from Tennis de France
by Stan Smith and Robert J. Lamarche
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
It's hard to beat the attackers who have a solid first serve, but, when one is faced with an opponent whose second ball is also formidable, the task gets even more complicated.
The Swede Stefan Edberg, second player in the world ranking, is precisely settled in the latter category.
His kick second serve is one of the best in the world today because it is both powerful, smooth and very elaborate. The saying that the value of a player can be judged by the quality of his second serve is very true, and this means that Edberg's future seems particularly bright.
Among amateurs, too often I see players who attempt everything out of their second ball, or, otherwise, seek a safe serve by simply trying to pass the ball over the net.
This tactic is loved by their opponent, who know that, when the pressure goes up during a match and they are betrayed by their first service, they have no reliable use of a second ball allowing them to take the initiative.
That's why I think that many club players would do well to draw some basic principles of Edberg's serve I describe in the sequence of pictures that illustrate this article.
In general, you'll need a good knee bend, a ball toss towards the left (if you are right handed) and forward in the court, a good pivot on the shoulders, aggressive movement upwards for producing the lifted effect, and the confidence to follow your second serve to the net.
Naturally, it is always possible to stay at the baseline after your second serve.
Unlike many professional players, Edberg doesn't hesitate to attack on the second ball, as he hits it aggressively.
His ball toss enables him to take a step inside the court, and the slightly slowing effect on the ball allows him to get to the net earlier that on his first serve.
He usually manages to end the rally quickly with the volley.
The only aspects of Edberg's serve I would not advise you to mimic are the extreme camber of his back, which requires a considerable effort from the lumbar vertebrae and that puts him slightly out of balance when he steps inside the court, and the very high ball toss, which may be affected by the wind.
However, you can take inspiration from some elements that make Edberg's second service one of the best in the world, and you will also acquire a formidable weapon.
1. Start from the side
When he starts to raise his arm to throw the ball, Edberg makes his weight move to his back foot. Note his position rotated a little backward from the net.
2. Movement of weight
Edberg then moves his weight forward and arches his back by bending his knees. He keeps his left hand pointing the ball to ensure the correct position of his shoulders.
3. The curve of the back
He is now ready to pounce on the ball, his center of gravity is located far on the left of his feet. His ball toss is executed forward, but it is aligned to the vertical of his body.
4. Step forward
Edberg manages to give his second ball a good speed and effect, rushing up and inside the court to strike (see picture #4). This offensive tactic is made possible by the way he begins his movement forward by bending his knees. By then, folding his left arm on his body, he triggers a powerful movement of his shoulders to the net. Notice that at the start of his toss his right elbow is pointing the sky. This gives him a good power to accelerate the racket head.
5. A movement from bottom to top
Looking at all the pictures so far you can see that Edberg provides a considerable effort on the second service. In fact, he hits the ball with the same power as his first service. The difference lies in the important effect that he gives the ball, which gives him better control. You should proceed the same way. Picture #5 is taken just before the impact. Edberg's movement, because of the curve of his back, is executed from bottom to top and from left to right (see arrow). This movement of the strings against the ball produces a topspin associated with a lateral effect, which will make the bounce very high and on the left of a right-handed opponent. It is difficult to produce a solid return on such a heavy serve and such a high bounce.
6. The accompanying action
Immediately after the impact (see picture #6) Edberg's feet are still off the ground. His right arm is almost fully extended and forms a straight line with his left leg, a gesture which indicates a solid and well coordinated service. More important is the position of his shoulders, still sideward compared to the net. Many players are turning their face to the net too early during the service action. They base primarily on their arm to give the ball speed and effect, instead of relying on all their body, as Edberg does.
7. The rise to the net
Up to now, Edberg's center of gravity was on his left. At the end of the accompanying action (picture #7), it is based on his left foot, clearly inside the court. He is slightly unbalanced at this point and vulnerable to a solid return of serve on his right, that is to say, on his forehand. However, the speed and the effect of his service make such return difficult to his opponent. Edberg also advance his right foot fairly quickly to recover balance towards the center of the court. On these pictures you can see that Edberg's attitude is very offensive and he focuses on his opponent to anticipate the direction of his return. The Swede has such confidence in his second serve that he frequently follows it to the net, even on slow surfaces.
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