live in the the northeast and I will not be on the tennis court until April. The info. I am hearing sounds good and helpful. Thanks : )

  5. Hi Ian, Thanks for the drill. I have a few questions.

    In terms of counting, what about 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand and 3 on the hit rather than the follow through. It seems to me that this would promote better acceleration up to the hit, which is when and where you want it, not after the ball is gone. Your thoughts?

    In terms of a hitch, or a dropped elbow, do you have any other drills to overcome this?

    Also, Is there any particular reason for 2 pairs of socks rather than one. Would 1 be ok?.

    Thanks again for the video.


  6. I think this drill looks very good to also increase strength for doing the serve. Off to buy soccer socks. I
    can see where you must contact high and stay vertical. I am taking lessons and we are also learning to
    do spin. I will tell my coach about your drill. Thank you.

  7. You give simple but efective lessons. Please how a playert learn to hit two backhand? Thanks

  8. I'm off to purchase the socks! This practice should greatly improve the smoothness and effectiveness of my serve.

    Thanks Ian,


    • It really can work wonders, Jim. Let me know how it goes!

  9. Now I know what to do with those socks my 6 year old gave me 20 years ago!

    That's one of the nicest shirts I've seen on any tennis video…thank you.

  10. Hi Ian,

    Wonderful video! I am anxious to try out the sock drill, because I have always had a hitch in my serve. One problem though, is that I deveolped the hitch because I'm not confident in my toss. In match situations, my toss gets more wild. Would you be able to do a video on how to achieve a good, consistent toss? I know that some coaches talk about your tossing arm making a "J" motion. Also, what is the best way to hold the ball: in your fingertips or palm of your hand. And how should you release the ball? Some coaches say you should think about placing the ball and not "tossing" it. I would be interested in what you think on the subject of tossing!

    Many thanks! :)


  11. Thank you for the great video. I need tips on how to anticipate my opponent's shots. I appreciate your help.

  12. This was one of the best instructional methods I have seen for learning service rhythm and motion.

    Thank you!

  13. Ian, I am considering trying out the 2-count sort of "truncated" "2-count" service rhythm of say a Roddick or maybe Wozniacki (though not so much as Andy's!) but all the drills I see are based around the more classic 3-count full round take back. Can these sock drills for rhythm be applied to the 2 count methodology? It just seems to me that 2 count would produce a bounce at the top fro Trophy into Racket Drop with the socks and balls…but its equally likely that I am misunderstanding where the smoothness enters the 2-count service motion? Thoughts?

    Cheers, David in Belfast

  14. Thank you so much for all your work with your videos!!!!!
    A friend talked to me about your website….and it's just amazing!!!!!
    And this video is just awesome!!!!!! It has already improve my serve!!!!!

  15. Gotta tell ya!! I never heard before you said it, that one should hit the ball while the racket is on it's upward motion. I watched your video last night and today when I played I used your strategy gitting the ball upward. It took less effort, was more accurate, and it actually forced the other guys to make adjustments on the fly!! SIMPLY AMAZING!!

  16. Wher you in the Marines ?

  17. Good one forwarded to my wife -doubles partner

  18. Hi Ian,

    This is very useful as well as your serve course. I am one of those people who can perform the exercise perfectly but as soon a ball is tossed, the 'hitches' come back. Mainly because i'm waiting for the ball to drop. Which leads me to my question…

    1. Do you think the tossing are and racket arm should rise at exactly the same level and time e.g Murray and Fed, or should the tossing arm go first and then the racket arm to follow e.g. Ferrer and Serena, allowing it to play catch up. The worry is that the whole motion will become disjointed with the later.

    2. I have always noticed that the racket drop of the pros is always away from there body, so the elbow does not really flex more than 90 degrees during the motion and drops parallel to the baseline. I am trying to achieve this, but my elbow flexes almost completely, so much so in fact my racket hand is very very close to my head ( I have been know to wack myself on the head with my drop!!).
    However, whenever i try and correct this, i find my serves are very very slicey with but not much distance or power at all. Is that because, I am approaching the ball 'frame on' now? (which is correct according to your vid) and I now need to introduce pronation to flatten the serve out again?

    Thanks for all your help.


  19. Do you have (or plan) a video about the other half of service motion — hips & legs? I have trouble moving into the court — keep losing balance when I lean forward.

  20. Should the balls in the sock actually touch your mid-back (shoulder blades) just before the verticle upswing? When is serve, I like to drop the racquet head between my shoulder blades, before the upward swing. This is exactly the same motion a baseball player, particularly an outfielder, uses when throwing a ball.

