Ask the Pro – Heavy No-Spin Serve

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Question: What the heck is a “heavy no-spin serve”???
Coach Larry Hodges:I love the phrase “heavy no-spin serves,” don’t you? You can’t help but have a smile some to your lips when you say it. However, when facing someone with a good “heavy no-spin serve,” the last thing that comes to mind is a smile.

A no-spin serve is just that; a serve with no spin. (We’ll get to the “heavy” part in a minute.) It’s what most beginners serve. Surprisingly, a no-spin serve, if served very low and short over the net, is a very effective serve. Consider:

  • If you serve backspin, your opponent can dig into the ball and give you a loaded backspin return. A short backspin is also easy to drop short, while short no-spin balls tend to pop up. Players not only are not used to no-spin serves (except beginners!), but the backspin on a serve deadens your return, making it easier to drop short.
  • If you serve short sidespin or topspin, the ball will jump off your opponent’s racket, making it easy to attack with a flip. A no-spin serve comes off deader, and so tends to go into the net. And again, players are not as used to no-spin serves (except beginners!), and so misread it.
  • Because of the above items, no-spin serves are often the serve of choice in doubles at the world-class level, and are used regularly in singles as well. (Why it’s so effective in doubles is a separate article in itself.)


This doesn’t mean you want to serve no-spin over and over. An opponent will quickly get used to no-spin, and since there is no variation in spin with a no-spin serve (they all have no spin!). So you need to have spinny serves along with no-spin serves.

But having spin serves don’t help if your opponent can see whether you are serving with spin or not. When serving with spin, you have to use a somewhat large motion (arm and wrist) to get that spin. You don’t need to do that to serve no-spin. However, if you don’t, the whole world will know you are serving no-spin. Therefore, you need to use the same motion when serving no-spin. For spin, you contact the ball near the tip of your racket, maximizing your spin. But if you contact the ball near the handle, you’ll get little or no spin, even if you snap your racket through the ball.

The result? A big spinny-looking serve that has no spin. In other words . . . a heavy no-spin serve! (And yes, you can really load up your no-spin serve by using a bigger and bigger motion while still serving no-spin.)


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