The Rock of U.S. Open Champions: the Kick Serve

Welcome to part 3 of a 4 part series of key shots players of any level can use to raise their hard court games.  The topic this week is the serve that can do the most damage on the rubberized hard courts of the U.S. Open (a.k.a Deco Turf 2) taking place starting August 25th: the Kick Serve. Evidence of the dominance of this high bouncing serve has been seen at the first 3 stops of the U.S. Open Series in Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Toronto for the men. John Isner (Atlanta), Milos Raonic (D.C.), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Toronto) won those events and they all possess some of the biggest kick serves in the history of the game.  No surprise to see Serena Williams, holder of a great Kick serve herself, bounce back to form in the Ladies event at Stanford last week either. Look at a list of past U.S. Open Men's Singles Champions and you can't find one that didn't have this weapon at their disposal.  Because of its high bounces and varying movement after the bounce, the Kick serve on a hardcourt prevents the returner from taking advantage of solid footing, and otherwise predictable bounces to hit offensive returns.  Failure to excel at this serve means returners can move forward and hit the return on the rise  and be more offensive than they can on red clay or grass.  In short, the Pros who are the best at this serve hold serve a lot easier than everyone else.  Recreational players with this serve will do the same thing...and, with the practice, it can be done!

Here's what one of those world class Kick Serves looks like:

Roger Federer Kick Serve (ATP #3)

Here's what a Left Handed Kick Serve looks like up close:

Jurgen Melzer Kick Serve (ATP #67)

So how can the average tennis player curently without a kick serve add this weapon to their arsenal?  First thing to do is go to one of these 2 websites to find a professionally certified tennis instructor in your area:

United States Professional Tennis Association

United States Professional Tennis Registry

While this serve is most certainly attainable by the average junior or adult player, it puts the server in some unusual position.  Serving from those unusual positions could lead to injury if this serve isn't performed correctly.  One other negative result from hitting the kick incorrectly: it won't kick! 

In addition to seeking out a certified tennis pro to help teach you this serve, there's going to be a lot of practice on your own time required.  For that time to be worthwhile, having good practice steps to refer back to is valuable.  I think the ones presented by Fuzzy Yellow Balls are the best I've seen.  Here's the link:

Fuzzy Yellow Balls Kick Serve Practice Progressions

Despite the substantial benefits of the kick serve, there are certain types of players who should avoid it due to the risk of shoulder and back injuries.  For the average adult ages 18-45, this shot poses no threat and I strongly encourage you to start learning it.  Here's a list of the player types who could get injured:

  • junior players under the age of 14 (there are some exceptionally strong boys who could try this serve at age 12 or 13).
  • senior players over the age of 45
  • any player who has previous or chronic injuries to their hitting shoulder rotator cuff, or anywhere in the lower back

Everyone else, go after it, and have a great time serving the kick!