    • No, they shouldn't touch unless your motion is a bit off. If you watch slow motion video of the pros serving you'll see that every single one of them has quite a bit of space between the racquet and their back in the "back scratch" position!

  21. Thanks for offer, sound a great, need help to invent serve.

  22. Ian I used to use that technique in my lessons all the time to emphasize smoothness
    and fluidity and of course rythem. You are spot on.

  23. Ian – great drill – I learned this from another pro named Ean and I use a regular sock with a rubber reaction training ball in it, same effect. The way I learned it, and you can see this in your video, was to make 3 loops in the air (you make two then stop): one big one with the take back and swing, another small one at the top, the racket drop, within the larger loop, and then he had me do another small loop on the opposite side of my body after the follow through so you could keep it going right into the next cycle, and just do continuous loops. When I practice my serve, I start with the sock, then pick up the racket and try and duplicate the continuous loops for several cycles with the racket, then toss a ball and try to hit it without even thinking about aiming at the service box. Really helps me get the rhythm and looseness needed for some good pop and spin on the serve. BTW, the split step lessons are excellent, too!

  24. That’s awesome! Hm you seemed to release it pretty early compared to the horizontal release that you showed which most rec players do. So is that what you would have done with a racquet? I presume so that’s so awesome but I need to find those socks. :D

  25. Simple yet extremely useful to build the feel this smooth accelerated movement of the shoulder and arm !
    It really helped me a lot to comprehend the serve and i am positive it can help lots of folks who lack a bit the sense of rhythm like me..
    So THANKS IAN !!!!

    …and i am sure you’re having a good laugh just thinking of all of us stuffing tennis balls in socks and making or these funny exercices….

  26. The “count out” method worked so well for me. A total game changer almost immediately. Please consider me a rabid fan of Essential Tennis. Can’t wait to check out the other vids!

  27. Great video! I heard soccer socks can also be useful in teaching or reinforcing the kick serve motion. Maybe you can demo the kick serve motion in a follow-up video? Thanks.

  28. I liked this video. Very helpful for getting fluidity. By the way, I was thinking, is there a similar exercise to increase rhythm and smoothness on groundstrokes? I don’t think I could use anything similar to socks for it. Have you maybe thought of a drill to increase the fluidity of them yet?

  29. This looks great! Definitely something I can use at home. Except I don’t know if my TV or mirrors would take the beating.

  30. Amazing video. Keep up the good work. I really appreciate it. Thanks

  31. this will really help me out. it looks great idea to bring smoothness in serve
    Thanks Ian

  32. Hi Ian,

    My boy’s baseball socks work well too…I have done this before with one sock and 3 tennis balls a long time ago. Definitely going to try your version with throwing the socks. I had a real “Aha” moment when you said the serve is a vertical motion. I am anxious to try this out on the court tomorrow. Thanks so much for the great video!

    • Same, the vertical comment is a really good one. Let's serve it up more.

  33. Dear Ian,
    Thanks a lot for taking the time to share this, and thanks to the comments of all. I tried this out immediately as I play foot ball soccer too, not only tennis, and have my socks here… REALLY WORKS!!!… my daughters are looking forward to practice this tomorrow at the tennis court.
    Fun, easy to try it out and it encourages new tennis players (my daughters are 11 and 9 and are learning the game)…
    Greetings from Mexico

  34. Thank you so much for this drill Ian! But I have a couple questions, 1, would this work for both first and second serves? And 2, how should I do the drill if my service motion is kinda abbreviated, instead of having the dominant arm goes down then up to trophy pose, I just go up, I’m not sure if you know what I mean…kinda like Andy Roddick?? And one last question, would this drill help me fix my service problems? I don’t know why, but I just keep on hitting the serve into the net… Thank you so much for reading this!!

    • Timmy:

      I have an abbreviated service motion like you — I just go up. However, the countout as demonstrated in the video still worked for me. Raising of racquet and ball toss (one-one thousand) then behind the head (two-one thousand) and then accelarate to ball/pronate/contact (three).

      I love this “counting” method!

  35. Interesting. Don’t have any footie socks but I have some tights ( aka “pantie hose” over there I think). Fishnet ones even better- more aerodynamic, but I’m out of those right now. I’ll let you know how I get on.

