Every point in tennis is started out with a serve, and is usually dubbed “the most important shot in tennis” and I have to agree! A good serve can give a player a huge advantage over another and even win the player the match simply with this one shot.
Let’s go over some of the basics of the serve. Your feet must be behind the baseline when you serve, and you must serve it into the opposite service box for the serve to be “in” and the point to start. You get two chances to get your serve in, a first and second serve. Players will usually be more aggressive on their first serve and more conservative on their second serve since it is their final chance to get the ball in to start that particular point. If you miss both serves then you lose the point and you go to the opposite side of the court (Deuce side to Ad side or Ad side to Deuce side) and start the next point.
To help improve your serve here are three tips that will help you out when you are learning how to serve. The grip you should use is a continental grip or a “2/2”, if you find this to be too difficult then you can cheat over and slide the grip towards an Eastern forehand grip or a “3/3”. This will look more like a “pancake” grip and will make it easier to square the racquet up to the ball. Start with you hands together – what I mean by this is with the racquet in your dominant hand let the racquet rest on your non-dominant hand or wrist. This keeps your arms moving together as you start the motion which helps with rhythm and synchronization. When you start your motion let the arms move down together then up together before you make contact with the ball.
Let’s assume you are right handed for the next tip, and if you are not then everything I am saying is opposite for you. When you line up on the deuce side point your left toe towards the net post on your right (the net post is the post that hold the net in place) and point your right toe towards the side fence on your right. When you align yourself in this manner make sure that try to make your body as comfortable and athletic as possible. When you are in this alignment your back foot will dictate how open or closed your hips are. I recommend sliding it a bit to the right to open your hips up thus pointing towards the target of the opposite service box. On the Ad side you can move your back foot to the left a bit to close off your stance and point your hips towards the opposite service box on this side. This helps your serve when you are aligned properly, so always try to have the alignment of your hands, feet, hips and shoulders towards the target you are aiming at!
The last tip is to treat the serve like you are throwing a ball. When you break down the serve motion it is almost identical to the motion of throwing a ball. If you can think of the serve as a throw then it may become easier for you as you start to learn how to serve. One of the small differences between the serve and the throw is that you want to be as tall as possible on the serve and extend your arm up when you make contact. The higher and taller you are when you serve then the better angle you can get to hit the ball over the net. A good drill to practice this extension is to toss the ball against the fence and catch the ball against the fence with your arm fully extended on the strings.
These are three great tips to help you improve your serve as you get started playing tennis. We will go over some more advanced concepts to help your serve in the near future for players looking to give their serve a boost!
Head Coach at Launch Tennis