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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reinventing my Game - The Topspin Serve

If I wanted a soft serve, I would go to Dairy Queen...

Yesterday's post Reinventing my Game - The Serve discussed how a new grip allows me to hit a lower, flatter, and harder serve. That post did not discuss one other tool that I have the potential to add to my service game - topspin. 

I generally have talked about spin in a negative way. That remains my position for players below 4.0 skill levels. There are other parts of the game for which additional practice will add a quicker and better return for the effort than practicing spin. But some of those parts of the game become second nature to players as they advance. This allows advanced players to practice more esoteric parts of the game - like spin.

Yesterday, I mentioned that my service motion vaguely resembles Rob Elliott's as shown below. I used Rob to make a point that the grip allows such a powerful serve.

I also stated that my resemblance was only slight since Rob is much more athletic and experienced than I am. Actually, my aggressive serve, while sidearm, is somewhat lower than Rob's. My normal serve - used when I want to be 100% sure I do not fault - drops even lower. My aggressive serve is more similar to Kyle Yates' form from today's video.

The right photo has all of the elements that I use in my serve, including the handshake grip, the sidearm swing, and hitting the serve more like a groundstroke. Adding the context of the left photo shows the swing needed to impart topspin. The paddle moves from low to high and brushes the ball to add spin. This is better seen through a video by Mark Renneson called Pickleball Topspin Serve.

The topspin serve can be very effective but it must be hit hard to be most effective. For me, the risk is hitting the serve long...and when I say long, I mean feet, not inches. The upward arc of the swing requires a closed paddle face, i.e., perpendicular (or nearly so) to the playing surface. When I hit the serve with less than 100% focus, my paddle face tends to slightly open to the position I use in my normal serve. A hard low-to-high swing with a slightly open paddle face sends the ball sailing. Not a good thing. Therefore, I still rarely use this serve in play. But I know I have the capability with more practice.

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