  36. Thanks for the speedy reply! It may just be that it’s not the serve that’s the hardest skill to perfect in tennis, but it’s the toss! I wonder if having a feeling of tossing the ball into the the path of the incoming racquet is more appropriate to practice, rather than tossing to a certain spot and trying to hit it there. Not a subtle difference to how the brain tries to learn to co-ordinate these two movements, I’m sure. What do you think?

    • Peder,

      I see what you’re saying, and it’s definitely something that could make a difference for you. To be honest I’d say that whichever mental approach works best for you go with that, but in general I’d say the “best” way to think about it would be that you want to toss right where contact should physically be.

  37. Hi Ian,

    The “hitch” can be caused by the height of the toss being off, and it may even be the more likely underlying cause for most of us. For example, you may be able to swing the socks and the racquet perfectly, but once the ball is introduced, if it does fall into your swing path at the perfect time, your brain will make an adjustment by causing a hitch. What are some solutions to this for those of us who can do a perfectly smooth shadow swing without the ball?



    • Peter,

      You’re absolutely right, I actually talked about too high of a toss causing rhythm problems in some of the comments above. To practice keeping a smooth rhythm and getting the toss height correct at the same time I strongly recommend that you try attempting to hit a toss with the socks! Probably sounds crazy at first, and it will definitely be tricky the first few times you try, but it’s a great way to practice keeping a smooth motion AND tossing in the right spot to facilitate that motion at the same time. Obviously don’t worry about where the ball goes if you hit it, but believe it or not I’ve actually made a serve this way before! :)

      • In an online lesson from Novak Djokovic, he says it’s better to toss higher than your peak because it gives you time to relax through your motion. In my observation, the majority of pros toss high.

  38. Ian, I had to stop playing matches because I was diagnosed with arthritis in the third vertebrae of my neck a number of years ago. So my neck is permanently stiff, but manageable as long as I don’t serve.

    As I do the motion here in my living room, I think maybe one might try to feel the stretch in the shoulder just at the point of forward trunk/shoulder rotation (coming out of ‘reverse body action’). The arm/shoulder action thus feels like a 2-part lever.

    A loose grip really helps, I find, as Brian said. Same thing for groundstrokes.

  39. Good video clip which has three key points: 1) good drill for Serve Rhythm, 2) use “one one thousand, two one thousand three” for timing 3) sock throw exercise, up and forward (throwing a used racket in an open field is another good exercise). I agree with Bill’s comment (shoulder moves up and forward then stop is good one to point out) it misses correct forearm motion (pronation if you like). We may learn a bad habit if we don’t realize that. It is also understandable that we can not focus too many things at one time, but it’s worthwhile mentioning it (when you do the throw exercise, you did pronate or if one has relaxed wrist, the pronation will be automatic). Of cause, as always I’d look forward to new followup video clips. One more thing I think it’s important to emphasize is that one needs to give enough time let racket (balls in socks) drop as low as possible.

    • Jeff, actually the shoulder deceleration takes place while the racquet is still down behind the back. This actually throws the arm/racquet forward in that instance while the shoulder is ‘stopped’ in a natural sequence of motion transfer. The forearm then will pronate naturally (if you are loose and don’t try to force it).

      Just feel that stretch in the shoulder as you prepare to transfer the momentum

      Btw, ‘reverse body action’ will naturally get your racquet deep down behind your back, naturally and without thinking about it… it involves ‘ground force reaction’ and quickly decelerated knee bend.

    • Thanks for watching, Jeff!

  40. Hi Ian,

    I’m one of these guys who’re struggling with power even though I put a lot of energy into my serve. I get consistency and ok placement, but no power. I tried out the socks and I really didn’t have any trouble with getting a continuous motion. It’s the same thing when I’m using only a racquet without a ball. It’s when I add the real ball toss that I’m loosing all that smoothness. I fell like I’m sort of pulling the racquet to the ball from the trophy pose, and I get no racquet head speed what so ever. Do you have any tips on progessions on how to add the ball toss into my serve?

    • Jonathan,

      I know exactly what you mean, that can be really frustrating. Have you tried doing the acceleration and release part of the sock drill? Often times that’s where things fall appart for people (as I said in the video). They get the racket and ball in their hand and everything totally changes, they tense up and loose all of that smoothness. This is really tough, but you can actually toss a ball and attempt to hit it with the balls in the socks as well. Really tough since it takes extremely good rhythm and timing, but very doable.

