Tennis Serve Technique & Fundamentals
The tennis serve technique is the most important stroke in the game because in order to start a point you need to hit the serve successfully in the court. Just like a pitcher in baseball can pitch no hitters, the server in tennis can also dictate play and win points with the serve alone. In order to develop your serve into a weapon you must have solid fundamentals. Let’s get started!
Tennis Serve: Grip
The Continental grip is the standard when it comes to hitting the tennis serve. The Continental allows your forearm and wrist to naturally pronate, or snap, through the ball which results in more racquet head speed with the least amount of stress on the arm. All the different types of serves can be hit utilizing the continental grip which is not the case with other grips. For a guide on how to find each grip click the link.
Tennis Serve Technique: Set Up
When approaching the baseline to set up for your serve you want to place your foot at around a 45 degree angle in relation to the baseline and have your feet shoulder width apart, with your shoulders and hips closed almost perpendicular in relation to the net.
Tennis Serve Fundamentals: Ball Toss
The toss is one of the most crucial components of the serve and the component that frustrates players the most. To hold the ball you want to have the ball in between your finger tips and the palm of the hand. The toss motion should be initiated with the shoulder and the arm acts as a lever. When your non-dominant hand is tossing up the ball, imagine that a ruler is strapped to your arm keeping your arm straight. The toss, with exception of extreme topspin serves and the kick serve, should be in the same plane where you would release to throw a ball, out in front of your body and to the right if you serve right handed.
Tennis Serve Technique: Pro Tip
Think about tossing to your target on the ad side of the court for right handed players and the deuce side for lefties. This typically results in the non-dominant arm moving toward the target, out in front of your body to the right, rather than running parallel to the baseline.
To determine how high to toss the ball lift your racquet straight up into the air as high as you can with your dominant hand. Having your racquet reach the center of your racquet face, the sweet spot, and up is acceptable, however the higher you toss the ball the harder it is to control. Some players like to have the ball go up into the air and drop slightly before contact and others prefer to hit the ball at its apex as the ball sits in the air. Neither way is right or wrong, it is more of a preference. See what works best for you.
Tennis Serve Technique: Pro Tip
To Practice the toss place your feet as described above to prepare for the serve. Place the butt of the racquet handle on the ground so that it looks like an extension of your front foot. This will set the racquet face out in front of your body where you would release to throw a ball. With your non dominant hand toss the ball up to the height that will work best for you, as described above, and try to have the ball land on the face of your racquet.
Tennis Service Motion Technique & Tips
When going through your motion you want to keep the serve simple by keeping your hips, shoulders, and head in the same plane. So, if you were to take a photo someone could draw a straight vertical line through those segments of your body.
To practice the motion of the serve there are a few key points to consider. When taking the racquet back you want to think about doing it slowly, this will give your body time to load and establish a rhythm. The dominant arm should be loose like a wet noodle to help create a fluid motion.
For the serve you want to have your body weight going up and out into the court. To accomplish this you can rock your body weight onto your back foot and transition the weight up and out into the serve with your legs.
Think of a pitcher in baseball. The pitcher has his weight neutral as he grips the ball and decides what pitch to deliver. Once he is ready, his non- dominate leg lifts up to put his weight on his back foot and then transitions the weight forward to deliver the pitch.
The prime example of rocking the weight back would be Pete Sampras. Sampras lifts his non-dominate foot up slightly to rock his body weight onto his back foot before he transitions his weight up and out into the serve.
Tennis Serve Technique: Smooth Service Motion
Try this exercise to develop a smooth service motion based on your own throwing motion. You will need two items, a long tube sock (socks made for baseball would work), and at most six tennis balls. Fill the tube sock with tennis balls so the tube sock has weight and can build momentum when swung.
Start with your body positioned as you are going to his a serve and pretend the tube sock is your racquet. Go through the service motion, with the non-dominant hand mimicking the toss and all. Think of throwing the tube sock high over the net without letting go. The tube sock will ideally be in continuous movement and make contact with your body less as your throwing and service motion become more fluid.
This exercise can help prevent hitches in your service motion and help all the links in the kinetic chain to flow together. Once you get the hang of your service motion you will be able to continuously go through the service motion time after time without stopping the sock. Try it out!
Tennis Serve Technique & Fundamentals: Wrap Up
The tennis serve technique is the biggest weapon on tour and the tips and drills mentioned in this serve lesson have helped my students, myself, and hopefully you.
If you found value in this guide follow the link provided for a complete list of guides on tennis technique.
I thank you for your support and look forward to hearing from you by commenting below or connecting with me on social media. Cheers!
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