Best SERVERS on the ATP Tour (6ft 1 or below!)

#1 Denis Shapovalov (Canada)

Denis Shapovalov was mentioned in a previous article; ranked 16 in the world.

Shapovalov made some changes to his serve in 2018 to create more consistency and get a better first serve % in the court. He abbreviated his ‘take back’ of his racquet and got into his trophy position faster so he could accelerate through the ball at a quicker pace and find better timing.

Shapovalov deserves a lot of credit for having the courage and ability to make small, technical changes to his serve at the start of his career. You can see the positive effect it’s having by looking at his serving statistics from 2016-2020 and from seeing the more frequent free points he’s winning in his matches.

Using the official ATP Stats Leaderboard, here are some key stats (based on last 12 months):

-Ranked inside the world’s top 25 for ATP ‘serve rating’.

-Ranked #19 for ‘first serve % points won’ (76.2%) and is the second ‘smallest’ player in top 20. Denis is ranked #8 for hard court matches for this stat.

-Ranked #22 for ‘average aces per match’ (7.8 aces) and again is the second ‘smallest’ player (behind Alijaz Bedene).

-Ranked #11 on hard courts for ‘service games won’ at 86.5%. The highest for players 6ft 1 or under.

#2 Dominic Thiem (Austria)

Dominic Thiem has had an amazing 2019 and start of 2020 now being ranked in the top 3 in the ATP rankings. He’s known for his powerful, intense baseline game style but he also has a very solid serve. Technically, Dominic’s serving technique is flawless and his knee bend especially is a big reason he can get his power. Because he is so fit and strong, he is able to serve well consistently for a 3hr or 5hr match which a lot of players are unable to do. Similar to Denis, he gets into his trophy position quickly and accelerates through fast while making contact. He is starting to win more free points from his serve as his career is progressing, which is vital for him if he wants success on hard or faster court surfaces. Dominic’s serve was a big reason he was able to win an ATP 1000 in Indian Wells, plus making the final of the Nitto Top 8 Finals and AO 2020.

Using the official ATP Stats Leaderboard, here are some key stats (based on last 12 months):

-Ranked #13 in the ATP ‘serve rating’.

-Has a 65% ‘first serves in’ record (ranked #19), only just behind world number one; Djokovic.

-Ranked #5 (on clay) for ‘first serve points won %’. He is ahead of Opelka, Djokovic, Wawrinka, and Tsitsipas. He is closely behind Federer, Querrey, Nadal and Krygios.

-Ranked #2 (on clay) for ‘second serve points won %’ at 58.7%, just behind Rafael Nadal. He is ranked #13 for all surfaces.

-For all these stats shown (and a lot more not mentioned) Dominic Thiem has the highest/best record for his height (6ft 1 or under).

So, how can kids get a powerful/consistent serve no matter your height?

-Get your coach to work on your serve for a longer amount of time during your coaching sessions. Usually, coaches only work on students serving for 10% of the time on a tennis court, but this should be much longer.

-Get a basket of balls and work on your serve in your own time. This is one aspect of tennis that you actually can do alone and will help improve your serve dramatically. Players should be doing this for an hour each week.

-Whilst practicing your serves alone or with a coach, try to always work on your variety. Whether it's working on slice, flat or kick serve, try to interchange between each constantly and pick different targets of the court to aim for. This is more realistic as when you play a match you don't just hit 50 serves in the same spot.

-Make 'pressure' games or drills when your practicing. It's important to be able to serve well when you are under pressure. I find a lot of players can serve really well in training but not in a match when the pressures and stakes are much higher.

-Watch professional tennis players serve and see what they do well. You don't have to copy them, everyone is different, but you may pick up/or learn some different ideas. Yes it's important to have a technically good serve, but it's also vital for your serve to feel relaxed and have your own style.

-Set up your phone or get a parent to video record your serve so you can see how it looks. Or, I would suggest taking photos at different points of your serving process. E.g. ball toss, trophy position, making contact, where your feet are/land after contact. This is a great way to check your progress and make minor adjustments.

-Having a technically correct serve will allow you to have more power and consistency. Bending your legs is vitally important and accelerating your body through when making contact. Standing side on and throwing your toss slightly to the right and in front of you. Your right hip (if your right handed) should be rotating towards the court once making contact. Your left foot (if your right handed) should land on the line or inside the baseline to show your body has had forward momentum.

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