      • Yes! I think I’m onto something here. I just hit a couple of serves just outside my home, and I got a lot more power, without doing anything fancy, when I got the toss in the right height so I could get a continuous motion(not stopping in the trophy pose). Hitting a ball with the sock really helped! Very difficult to do consistently, but I hit it every now and then. I also tried throwing the sock, and I found out I was throwing it in too great of an angle. When I lowered my throwing angle just a little bit, I threw it probably 4-5 meters further. I generally get a lot of top spin, especially on my second serve, so this might explain why I got spin and consistency but no power.

        Thanks again! Will be trying this out on the court on sunday for sure!

        PS. Warm up properly before throwing the damn sock. I felt like i tore all the muscles in the right side of my upper body when not warming up… =(

    • You are probably way too tight. Keep a loose grip and shoulder.. let the body throw the arm. Toss high enough so you don’t feel you have to rush/

  41. Hey Ian,

    Great video & comments too. You missed an opportunity to save a few bucks & which also shows you must be single. Old married guys like me would think first of a pair of recycled pantie hose. Should work; although on second thought, I might hesitate to show up at the courts with those in hand.


    • Bill,

      I would pay money to see a video of you completing the drill with old pantyhose, lol.

      Looks can be deceiving……I’ve been married 7 years and have a 1 year old daughter! :)

      • Are there two Bills here… I didn’t post that comment about panty hose

  42. Socks are a great idea but a level up from that is TheTotalServe. Check it out at TheTotalServe.com
    It helps you feel the serve and accomplish that continuous motion you need. Great website. Aloha

  43. Hi Ian,
    so far I hadn`t realize the aspect of swinging the racquet more upward than forward. Thx for that :0

  44. Outstanding device.

    Its important to emphasize the explosion of energy in the vertical dimension. I have found that the looser I hold my racquet the more the energy wants to direct itself upward as if I am throwing my racquet into the sky straight overhead. Final accelerated pronation takes care of the rest. The whippier my arm feels the bigger the serve and spin with seemingly less effort and loss of efficiency.

    I notice as the match goes on, the whip factor decreases and balls start hitting the net as the explosion from the lower body decreases, the rhythm is thrown off, and my timing suffers.

    Good job.

    • Brian,

      Thanks for watching. You’re right, the vertical part of the swing is so incredibly important, not a lot of rec players understand it!

    • Try serving with your little finger off the end of your racket. This helps insure you have a whip to your serve.

      You may lose your loose service grip while playing if you tend to hit ground strokes with a grip of death, which also tends to create elbow problems, impede easy power and touch. Try hitting a few minutes of ground stroke practice with a finger off the end of the racket. This will change your ground stroke timing and may give you more touch to your shots when you return to your normal grip position. If your ground strokes have a more relaxed grip, it may spill over to keeping your service mechanics properly relaxed.

  45. Ian, you foot faulted! What does this say about your real serve??! :)

    • Haha, I actually hadn’t even noticed that. Guilty as charged :(

  46. Somebody mentioned here the issue of waiting in the trophy pose for the ball to drop. This indeed is an issue in practice. For example, with my current poor tossing skills, this might seem unavoidable. I’m assuming we should work on the timing and the toss, so that we do not have to wait. Correct?

    • Peter,

      It’s not only an issue of timing (when to let the ball go) but also an issue of height. Typically players who have a long pause in their service motion have a very high toss causing it. This breaks up the rhythm and makes it much more difficult to be accurate with the toss as well! A slight pause can be totally fine, but not so long that it breaks things up completely.

  47. I agree 100%, Ian.
    BTW, your juggling tip is helping me as well.

    • Good to hear that the juggling is paying off! Plus it’s just a lot of fun :)

  48. Great lessonette. Can’t wait to get home from work and dig thru the kids soccer gear to try it out… I’ll pass it on to my Super Senior USTA team, many of whom could use a little tweaking on hitting a serve with a smoothly timed upward motion and better body turn. Not sure if old dogs can learn new tricks, but you never know.

    I’ve got a variation of this — practice serving over an eight to ten foot high fence (or net) from a baseline extended just outside the court into the service court. This forces one to develop an upwards topspin motion on the serve or you never get the serve into the court. Here’s a short YouTube clip of how it looks : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Vw-P6Ux4g

    • Fred,

      I’ve been teaching old dogs new tricks for years! Sometimes it can take a bit more time, but it’s worth it :) Thanks for watching!

