Is serving a tennis ball so painful that you’ve considered surgery or quitting the game altogether?
Since I tore the labrum in my right shoulder, serving with that arm causes significant pain the following day. But I recently developed an adequate left handed serve which may allow me to play matches and avoid surgery. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you can make this switch, if you take it step-by-step.
In about 3.5 hours, you can develop an adequate (but not powerful) serve that will “serve” you just fine at the 3.0 – 4.0 level.
Switch your serving arm with these 4 exercises:
1. Baseball throws (10 minutes). Throw a ball against a wall with a baseball pitcher motion. Be loose, snap your wrist, and try not to throw hard.
2. “Frying pan” bunts from the service line (30 minutes). Grab the racquet with the same grip you’d use to pick up a frying pan. Choke up on the racquet, and bunt balls into the opposite service box. This helps to develop “feel” for placing the ball on the sweet spot.
3. Practice making contact from the “backscratch” position (1 hour) against a fence. This will be awkward. You will miss the ball completely and shank many off the frame. But continue until you can reliably place the strings on the ball…regardless of where that ball goes. Avoid the temptation hit the ball hard.
4. Serve in the “backscratch” position from the baseline (2 hours). At first, just “lob” in your serves to get a feel for the location of the service box. Avoid rotating the shoulders and hips. Don’t bend your the knees. Just focus on your arm motion only. Only swing harder when you can reliably make 6 serves in a row.
Focus on contact first and accuracy second.
The first attempt I made to switch my service arm failed quickly. I took a bucket of balls to the baseline and tried to replicate my entire motion–arm, shoulders, hips, and legs–at once. That’s too many moving parts! I shanked ball after ball and gave up in 30 minutes.
My second attempt “stuck” because I broke the task into 4 achievable goals. Once I could reliably find the sweet spot on the racket, it wasn’t much work to direct the ball into the service box.
You need less service pace than you think as a 3.0 – 4.0 player.
I’ve tested my lefty serve in a few matches and found it’s not the crippling weakness I worried it would be because I:
1. Don’t double fault.
2. Keep the ball low.
3. Can direct to the backhand or forehand.
Yes, I must be extra alert for my opponent’s service return, but I’m coping fine. And my shoulder feels wonderful.
Watch the video: how I made the switch.
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