Sam Stosur's serve - a technical discussion
I just watched Sharapova v Stosur on Eurosport via delayed coverage (recorded it to watch when I got home).
Easy win for Sharapova of course but I was pleased to hear Sam Smith constantly discuss the Stosur serve with Chris Bradnam. She said all the things I’ve been saying for the last 2 years. I’ve never understood Stosur’s obsession with kick serves, she’s one of the strongest women on the tour and there is so much variation Stosur could do with that serve. It’s probably one of the key reasons why she has won only two tournaments and lost about 9 finals. Her serve is far too predictable at the top level of the game.
What serves should Stosur be using? Well, those who have read my posts over the years know I’m a bit of a guru when it comes to the serve because I studied guys like Sampras and Becker, the very best. Stosur first of all needs to develop a hammer serve and quick. She could win so many points on the deuce court by going for aces or unreturnables down the T. Stosur doesn’t like tossing the ball slightly to the right, she loves tossing the ball to the left for topspin, that’s fine. With that ball toss, she could hammer the ball down at the opponent by tossing the ball straight above her head, or slightly to the left. With that type of ball toss, she could hammer it but still naturally come over it with topspin, but with much more pace. That’s a difficult serve for anyone to deal with regardless of opponent because it’s coming fast and direct with spin, that naturally draws framed returns often.
Stosur could also look to slice the serve out wide much more often than she does at the moment on the deuce court. And a really vital serve is the slice serve into the body, especially on the 2nd serve.
On the ad court, Stosur must start thinking of serving down the T much more often, she stands further away from the centre line, so she can’t slice it like Serena and Davenport, where the ball moves away from the returner, but it can still be effective because she can get sidespin and the returner still has to get over there and make a play, a returner has to move her feet, that’s why the serve down the T is so effective in professional tennis ( and amateur tennis, all levels actually).
Once Stosur establishes that serve, then she should also start hammering the serve out wide with much more pace than she presently does. Stosur should also start serving into the body more, again with slice on the ad court.
Once Stosur gets these pattern of serves established, the kick serve would become even more effective because the opponent wouldn’t know when it’s coming, they wouldn’t know what to expect next and it starts to get to their head. Stosur could get so many more aces if she used more variety to keep her opponents guessing, it would also give her more chances in the ensuing rallies.
Another player who had a similar issue a few years ago was Svetlana Kuznetosva. When I ran that website and forum a few years ago, I constantly pointed out that she was constantly serving topspin serves to the backhand and kept getting punished, especially by Jankovic and Ivanoic. Ivanovic was running around the backhand and crushing forehand returns, Jankovic was hitting the backhand down the line making her stretch. Kuznetsova lost about 11 finals in a two year period. It’s only in 2009 when she changed coaches and started serving down the T more, that she began to win tournaments again (Stuttgart and the French).
I feel Stosur should seek out the advice of fellow Aussie Pat Rafter. I feel Stosur has modelled her game after his in some ways and I think he could teach her variety because he had great variety on his serve, facing dangerous returners like Agassi, Sampras, Chang, Kuerten and Kafelnikov, he could teach Stosur much needed variety which could help transform her game.