  49. Thanks, Ian. I saw this exercise first time on the Tennis Channel last year. I did some of this then and forgot about it. I remember I had some trouble…

    Your demonstration seems to make more sense. When I tried this, I found it hard to do at first as I found it hitting parts of my body instead of being so fluid. I used to pause at the trophe pose. The ball would loose the momentum. But watching your demonstration it seems to make sense to go through the full motion not stopping anywhere. When we serve, we tend to wait at the trophe pose due to the natural wait time for the ball to come back down to the hitting zone. The fluid motion starts really from the trophe pose. So, I throught of starting from that sequence. But I found it awkward. Now, your explanation and demonstration seem to make it more complete.

    On another note, it seems that this exercise works against the racquet drop (dropping fully behind your back). It looks like I will have to practice more to drop and be fluid. If you find that doing one perfectly is mutually exclusive, and if you had to choose, which would be more important?

    David Kwon

    • David,

      It’s important to point out that different players can have different serve rhythms and still be successful, don’t think that in order to have a good serve you MUST follow my example of a 1-2-3 count. However, in my experience having players at least try this drill really helps create a smoother, more efficient motion. If you read some of the comments above you’ll see that people are bringing up players like Roddick who have a much more abrupt 1-2 rhythm, but obviously still get great results (haha).

      No, I don’t believe that this drill and a full racket drop are mutually exclusive at all! If you paused my motion with the socks where my arm/shoulder are loaded back behind me as my core starts rotating forwards/upwards and replaced the socks with my tennis racket you’d see a full drop with the tip all the way down at my waist (especially the one that I accelerated and let go on).

    • I think this exercise teaches some elements (fluidity, etc.), but it will never be the same as the actual serve. So, I would not contrast the two. It is similar to the situation with juggling, which is helpful, but even much less directly related to serving. Of course, this exercise is much closer to the actual service motion.

      • Peter,

        Different people learn in different ways. I often find that taking the racket out of a student’s hands and having them perform some kind of different action or drill that isn’t 100% transferrable but rather very supplementary can really help make some big improvements and break throughs. Obviously nothing is exactly the same as serving besides……well….serving, haha. That doesn’t mean little drills like this can’t be extremely beneficial :)


  50. Thanks for the quick response. The reason I have attempted to use the “Roddick method” even though I am not a strong rec player is that you have way less moving parts in your serve, less chance of getting “out of rythim” I just count to 2 when serving. That being said now do you have any suggestions for a drill?

    • Reid,

      A drill working on what exactly? Developing a 1-2 rhythm specifically?

      • Yes that would be great

        • The most important things are simply getting your body to the right position (knees bent, shoulders tilted, dominant elbow down, core rotated back, etc.). I don’t have a “drill” for this per se, but I’ll be putting more videos out in the near future demonstrating how to get to the right spots.

  51. I will definitely try and practice this lesson. I was really disappointed with my serve especially second serve. Hopefully I will get improve after practicing this. More power Ian..

  52. Ian,

    Great tip/drill question what if your motion is more like Rodick’s(not the power or speedetc) but a shorter motion instead of a 3 count more of a 2 count, Does this drill work for that as well?

    • Reid,

      That’s a great question and probably something I should have addressed in the video. Yes, there are different types of rhythms that CAN be effective when hitting a serve, Roddick is a great example of that. In the case of a more “modern” 1-2 timing count this drill doesn’t really work, the socks won’t continue moving smoothly like what I demonstrated here. To be honest with you I very rarely see a rec player pull that kind of serve rhythm off, but it’s certainly not impossible.

  53. Great stuff, Ian! Your locales look so familiar! I could swear you have the Bethesda YMCA on Old Georgetown Rd in one of your videos. Are you a Montgomery County guy?

    • Kai,

      That depends on which video! This one was shot in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. Definitely a log ways from Montgomery County, haha. Most of the others shot outside were done near Frederick, Maryland which is where I live most of the year.

  54. Ian, Another great video. Thanks. Looking forward to more.

  55. The problem is that it doesn’t look like you’re pronating… that might be a be a bad habit that will affect the actual serve (I stopped the video at the key points to see this lack of pronation.

    Also you say to ‘accelerate the shoulder’, when in fact the shoulder should be stopping (or DECELERATING in biomechanical terms) in order to transfer the built-up momentum through to the arm, hand and racquet

    • Bill,

      This demonstration/drill definitely wasn’t meant to train correct technique with regards to every single part of the service motion. As the title says the socks are great for training “rhythm and smoothness” specifically, I’ll definitely be putting out videos about pronation in the future. I definitely pronate fully when I’m actually hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racket :)

      • Guys like Roddick and Roscoe Tanner have that kind of non-stop behind-the-back motion. Yeah, I know you pronate when you actually serve. Do you consciously abruptly STOP (termed ‘rapid deceleration’) the shoulder, like you want the arm to detach and fly over the net? I used to do that (I don’t serve anymore) and the result was my most powerful, effortless serves, with no thought of missing at all… no muscling.. the body took over.

