Intro to the Tennis Serve

With so many elements of your tennis game riding on a good tennis serve, you’re going to want to perfect yours if you’re to be taken seriously. When armed with a strong serve, you keep the upper hand and make it difficult for your opponent to get to or return your hits with any control to their swing.

When serving, you’ll need to look at your positioning behind the baseline. The biggest rule is that you don’t cross over the center line or step into the court before the racket has connected with the ball. Where behind that baseline that you choose to stand is up to you, however. A good strategy when playing singles is to serve near the center for the most coverage of the court. When playing doubles, though, you may want to serve from the corner since your partner will be there to help cover the court.

Once you’ve decided where you’re hitting from, next up is the actual serve. The goal is to hit the ball in a diagonal line from where you’re standing into [one of the four] service boxes on the opposite side. So long as the ball lands within the correct box without hitting the net, the point can continue. Note—the ball landing on the white lines is acceptable.

If the first serve fails, it’s called a fault. Missing the second serve is a double fault and results in point loss with the serve transferring to the opponent. If the ball were to hit the net (or cord), then you would get a re-do, also known as a let. There is no limit to allowed lets.

The service stance is positions your back foot parallel to the baseline while your front foot is at a 45 degree angle to the line. The different types of serves will use the starting stance. In addition, most serves work well with the all-inclusive continental grip which keeps the racket perpendicular to the ground. When preparing to serve, you’ll want to bounce the ball a couple of times to test your positioning and ensure you’re comfortably gripping your racket.



Types of Tennis Serves:

Flat Serve

Strongest of the serves, and the easiest to learn. The other serves are advanced varieties of this serve. The basic execution of this serve is as follows:

  1. Using a continental grip, hold your racket in a semi-loose fashion.
  2. Line your shoulder up with the direction you want the ball to go.
  3. Ball bounce to prep your serve. When ready, shift some weight onto your front foot while bringing the ball to the racket face.
  4. Toss the ball vertically and slightly in front of you. Remember not to let your foot step into the court as you’ve not connected with the ball yet.
  5. When the ball is tossed, bend your knees and shift your weight from front to back foot. This will concentrate your power into the right side and control the jump to the point of ball contact.
  6. With elbow bent, bring the racket behind you.
  7. When the ball peaks and then begins to descend, you want to swing . . . with power. Pretend you are about to whip it.
  8. Carry your swing through, extending your arm and unbending your elbow. Weight will shift from back to front again. Don’t dawdle, you need to re-set for the return!

Slice Serve

Instead of emphasizing the power of your swing, you want to focus on direction. Sending the ball low and toward either your opponent or the opposite side of the court to disorient them. Uses a continental or eastern grip. Ball toss will be at 2 o’clock (or 10 for lefties) instead of at noon in order to get the ball farther away for a solid slice. At the point of contact you will be brushing the outside of the ball with the racket instead of centered like a flat serve.

Top Spin Serve

Most consistent serve as it’s easiest to get over the net. Travels like a flat serve, but arrives with a high bounce for the opponent. This gives you time to set up for the return play. Uses a continental grip. Differs from the flat serve because you toss the ball slightly behind you, and then you make contact with the ball in an upward motion before it hits the apex of the toss. The harder you hit the ball, the more spin will be created by this brushing stroke.

Kick Serve

Hardest serve to learn, but is the most difficult to return and therefore is good to have in your arsenal. A kick serve is a blend of a topspin and a slice serve . . . but it also has back and side spin. The ball is tossed behind your head so that the hit can happen while the ball is in motion. Point of contact should happen at about 11 o’clock with an upward motion.


If you want personal instruction on any of these serves, or coaching on your overall tennis skills, contact the front desk of Elysium Tennis at 614.873.8749 to set up a personal appointment time with one of our seasoned tennis pros.