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How to Hit a Kick Serve in Tennis: 5 Tips for Hitting a Kick Serve

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 14, 2020 • 3 min read

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The tennis serve is one of the most important shots of the game, as it’s the only shot where everything relies on you. There are many different types of tennis serves players can use, like the slice serve, which uses sidespin, or a flat serve, which is hard and fast without any spin. A great serve is an asset that can alter the tennis ball’s trajectory to drag your opponent way off-court or force a ball to their weakness, giving you a definitive advantage in every game you serve.

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What Is a Kick Serve in Tennis?

The topspin serve, commonly known as the kick serve, is one of the most popular serves in the game of tennis. For a kick serve, a player hits the ball “up," with the contact point high above the net, which decreases the chance of an unforced error, and perfect for second serves. When a kick serve hits the tennis court, it spins forward, forcing the returner back or off to the side. Kick serves are slower than other serves, which gives the opposing player more reaction time to plan their return.

Kick serves have less power and more control, allowing the server to hit specifically to a player’s weakness (depending on whether they are right-handers or left-handers). This type of serve is slightly more difficult for beginner tennis players and takes a lot of practice to master consistently during a tennis game.

5 Tips for Hitting a Kick Serve

A good kick serve technique generates a high-bouncing topspin on the ball and can be a strong play against an opponent who has trouble returning high balls. A kick serve works best as a second serve because their high arcs have a lower margin for error. This serve reduces your chances of a double fault, while still pushing your opponent back with its high bounce. To hit a kick serve, you’ll need to:

  1. Get the right grip. Choosing the right grip is essential for hitting a good kick serve. A Continental grip is the most commonly used grip for a kick serve. It puts your hand in the right positioning to execute the right service motion. Players with experience sometimes use an Eastern backhand grip for this serve.
  2. Alter your toss. With a kick serve, tossing the ball just a bit further behind you can help you generate the right spin. A perceptible ball toss will be a dead giveaway to your opponent as to where you plan on hitting the ball, and the serve you plan to use.
  3. Bend your knees. When the toss is behind your head, you may tend to arch backward to reach it. By bending your knees and leading with your pelvis first, you can help prevent injury to your lower back, while also balancing your weight for optimal stability and control.
  4. Brush up on the ball. A kick serve may not be as fast or powerful as the flat serve, but that doesn’t mean you hit it in slow motion. When hitting a kick serve, your racket face must brush the back of the ball in an upward motion at the same speed in which you would hit a first serve. While the kick serve won’t cut through the air as quickly as a flat serve, it will generate enough arc to make it over the net and into the opposite service box, and enough topspin so that the ball bounces up sharply.
  5. Follow through. Uncoil towards your target, making sure not to open up too early, or else you’ll be squarely facing the net, without any momentum to give to your serve. The racket should continue to move forward as you strike the ball, pronating after you’ve made contact.
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