        And I’ve seen some pretty weird service actions in club-level tennis, so your ‘balls-in-a sock’ drill should get the point across. In fact, years ago a sports writer said ‘you realize how tough a game tennis is when you see some of the gyrations many club players go through when attempting to serve’

        • Bill,

          Yes, I agree, the socks won’t really help if you happen to use more of a 1-2 “abbreviated” motion like what Roddick does. As I told somebody below I don’t think that type of timing is best for the vast majority of rec players, but it can certainly be done. If I were to go back and shoot this video again I would definitely bring that up just as an FYI.

          Next time I go out and hit serves I’m definitely going to be thinking about what you’re typing in regards to the quick deceleration of the shoulder to transfer more momentum into the ball (ie, to “whip” the racket). I understand what you’re saying and don’t outright disagree, but on the other hand I always cringe when anybody uses the words “abruptly” and “STOP” in regards to any tennis technique. In my experience teaching rec players being abrupt and stopping are two of the biggest problems plaguing amateur technique in general. Tight, tense, inefficient strokes are the norm, and I’m typically trying to find any way I can get to people away from that. So basically while what you’re saying may in fact be best for somebody with a high level of proficiency I don’t think it’s appropriate for most people watching these videos. I’m very much open for discussion on the topic though!

          Haha, I agree whole heartedly with the sports writer. Lots of creative serve motions out there :)

        • Bill and Ian,
          Interesting concept of ‘rapid deceleration’.
          However, I would think that the rapid deceleration would happen by itself assuming that you through your arm and shoulder up and forward (it can go only so far, unless it really detaches ). Once the shoulder stops by itself, the remaining part of the whipping motion should happen automatically. So, it might seem not good to try the deceleration consciously.

          Bill, it apparently worked for you. BTW, hopefully the reason you no longer serve was not related to your attempts to decelerate :-) (just asking). I might try it the next time on a practice court, but I don’t see this happening.

          I also agree with Ian on the danger of using the terms “abruptly” and “stop”.

          Any thoughts would be appreciated.

          • Peter,

            I think that’s an excellent description! While this is something that I personally have never consciously done (and agree that it’s a bad idea to ask most people to do it consciously) I can totally understand how it’s happening anyway. On the other hand, doesn’t it seem like if one were to literally do it this way over and over again it would cause a great deal of strain on the shoulder joint? Literally accelerating towards the ball until the shoulder physically comes to an abrupt halt against itself? To be honest I’m thinking that what’s happening in reality is much more a smooth transition of energy rather than any kind of literal sudden “stop”.

        • Good point, Ian.

  56. Thanks so much, Ian. I have a shoulder capsule problem that has transformed what was my strongest shot to a disjointed mess. I’m hopeful that some intense stretching and strengthening, along with this sock drill, will help me recover my lost serve. Keep up the great work.

    • Best of luck, Ben! Let me know how it goes.

    • I also have had a shoulder problem. For me the solution was to choke up on the racket up to three fingers. (Put two or three fingers on your left hand at the base of the racket, then grip with your right hand). This is a repeatable position that you must use each time or your timing will get messed up.

      Choking up makes the racket head light and much easier on your shoulder. As your shoulder heals/gets better, you can choke up a finger less until you find a happy spot of power without pain.

      Don’t forget to return to ‘normal’ grip after your serve, or alternately, adjust your ground stroke grip to be choked up.

      You’d be surprised how hard and how much spin you can serve with with a choked up (and relaxed wrist) grip. I discovered this using a racquet ball racket to serve a tennis ball. Racquet ballers can hit serves over 170 MPH… It wasn’t that fast, but way faster than I expected for such a short racket.

  57. Brilliant. I am going to use this for my gf who is new to tennis ie a 2.0 player.

  58. I will definitely try this one. Looks very helpful. Thank Ian.

    • You’re welcome! It’s one of my all time favorites, definitely go try it out.

  59. I tried this, and it worked great! Except for one, small problem. My bare feet got really sweaty in my tennis shoes.

    • :)

      • John,

        This made me laugh out loud … a much needed laugh!


  60. :-) Ian, you lost a good opportunity to mention Tennis Express when you said you bought the socks at your local store…

    • Ric,

      I definitely wouldn’t have guessed Tennis Express to have soccer socks! :)