The most important stroke in tennis is the serve. It’s the stroke that starts every rally. No meaningful tennis matches would be conceivable without it.
With a strong and reliable serve, you may control the rally from the start, giving you a considerable advantage and a tactical edge during service games. Although the serve has the most impact on the game, it is also the most difficult stroke for most tennis players.
Technically, multiple movements must be coordinated in order to hit the ball optimally. This guide will teach you how to serve in 9 simple steps. This will assist you in making your serve your go-to weapon.
However, we have made the process easier for you by giving you a complete and straightforward step-by-step guide to building correct muscle memory for a good serve motion on the following topics:
What Is a Tennis Serve?
A serve (sometimes known as a service) is the only shot that players hit to begin each point in tennis. Only one of the players is designated the server at any given time during a tennis match.
A serve is a stroke in which a player tosses the tennis ball over his head and hits it while still in the air. Most professional tennis players regard their serves as their primary weapon.
To serve, use a continental serve grip (like gripping a hammer), but if you’re just starting out, an eastern forehand grip is also fine. The eastern grip is easier to learn at first, but you will eventually need to end up with the continental grip. There is a way to find the Continental grip in the shortest amount of time:
Stretch your thumb and index finger apart to make a “V” with your dominant hand. With the other hand, hold the tennis racket perpendicular to the ground. The next step is to place your “V”-shaped hand in the center of the racket frame. Then you bring your hand all the way down to the end of the grip. This is the proper posture.
Place your left foot as near to the baseline as possible. It is important that your foot does not touch the baseline. Otherwise, you risk making a foot fault. Your left foot should be pointing to the right net post. You should have your right foot parallel to the baseline. Place it behind your left foot, slightly offset.
The exact opposite is true for left-handers. In this case, the right foot is on the baseline and points at the left net post. As a result, the left-back foot is parallel to the baseline. The correct foot posture is the most important element for a solid serve stance. Two specific stances have evolved over time, which you can use when serving.
Your feet do not move in this stance. Instead, after you’ve tossed the ball, simply bend your knees. In general, this foot stance provides a high level of stability. In addition, it provides you with more control and allows you to better place the balls on the tennis court. Professional players like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer both use this stance when serving.
The starting position for the stance is the same as for the platform stance. The only difference is that you pull your rear foot forward after tossing the tennis ball. Your two feet must be connected before you jump. The main benefit of this stance is that you can put a lot of momentum into the ball.
This results in an extremely quick and forceful serve. However, it is more difficult to maintain your balance because you are standing on one spot with both feet. As a result, you have less control and, therefore, less consistency when serving.
The backswing phase of the serve differs the most among players. There are different methods to execute the backswing, so choose something that works for you. The basic guideline is that the less complicated, the better.
You will move in a semi-circle with your arm holding the racquet, stopping when you reach the “trophy position.” Your racquet’s bottom should be close, touching the back of your head. Finally, make sure that both arms are aligned.
A good ball toss is essential for a powerful serve. However, even if you have the correct serve technique, strong legs, and a quick arm, your serve will be ineffective if your throw is bad. Therefore, it’s critical to focus on consistency when training your ball toss. Avoid tossing the tennis ball too high since this may cause you to slow down or disrupt your swing movement.
On the other hand, the toss should not be too low because you will not have enough time to complete the stroke movement. In general, the ball is tossed up in front of the body to make it simpler to go forward when it makes contact with the ball. To begin the toss, stretch your arm towards the net.
As a result, you’re holding the tennis ball with your fingertips. Then, raise your arm vertically. The ball is then released at eye level. Your arm continues to swing upwards, pointing in the ball’s direction.
For any powerful serve, you must first get into a proper throwing position. As you throw the ball up in the air, your racket hand should move more slowly than your throwing arm. Your wrist is loose, and you are transferring your weight forward. As you gain confidence, drive your hip forward and shift your weight to the front leg.
A more advanced player will stretch his body in a bow-like manner. Toss your arm straight up, pointing at the tennis ball, with your left shoulder well over your right shoulder. The ball has now come to its highest point, which is simultaneously your ideal contact point. You should appear to be tossing the racket into the air.
One of the key aspects of your serve is your jump. When you achieve the “trophy position,” your knees should be slightly bent on both sides. Furthermore, the majority of your weight should be distributed on your front leg, which will carry you forward. You should jump at a 45-degree angle with both legs (up AND forwards). You should land on your front leg, with that leg inside the court.
After the ball leaves your racket, you’ll want to follow through with your swing across your body, with your hand finishing up in your left pocket (for a righty). Follow through so that the racket points straight down to the ground, and let your back leg go up so that all the weight shifts to your front leg.
