Looking to improve your tennis serves? Here’s an in-depth guide on how you can get your service going as a beginner tennis player and up to levels where it could make a difference to your game as a whole.
Mastering the tennis serve might be the hardest technique that you need to master in tennis, but once you have got it, you’ve got it. A tennis serve, like all your shots, is about technique, style, physicality and muscle memory.
You are going to learn how to serve and once you’ve learned, you are never going to forget it unless you stop practicing completely.
Having a good serve is like having a weapon.
A good serve is your best tennis asset and it is the one shot that we really suggest you perfect. Spend time on your serve, practice whenever you can, and try not to get frustrated. Serving might be tricky initially but it’s really worth spending time and effort on mastering it.
Here’s how (but before that you could read our exhaustive tennis serve rule guide here).
Step by Step Process to the Tennis Serve
Don’t be intimidated by a serve; there is a step by step process that you can learn. We would suggest that you spend a bit of money on tennis lessons with a tennis coach, either privately or in a group.
You can also watch tennis video tutorials that focus on the serve, and on the step by step approach. We will explain each of these steps in detail below.
- Step One: Get your stance correct.
- Step Two: Hold your racket with the correct serving grip.
- Step Three: Bounce the ball a few times, to stabilise yourself.
- Step Four: Breathe and focus. Take aim. Get your body into position
- Step Five: Follow the motion – drop the racket, swing up, pronate (pronation implies the rotation of the forearm inward).
- Step Six: Connect the racket and the ball.
- Step Seven: Follow through.
We are going to go through each of the above actions, individually. They are the fundamentals of the tennis serve.
You will start off doing each of these steps slowly until they start making sense to you and coming together. Once your serve has come together, it will feel natural and fluid.
Let’s take a look at the steps.
(Alternatively, you can also check out Tennis Online Instruction’s Free Serving Tips here ) or Feel Tennis’ Premium Serving Tips to unlock your serving potential here.
The Stance in a Tennis Serve
Remember, you are serving diagonally and standing behind the baseline.
Your feet need to be positioned so that your front foot is pointed towards your opponent, and your back foot is positioned parallel to the line you are standing behind.
You are almost making a V shape with your feet, but not quite. It must feel comfortable for you and you should feel well balanced.
The whole idea of the stance is to balance you in all directions. As your serve improves, so you will change your stance so that you can include spin or slice. But in the beginning, you want to master the standard tennis stance.
Left foot towards your opponent, right foot parallel to the base line (for right-handed players and opposite for left-handed servers).
Your Tennis Grip
Here is a good video for you to watch, which will help you with your tennis grip with John Craig and Jeff Salzenstein giving some great advice.
As a new tennis player, you will want to focus on the straightforward tennis grip which is known as the continental tennis grip. Holding your racket for a serve can feel a bit awkward in the beginning, but that is why you practice. We are going to teach you the steps, as if you were a right handed tennis player.
Finding the right grip can also be followed in steps:
- Step One: Hold your racket a bit like you are holding a hammer.
- Step Two: Your racket edges should be perpendicular to the ground.
- Step Three: Your racket face should be parallel to the outside fence of the court.
- Step Four: Place your right thumb and index finger on the grip.
- Step Five: The V between thumb and index finger should line up with the handle.
- Step Six: Once you have the V, wrap the rest of your hand around the handle.
- Step Seven: Your left hand should be higher up on the racket, loosely below the head.
When you start, you will find yourself gripping the racket quite hard. As you learn or become more confident, you will start to loosen your fingers and your grip.
Of course it needs to be strong and steady so the racket does not fly out of your hand, and you need a tight grip for strength, but not so tight that you are tense! You will start to spread your fingers, but you really can take it one step at a time!
Bouncing the Ball for Stability
You will have seen professional tennis players doing this at tournaments such as Wimbledon or the French Open. It’s a good thing to do, mostly for focus and stability.
It is not a must, and you will develop your own rhythm with this, but bounding the ball once or twice will give you that focus. If you cannot catch the ball easily, you will also know that your stance is incorrect and will be able to change it before it is too late.
This is an old video fro Coach Kyril in Germany, but it absolutely demonstrates why bouncing the ball is a good idea before a serve. If you are a new player, once or twice is just fine. If you are a professional, like Federer or Williams, bounce it as many times as you want!
Get Your Whole Body into Position
This is the bit when you breathe, focus and take aim. You have got your stance right, you are holding your racket correctly, and you are feeling still and focused.
You are now going to bend your knees for traction, and start with the swinging motion of tilting your body, moving your racket down and pushing up and into your service action. You are going to toss the ball up into the air, noting that this does take some practice.
