Probably the most important tennis stroke of all is the serve in tennis. Why? Because it’s the only tennis stroke that depends 100% on you and that you control without any interference. You basically get a free shot when serving in tennis, where the ball has not already been affected by the other players shot. There is a correlation between having an effective tennis serve and being a great tennis player. Along with the return of serve, the tennis serve is the most important shot in the game of tennis.
The good news is that we are going to teach you exactly how to serve a more powerful, accurate, and consistent tennis serve with this tennis serve training aid guide.
There are two kinds of serves in tennis, the “First Serve” which is a more powerful, aggressive, target oriented serve and the “Second Serve” which is a more defensive, and consistent serve usually in the form of the kick serve, topspin serve, or a slice serve.
There is a saying you might have heard, “You’re only as good as your 2nd Serve.” This is very true and you should only miss a couple of second serves in an entire match and none if you can help it!
You don’t want to give your opponents free points, EVER!
Tennis Serve Training Aid Guide
THE GRIP: The Continental Grip is the most common grip you will hear in tennis used with serves, volleys, and groundstrokes. It is also the most difficult to master and feel comfortable with. It is most important to utilize the continental grip for the Serve. This grip allows for easier wrist maneuverability that allows the player to impart the various spins on the serve as well as snap the wrist down directing the ball into the service box.
THE STANCE AND FOOTWORK: The stance and footwork for the serve is pretty simple considering there is no movement involved in this particular shot. However, there are some important tips that will benefit your serve and help you improve even faster. The priority as you stand to serve the ball is balance. To achieve this, you want to point your front foot toward the net post (right side net point for righties). The back foot should be shoulder width apart and parallel to the baseline. As you do this you will notice your hips and shoulders will be facing sideways which is ideal for allows the unit turn. A slight knee flex will allow for you to be more athletic and initiate the leg drive for power and reach which we will discuss below. Your arms should be relaxed and out in front of your body with the non-dominant hand holding the ball against the racket.
THE STROKE: The Toss is often the most problematic part of the serve. Due to its inconsistency it can be very frustrating. It is very important to start with how to hold the ball for the toss. The ball should rest on the middle and end creases on your fingers. In other words, it isn’t completely in the fingertips, but the ball rests in the middle and tips of your fingers. As the racket begins to move back and start the swing motion, the tossing arm moves in a slight downward motion. As it reaches the pocket on the front leg (mid thigh area) it immediately changes direction and moves in an upward trajectory. As it is rising, the most difficult part is realizing when to open the fingers and release the ball so that the racket can ultimately make contact. We advise our students to release the ball, as your arm is parallel to the baseline. The momentum of the arm will give you all the height you need for the ball to reach its apex which is exactly where you want to make contact (a little above your racket if you put your arm straight up in the sky). You should notice that the arm appears relaxed during this motion and acts as a pendulum movement. The ball as it is released should be ‘dead’ or with no spin at all.
FOLLOW THROUGH AND RECOVERY: The follow through is a natural part of the serve as you release the racket from the contact point in a downward motion toward the target. The racket swings past your left leg (for a right hander). Your momentum should carry you inside the court as you land on your left foot as a result of thrusting upward to reach contact point.
P.S. Serving Power Source: The energy from the serve begins from the ground up and creating and adding power to your serve comes from the legs. The Legs act as a springboard to really push upwards in an explosive motion to gain maximum extension for the racket. The knee bend is key to this power source. When done correctly a player feels as thought they are pushing into the ground with both feet creating a spring like effect. They wait for the opportune time to thrust
upwards to gain maximum vertical extension.
The racket swing is slightly different for every person. It is very similar to a throwing motion, so practice just feeling the path of the racket moving down to the ground, back up into the “back scratching” or throwing position and then the full extension to the ball. It is important to note that once the trophy position has been reached, there should be some tilt in the hips and shoulders forward into the court.
From this position, the elbow leads in a forward motion and the wrist and racket trail. This creates a whip like motion and allows for the energy you have created by loading and now flowing with your swing all the way through to the full extension at the contact point with the ball. As contact is made the loose wrist snaps and pronation occurs. Pronation is where the wrist moves in a downward motion similar to a basketball player shooting or a baseball pitcher releasing the ball.
P.P.S. Toss position and contact point: We like to encourage our students to focus on tossing the ball into your swing. Inconsistency on the serve comes from players who constantly are changing their tennis serve swing in reaction to their inconsistent toss.
This will not amount to an accurate serve and a consistent one. Practice placing your toss into your swing, your swing should never change, so it will be a matter of figuring out when to release the toss into your swing. This way you can always ‘find the slot’ and you will then create a repeatable rhythm and achieve a much more consistent serve.
There is a difference between your first and second serve toss. The first serve toss is more out in front of your body. This enables a player to have more forward momentum in hitting the ball that aids in more powerful tennis serve results.
You should be tossing the ball into the court so as you finish your serve motion you are landing into the court inside the baseline. The second serve toss is further back than the first serve toss. It is slightly more above back and behind your head. This enables you to impart more spin on the ball and helps you to create a serve with more arc or trajectory over the net. These tennis serve skills all need to work in a fluid motion to be successful, it is important to keep that in mind.
This is a safer tennis serve strategy as this type of serve clears the net with more margin. The toss position should be a little above your racket if you extend it fully above your head and slightly to the right hand side (for a right hander).
If you draw a clock in front of you as you get ready to serve you want to toss the first serve at about 12.30-1 o’clock. It will slightly vary for the different serves such as the slice kick serve. The contact point should be slightly in front of your body as you lean into the court and your arm should be fully extended upwards when making contact with the ball.