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Tennis Anyone
January 1999 Article

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John Mills, USPTA

When working with students on their serves, I like to stress accuracy, placement and control before power. I set up targets in the service box, (left, middle and right). I ask the student to hit five serves at each target area. Since the objective is to work on their control, I only allow them to hit the ball at approximately 70% of their full power. Next, I give them permission to hit, for example, a first serve (more flat than spin) at the left target at 70% of full power. Then, I might say "try to hit a second serve (more spin than flat) at the right target at 70% of full power.

Once they can handle my varied instructions, I let them start telling me what they are going to do -- either a first or second serve (at 70% of full power) and the direction on the serve. Only after they seem to accomplish these tasks reliably at 70% of full power do I add the challenge of letting them hit some serves occasionally at 90% of full power."

When the student is finished, he or she has mastered accuracy, placement and control -- before trying to add power. Once the student understands that their success with serving depends mainly on what they do with their serve at 70% of full power, not at 90% of full power, then the lesson is learned. Trying to hit at 90% of full power only a small percentage of the time will keep your opponent off guard, allowing you to hit most of your serves at 70% of full power. At 70%, you will have more accuracy, better placement and control. Also, do not forget to vary hitting both your first and second serves at 70% and 90% of full power. This strategy will also help the server who tries to over hit their first serve and gets a low percentage in and then under hits their second serve and gets killed with it.

I wish everyone a great 1999! Let's use this year to get in shape for the MILLENNIUM!

Good Luck on the Court!

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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