Here is Jeff Salzentein again, focusing on how you should toss a ball into the air, for the perfect tennis serve.
Throwing the service toss can take time. You need to practice a lot. It involves bending your knees, and as you toss the ball into the air, moving the back foot so that is closer to the forward front foot. When you make contact, ball and racket, you are almost going to bring both feet into the air. Almost, but not quite, depending on which level you are at.
If you are looking for professional help in order to serve better, check out Tennis Online Instruction’s Free Serving Tips here ) or Feel Tennis’ Premium Serving Tips to unlock your serving potential.
Following the Motion for the Tennis Serve
You have got your feet into position, made sure you have the right tennis grip, bounced the ball a few times and focused. Now, your knees are bent and you have tossed the ball into the air.
With your racket, your are going to follow the motion for a serve, which means you are going to drop your right hand with the racket (again, presuming you are a right handed player) lift your left arm up with the toss of the ball, swing your racket up again so you can make contact with the ball, and pronate your body before you hit the ball, aiming at the opposite service court.
There are many things to think about at the same time, but the more you serve, the more natural it all comes. Your bent knees are giving you strength.
Pronating is giving you strength and direction. The way you hold your racket is giving you the kind of serve you want – top spin or slice – and the force of your body is giving you speed.
This little tutorial, from Top Tennis Training, shows you how to serve, and how to practice your serve.
Once you have made contact with the ball, and hit it towards your opponent, you need to follow through. This gives you accuracy and speed.
It also gives you a smooth motion, so you are ready for the ball that your opponent hits back at you, post service. Your follow through will finish on the left hand side of your legs (again, presuming you are a right handed tennis player) and the racket well be at an angle of approximately 45 degrees, pointing towards the fence behind you.
Your right leg will have stepped forward when you make contact with the ball, or just after.
After the Serve
As soon as you have served, you need to be ready for the next shot. You have served and followed through.
Your response thereafter, whether your tennis serve goes in or out, is to almost bounce back, with your legs open and your racket held up straight and central, knees bent, ready for the return shot.
You don’t know if it is going to be a backhand or forehand, so you need to position yourself in the centre of the court, and quite deep, waiting for the return.
Of course you might be the kind of tennis player who likes to serve and volley. If your serve is powerful, you will already be at the net, straight after the serve, waiting for the return.
Many tennis players do this on their first serve. A second serve, which is generally not as powerful, is more likely to result in a rally and not a serve / volley game.
Our Top Tips for a Good Service
The service is difficult to master, but once you have got the gist of the swing, your tennis game will improve dramatically.
You might also think that once you have the service mastered, you do not want to try anything new, like a slice serve or a top spin serve. But, you do!
The thing with a serve, and we mentioned the word ‘weapon’ in the very first paragraph of this article, is that your serve is a weapon. You want to use it in a lot of ways, with strength, with slice, with spin and with surprise.
You want to surprise your opponent with the power of your serve, you want to surprise him with the placing of your serve, and you want to surprise him with the spin of your serve. You also want to surprise him with a new kind of serve!
Tennis Online Instruction offer free tennis serving tips as a part of their promotion too and you can gain access here . You can also check Feel Tennis’ Premium Serving Tips to unlock your serving potential.
- Take your time in mastering a service.
- Practice your serve as often as you can.
- Practice both first serves and second serves.
- Always ensure your stance is correct, before starting.
- Bounce the tennis ball, for focus and balance, prior to your service.
- Bend your knees for extra strength.
- Practice tossing the ball into the air, remembering height is important.
- Once you have made contact, follow through.
- Immediately after your follow through, get ready for the returned ball.
It is quite a tricky thing to teach someone a tennis serve online, without visuals. If you don’t have access to a tennis coach, watch tutorial and also, watch old tennis matches.
For now, you don’t have to worry about speed, rather, about accuracy. Watch the champs and watch their style and their rhythm, and then, focus on speed.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Take a big bucket of balls with you on to the tennis court, and practice. You don’t need an opponent to practice your serve, just a court, balls and patience.
Practice serving from both the right and left hand side of the court, and practice your first and your second serves. Focus first on your service with a continental grip, and only once you have really mastered that serve, move on to the spin or slice.
Your tennis coach will tell you when you are ready to try a new serve.
A tennis ace is a serve that your opponent does not return at all. It is such a good serve, a strong serve, and a well placed serve, that your opponent has no chance at returning it.
With your first serve, you are going for aces. With your second serve, where you don’t have a second chance, you are going for a rally. Work towards those first serves to improve your chances of winning points on service. A good serve really is everything.