How to Serve in Tennis
With second serves being allowed in tennis, you essentially have two shots at creating the perfect serve. This article will help you learn how to serve in tennis 😊.
The direction of serve, type of serve, and placement of serve are all essential ingredients that play a major role in the success of your shot, and therefore, your likelihood of earning a point.
This article will act as a guide on the importance of serving, offering advice and steps on how to perfect your own.
👉 Three different types of serves will then be discussed, providing techniques and tips to help you become a master.
Table of Contents
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How to Serve
Tim Henman suggests that trying too hard is one major faux pas committed by many players that leads their serves to go horribly wrong.
According to him, being relaxed is key, and practice makes perfect.
Different exercises can be done to improve serving, with target practice being helpful.
There are several steps to check to create the perfect serve.
Practice is the key role to be successful and this rule also implies on learning how to serve in tennis.
These will be discussed in depth below, with links to videos placed below each point to demonstrate and provide a visual representation which will be a great aid 🥰.
It is very important to ensure that each step of this sequence is perfected, as any deviation or lack of perfection can cause the serve to go wrong.
Upon looking at professional players, it can seem as though a serve is one smooth movement.
However, for an accurate serve there must be two swing paths of the racquet.
This includes the transition into the pronation (turning your palm to face away from you) just before contact, rather than one straight swing without any pronation.
Adopting an appropriate stance is the first step to ensuring a good serve.
The basic tennis stance is when your front foot is the right side of the net (left side if you’re left-handed), and the back foot is parallel to the baseline.
This stance gives you balance in all directions, but the pin-point and platform stances are other techniques you can use once you feel more confident.
During a platform serve stance, the feet remain in the same position throughout the entire service motion.
In contrast, for a pin-point stance, the serve is initiated from a platform stance, but as the ball is tossed up, the back foot is brought closer to the front and pushed upwards towards the ball.
And pro players of this era has once pay a strong heed to learn how to serve in tennis ☺️.
The continental grip is considered the proper tennis serve grip 😊.
The racket should be gripped as if it were a hammer, and the edge should be perpendicular to the ground.
The left index finger should be placed in the “valley” between the thumb and the index finger of the right hand (for right-handed players), just next to the thumb bone.
👉 The left index finger should point to the top left edge of the racquet handle.
When tossing the ball up, the racket-bearing hand will move slower than the tossing arm.
As your body weight shifts forward, you will push your hips forward and shift your body weight to the front 🥰.
Advanced players will stretch their bodies into a bow-like shape (Tennis Gate), so it might be worth watching their movements in slow motion to comprehend and visualize how the throw is done fully.
The hit is the focal point of a serve; it is at this point when you will know if the serve’s outcome will be a success or not.
The swing path should include the internal rotation of the upper arm and the pronation of the forearm.
Toss is the first and foremost important step in how to serve in tennis ☺️.
Once contact with the ball is reached, the racquet’s head should be pushed straight towards the net, then finishing on the right side of the body with the butt cap pointing upwards at around a 45-degree angle or more, and the string bed pointing towards the back fence (Feel Tennis).
The backswing and toss happen simultaneously, so it is crucial to always practice them together as one.
Before tossing, the ball should be placed in the middle of your hand, with the thumb held gently on top 😊.
The toss should happen from your shoulder joint, and a straight arm must always be used.
The backswing should be relaxed, almost looking like the movement of a pendulum.
This move is often conflated with tensing muscles, as players often believe this will give them more strengths and power 🥰.
In reality, this is not the case, rather the stretch and snap idea is what generates the most power behind a serve.
Like a rubber band, you should outstretch your body, and the momentum should then be transferred to the arm, rotating the arm in a relatively fast movement.
Now, you can all this guide is the pillar and will build strong basis to learn how to serve in tennis.
The power comes from this, rather than from the structure and tenseness of your body; it is very important to separate this idea from making a powerful serve.
👉 If you employ the correct technique, there will be no need to tense your body muscles, this will only tire you out more.
If you watch a professional player serve, they will finish their serve on the left side of their body, if they are right-handed (and vice versa) ☺️.
It is important to acknowledge that this isn’t the result of intentional switching, it is simply the relaxation of the body that swings the racket in that natural way.
This is, therefore the part of the serve that is unintentional; it’s a natural occurrence that shouldn’t be given too much overthought.
👉 It’s at this point you can allow your body to relax, but not too much as you have to be ready for the next hit!
The key takeaways from the above steps is a serve is broken down into little parts, and each of them must be perfected in order to make for the best serve possible; it isn’t just one movement 😊.
No one is a born player, all the good tennis players were once novice and then they struggle over things and most importantly was how to serve in tennis.
However, although this almost mechanical way of looking at it is a great way to understand the inner workings of a good serve fully, it must be remembered that our bodies move in a smooth, fluid motion and that shouldn’t be interfered with when serving.
It is important to strike a balance between addressing each technical movement of a serve, but allowing the body to flow naturally and freely.
The natural flow of the body is crucial, and the “edges drill” by Feel Tennis is a useful exercise that will promote this fluidity.
These steps will help you to build a solid foundation from which to progress towards more advanced tennis playing.
They are the fundamentals that are key to master, so it is worth spending more time practicing, even if it can appear slightly laborious.
Watching the videos is a fantastic way to learn, as you can visualize the technique and movements, and mirror them with your own body.
Now we will look at the different variations of serves that can be used. Yes, there is more than one type of serve, and they’re very effective 🥰.
Three Types of Serve
Although mastering one serve may seem like a fantastic accomplishment, which it most definitely is, it is extremely useful to learn a few different types of serves.
This will improve your level of play drastically, whilst teaching you novel skills about handling the ball and catching your opponent by surprise.
Each serve has its own specific technique, individual to that play; these little nuances in technique must be observed and adopted ☺️.
It is good to switch up the types of serves you use, to add dynamism to the game, and avoid becoming too repetitive and therefore predictable.
With that being said, it’s important to understand that changing serve can be obvious if not done discreetly, and this can alert your opponent, who will then be in a better position to return successfully and potentially win the point.
You need to be aware of all types of serves when you’re learning how to serve in tennis.
👉 If you’re aiming to play at a higher level of tennis, these are the three serves that are worth learning, which have been adapted from Tennis Companion:
#1. The Flat Serve
Arguably one of the most highly-sought after serves in tennis, the flat serve is a solid demonstration of both power and the ability to hit an ace, which puts the server in a favorable position indeed 😊.
That flat serve derives its name from the lack of spin put onto the ball, keeping the ball low and straight in direction.
This can cause a great challenge for your opponent, as they’ll have to bend low to make the return shot, which is difficult to do.
One of the largest downfalls of the flat serve’s is the low margin of error it allows for.
It can be a challenge to try and keep the ball in, not to mention assuring its well-placed in the box.
Therefore, relying too heavily on the flat serve can cause you to depend too much on your second serve, and maybe even lose out on points.
That being said, if you pair a flat serve with lots of speed, your opponent will not have much time to react, which is a good way to win points.
Here, the flat serve can be considered an easy way to gain points.
If you err on the taller side, a flat serve can work in your favor.
This is because your clearance over the net will be higher, which increases your margin for error.
Therefore, the opposite is true if you’re on the shorter end of the spectrum, as your margin of error is dramatically reduced. Choose wisely!
A continental grip should be used, as this gives you more ability to pronate and is therefore widely used for many types of serves.
The continental grip is the advised one to use for all the serves mentioned in this article, which means you will only have to master one type of grip!
The toss should happen approximately 12 to 18 inches in front of you, and around 6 inches to the right of the shoulder of your throwing arm at the peak 🥰.
As you bring your tossing arm up, your racket-bearing arm should also be moving, going up into its position.
This is an important serve during the beginning of learning how to serve in tennis.
Striking the ball should happen from directly behind, without any brushing up, as this would put a spin on it, defeating the purpose of a flat spin.
The ball should be hit either at the maximum height it reaches, or as it is beginning to descent. It is recommended to choose the former if you’re able to.
👉 For a more in-depth tutorial on how to deploy this serve, watch the following video:
#2. The Slice Serve
A sophisticated technique, the slice serve can be your best friend in a game of tennis.
The crowning glory of this serve is the side spins put onto the ball, sending the ball side to side, then into the direction off the bounce.
The serve is named after this action, alluding to the arm movement needed to give that brushing action.
One of the main advantages of using a slice serve is the ability to open up the court, requiring your opponent 😊 to be unsteady on their feet.
It also opens the server up to a wide range of shot possibilities, which is always desired.
The slice serve can also head directly towards your opponent, making for a body serve.
This will crown your opponent, challenging them with the task of quickly dodging out of the way to return a clean shot.
However, it’s crucial to refrain from putting too much of a spin onto the ball as you toss it up, as this can signal to your opponent what type of serve you’re about to do, which can better prepare your opponent, making them more likely to return successfully.
Some coaches would recommend using an eastern grip for a slice serve, but Tennis Companion encourages the continental grip.
This is because changing grips can be a giveaway of your changing serve tactics to your opponent ☺️, which isn’t a very clever thing to do.
Changing your serve is not a bad thing to do, but if it is made obvious to your opponent, they will have the upper-hand above you.
Additionally, using an eastern grip might be a way of trying to cover up poor technique, so it is advisable to stick to continental, as it is with this grip, you will genuinely improve your skills.
The ideal placement of the toss is identical to the flat serve, mentioned above, as it allows for natural contact with the ball.
It may be tempting to toss the ball a little further to the right, in order to make contact with the ball feel more direct and pronounced.
However, adjusting the toss could be a risky move, as your opponent could catch wind of this and have the advantage of knowing what serves you’re about to hit.
It’s crucial to be very tactful when serving!
Overhitting is also tempting when trying out this serve, and this could lead to great inconsistency, which is not an indication of good tennis skills.
Just as perfect with other skills you need to be perfect with all the serves when you’re under the phase how to serve in tennis.
Be careful when adding the sidespin; do not overhit.
👉 A great resource demonstrating how to hit the perfect slice serve can be found via the following link:
#3. The Kick Serve
For an in-depth guide on how to hit the Kick Serve – Click Here
Although having been argued as one of the most difficult serves to master, the kick serve is considered the most valuable move to have in your arsenal 🥰.
By default, this serve has become the second serve for many players, as it is consistent, offers control and can be deployed to exploit an opponent’s weakness with much precision.
The name kick serve comes from the ball’s motion due to the heavy top spin applied upon contact.
The ball will often jump or kick up from the ground, giving it this widely-known name.
The first and foremost important aspect to understand is the change in toss required for a kick serve.
When tossing the ball, you mustn’t let go of it as soon as you would any of the other shots; you must keep a hold of it for a fraction longer.
This guides the ball slightly behind your head and over your non-serving shoulder, which serves as a good base for brushing up across the ball, resulting in a topspin.
Bending your back to achieve this serve is unnecessary and can result in injury if done too many times.
So it is best to remember not to arch or bend your back when trying a kick serve.
The key is in bending your knees, as highlighted by The Tennis Tribe, because this allows you to keep your chest up and back straight, which is the best technique to employ this serve successfully.
You can easy learn the basics of tennis as you first need to start with how to serve in tennis.
Another characteristic that differentiates this serve from any others is the need for allowing the ball to fall lower than you would for others.
Letting the ball drop approximately a foot lower than normal allows you to strike it sideways, rather than from straight behind; a 45-degree angle is considered the best positioning 😊.
The swing should be along the baseline, rather than towards the service box, as this helps create a topspin and a sidespin rotation.
The final aspect of the kick serve is balance.
Many players will lose their footing and potentially fall to the side, because they toss the ball behind them.
The standard finishing position ends with the racked taking a path that swings across the body, ending on the opposite side of your hitting arm or dominant arm.
However, there is another type of finish, whereby the racquet ends up on the same side as your hitting arm or dominant arm.
Jim Courier used to use this follow-through, so it would be worth researching him to understand how this is done.
👉 Interested in mastering this golden move? The video on the following link will be sure to help:
A good serve aims to set the scene for a good game of tennis that ultimately demonstrates skill, competence, and therefore makes for an enjoyable, stimulating and challenging match ☺️.
Keeping your opponent guessing is symptomatic of good serving; you don’t want to be too predictable, but you also don’t want to be too overtly obvious about which serve you are about to make.
How to serve in tennis is far more important question, as it struck the mind of everyone who wants to pursue and be known as pro tennis player.
There is an ideal balance that must be struck.
The rules that dictate how a proper serve should be done are clear and make a lot of sense; the ball must travel diagonally over the net and bounce in the opposite serving box.
Each player will take in turns to serve, however, in a tie-break situation, there are exceptions to this.
Before the game, a toss will be made where the winner will have the opportunity to pick who serves first.
All players must respect this decision.
The receiver must allow the ball to bounce once on the court before returning it back, which is why kick serves are ideal; they can send the ball 🥰 in an unprecedented direction.
Learning how to serve provides the fundamental basis for enhancing your skills to become a great tennis player.
A crucial aspect of a match, serving, is essential and is a skill that must be refined, practiced, and mastered.
With the help of this article and plenty of practice, you should be equipped with the necessary skills to do so!
A close understanding of the basics of how to serve in tennis is required to be expert 😊.
Here's the Easiest Way to Perfect your Serve...
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