Different Types of Tennis Serves
Regardless of your skill level, a forceful and effective serve may be a very significant component of your game. It’s the one shot where you have complete control over how you strike it, and if done well, it may put your opponent under a lot of pressure.
Once you’ve mastered the proper serve technique described above, you’ll be able to add different spins and directions to your serve, making it more difficult for the opposing player to return. Here we will go over the main types of serves. To summarize, there are three types to pick from:
This is typically a power serve without spin. A flat serve, as the name implies, is one that has no spin added to it. It is usually the first serve you learn when starting out in tennis because it is the simplest of the three serve varieties. The advantage of hitting a flat serves is that the ball will go at the fastest possible pace, reducing the receiver’s reaction time.
This spin serve moves from right to left sideways (for right-handed players). It is usually employed to move your opponent off the court on the deuce side. A slice serve is known as the opposite of a kick serve. For right-handed servers, such spin causes the ball to stick near to the ground and bounce leftwards (and rightwards for a left-handed serve).
This more advanced serve causes the ball to kick up into the air. Skilled tennis players frequently employ this as a second serve since the ball lowers down into the service court, which aids in consistency. Kick Serves occur when a player hits the ball with topspin, causing the ball to bounce higher than it would usually.
Best Tips for Better Tennis Serve
When you strive to hit your fastest serve, you will tense up your entire body. However, when you watch the pros play, you will notice that they are relaxed when serving. It’s all about speed, not strength.
Hit the ball at its highest point:
Hitting the ball at its highest point is a key step in improving your serve. This optimizes your effort and increases velocity while requiring the same amount of effort.
A well-placed serve may be more effective than a quick one:
This is very crucial. A well-placed serve with heavy topspin or slice can be significantly more effective than a flat serve in the center of the court. Roger Federer isn’t the fastest server, yet he has an incredible winning percentage on his serve games. This is due to his ability to place his serves accurately and mix them with efficient second shots.
The percentage is key:
A more than 65 percent first-serve percentage is critical for your entire game. If you’re missing too many serves by failing to get them into the service box, you may be trying to hit them too hard.
Is an Underhand Serve Legal in Tennis?
Although uncommon, underarm serving is completely legal. There’s no difference whether the ball was released in an upward or downward motion as long as it is hit with the racket before it hits the ground.
To make an underhand serve (which is, by the way, a legal serve), players have to go through the early stages of the usual serve motion, but before lifting the non-racquet arm above the waist to toss the ball, he must bring the racquet forward with the racquet head pointing downward, release the ball with the hand around hip height, and hit it with an underhand motion.
When to Do an Underhand Serve in Tennis?
Underhand serving should be attempted when your opponent least expects it or whenever you’d like to disrupt your opponent’s rhythm. The underhand serve is “a legitimate way of serving,” a good tactic overall and similar to a drop shot during a rally to outfox your opponent.
What Is a Missed Serve Called in Tennis?
If your first serve doesn’t land in the correct service box, it’s called a “fault.” If you miss your second serve, it is referred to as a “double fault,” and your opponent wins the point.
Can the Server Start Behind the Baseline and Cross the Center Service Mark During His Service Motion?
It’s an automatic fault as the server observes the important rule of serving by being behind the baseline but fails not to cross the imaginary extension of the center mark.
Why Is It Called Ad and Deuce Court?
The ad court refers to the side that a player serves from when the score is an advantage or advantage out. The deuce court is on the right side of the court, while the ad court is on the left. It is referred to as the deuce court, as all deuce points begin on the right side of the court, while all ad points begin on the left.
What Is the Best 2nd Serve in Tennis?
A good second serve is almost always a topspin or slice serve. You can go for a bigger flat serve just as you would for a first serve, but only if you are ahead by a few points or games. Again, the most effective second serves are all hit with a good amount of spin or slice, like a kick serve and/or slice serve.
Who Are the Best Servers in Professional Tennis?
Men: John Isner, Nick Kyrgios, Reilly Opelka, Ivo Karlovic, Milos Raonic, Gilles Muller, Andy Roddick, Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanišević, Roger Federer, Boris Becker.
Women: Serena Williams, Aryna Sabalenka, Garbine Muguruza, Jennifer Brady, Sabine Lisicki, Samantha Stosur, Madison Keys, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Caroline Garcia, Steffi Graf, Petra Kvitová, Coco Vandeweghe.
Christoph Friedrich is a German tennis player and coach currently residing in Oakland, California. He began his tennis journey at the age of eight and has since dedicated his life to the sport. After working as a tennis coach and hitting partner in New York City for eight years, Christoph decided to share his knowledge and experience with tennis players around the world by creating the My Tennis Expert blog. His goal is to make tennis education accessible to everyone and help players select the best equipment for their game, from racquets and strings to shoes and overgrips. Christoph's extensive research and expertise in tennis technology make him a valuable resource for players of all levels.