Photo Lesson: How to Hit the Twist Serve

01
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Introduction and Grip

Twist Serve Early Windup
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.

The twist serve is more difficult to produce than the other kick serve, the topspin, but it's also more difficult to return. Both serves have generous net clearance and a high bounce, but while the topspin flies straight, the twist serve curves to the receiver's right in the air and to her left on the bounce, making it harder for the receiver to line up and also putting it more often on the receiver's backhand, where high balls are usually troublesome.

  • Use the grip closest to the Eastern backhand (moving from Continental) that still allows you to make clean contact with the ball. Moving toward the Eastern backhand gives you stronger spin, toward the Continental easier contact.
  • Toss the ball so that you'll be able to meet it a little behind your head and a little to your left.
02
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Knee Bend

Knee Bend
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • Most of your body's energy will drive upward to produce a twist serve. A good knee bend prepares the big muscles in your legs to make their essential contribution.
  • Use your usual wind-up.
03
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Elbow Up, Racquet Down, Body Arched

Elbow Up Racquet Down Body Arched
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • Notice that the legs have already driven upward; the knees have straightened, and the feet have lifted off the ground. The leg drive begins the kinetic chain that culminates in the racquet-head speed that delivers spin and power to the ball.
  • Elbow up, racquet down. Generally, the longer the racquet's path, the more time it has to build up speed. Dropping the racquet as low as possible maximizes its energy potential as you prepare to whip it upward.
  • Body arched, like a bent bow. As the body (bow) straightens, it contributes more energy to the kinetic chain.
04
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Kinetic Chain Moving Into Shoulder

Kinetic Chain Moving Into Shoulder
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • At this link in the kinetic chain, the legs have driven upward, the core muscles have contributed energy as the body bow has straightened, and the shoulder has begun to rotate upward.
  • Notice the 90-degree angle between the forearm and the racquet. The wrist is still relaxed, letting the racquet continue to hang downward. The wrist must be the last link in the kinetic chain in order to create the racquet head speed this serve requires.
05
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One Frame Before Contact

One Frame Before Contact
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • Here, one frame (1/30 second) before contact, the racquet head is roughly three feet below the ball and a foot to its left. This prepares for the distinctive upward and left-to-right swing of the twist.
  • The shoulder has rotated so that the upper arm is vertical. Now the forearm is the active link in the kinetic chain as the elbow has almost straightened.
  • Notice that the forearm and wrist maintain their relaxed 90-degree angle.
06
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Point of Contact

Point of Contact
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • Here, as contact is just about to occur, the elbow has fully straightened, so the active link in the kinetic chain is now the wrist, which is in the midst of being whipped upward by all of the forces from the legs, trunk, shoulder, upper arm, and forearm.
  • The long axis of the racquet still angles upward to the left, and to create the twist spin, the string bed is facing somewhat toward the right net post. The strings are about to brush up and across the ball from left to right.
07
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One Frame After Contact

One Frame After Contact
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • Here, one frame after contact, the wrist has finished delivering the last link in the kinetic chain in the form of racquet head speed, which has gone into a mixture of forward power and brushing up and across the ball to create a mixture of topspin and left-to-right sidespin.
  • The pronation you can see in the wrist's position compared to the previous frame has occurred as a natural consequence of the large forces generating the swing.
08
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Beginning of Follow Through

Beginning of Follow Through
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • As the follow-through begins, the natural wrist pronation is even more evident, and the feet have begun to return to the ground.
  • The right foot is less forward than it would be on a typical topspin-slice first serve at this point, because the twist serve uses less forward and more upward force.
09
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Following Through Initially to the Right

Following Through Initially to the Right
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • The follow-through continues toward the right side. Some players actually finish the follow-through on the right, but most find it more comfortable to finish on the left.
10
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Ball Clears Net Comfortably

Ball Clears Net Comfortably
(C)2006 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • The follow-through of this twist serve is complete. The swing contained enough forward force to bring the right foot into the court, but not nearly as far or as forcefully as on a typical first serve.
  • In this frame, the ball is clearing the net by roughly three feet, a nice, safe margin for a second serve.