Grass Court Tactics: The Slice Serve
Wimbledon has begun, and that means the grass court season is at its pinnacle for both the Men's and Women's Pro tours. With the coming of the hallowed grass grounds of London, comes a big change of strategy on the serve. Whereas the red clay of the French and the rubbery hard courts of the Australian Open encourage the use of high bouncing kick Serves, the grass courts have a much lower bounce. The pros adapt and use a lot more of a serve that can benefit players of all levels: The Slice Serve.
Slice serves result in the ball bouncing low and to the outside of the court. For right handed serves, that means the ball hits and moves to the left, or deuce court sideline. For left handers, the ball hits and moves to the right, or ad court sideline. The pros pull it off by making contact on the nearest edge of the ball to their tossing arm, then launching the racquet strings across and around the ball with a light speed upper body rotation. It's no surprise that the two most successful Men's Wimbledon Champions in history, also possess the 2 best slice serves. Here are Roger Federer and Pete Sampras to demonstrate how this shot works:
While the Pros use the slice serve to great effect on grass, this is actually the most basic example of a spin serve, and the easiest type of spin for recreation players to learn. It has far less torque on the rotator cuff than a kick serve, so even juniors as young as the 8u age group can benefit from it. This is also a deadly recreational level doubles serve hit anywhere in the service box because it forces the returner to hit up on the ball, and sets up the net player for offensive volleys.
As recreational players try to add this shot to their games, the most important skill I work with my players on is this: make contact on the inside edge of the ball (that is the edge closest to the tossing and). Most recreational players I encounter who think they can hit a slice serve have the incorrect belief that it's hit by making contact on the outside edge of the ball. Such a technique will cause the ball to have a lower bounce than a flat or kick serve, but there won't be much sideways movement after impact. Here's the #1 Doubles team in the world, Bob & Mike Bryan showing very clearly the kind of effect hitting on the inside edge of the ball can have: