Many people practice their serves (hopefully) to make the stroke better, and that works. As I said earlier in the year, if you can practice your serve 2-3 times per week, then you can see improvement over time. However, the other problem I frequently hear is, “My serve has been great in practice, I’m nailing it! But, whenever I go to play a match, I tighten up and it’s good-bye good serve, hello pusher serve.” I makes me sad to hear that people cannot enjoy their new toy, a better serve, because they get so tensed up in a match. There is a way to duplicate the pressure of a match when practicing your serve by yourself. It’s a game you play against an amazing player named Mr. Nobody.
Mr. Nobody is tough, but fair. When you play Mr. Nobody, you serve every point. If you get your first serve in, you win the point and Mr. Nobody loses the point, every time. If you miss your first serve, but get your second serve in, Mr. Nobody wins the point and you lose the point. If you miss both serves, you lose the game. Play sets. First try to win a set (regular scoring) against Mr. Nobody.
If you do that, then make the game a little more difficult by requiring that you hit your first serve harder. You can do this by saying, that the second bounce must be past the baseline or it does not qualify as a first serve, so I either do it over or it’s a fault and I’m on to the second serve. If you want to make both serves stronger, then put requirements on your second serve as well: It must also go over the baseline before the second bounce or it must have slice on it. Each time, you can add things to make the game harder, while under the pressure of trying to beat Mr. Nobody in a set or three. There are other ways to modify the basic format if the harshness of losing games for double faults is too much at first, but eventually, you should make every effort to play the game as laid out here to create the pressure of a real match.
If you are able to conquer Mr. Nobody 6-0, 6-0, week after week, then you should be on your way to having a match ready serve that is immune, or at least less susceptible to the whims of match nerves!