How to Serve in Tennis – Learn Tennis Serve Basics

For beginners attempting to understand how to serve in tennis, the process is usually confusing. It’s easiest to begin with the fundamentals of the serve technique before more advanced concepts can be learned.

Tennis Serve Grip

Some players choose to begin with the Eastern forehand grip when first learning how to serve in tennis. To achieve the Eastern forehand grip, place your hand flat on the racket strings, and then slide your hand down to the handle. Wrap your fingers around the racket. Your first finger should be forward slightly.

It’s important to keep all tensions out of your fingers — this may be hard to remember as you first learn how to serve in tennis. The eastern forehand grip is often called the “shake hands” grip by those who have just begun to learn how to serve in tennis, because, in essence, you are shaking hands with the racket.

With the Eastern forehand grip, you are more likely to hit the ball flat, that is, without spin; and, unlike serves with topspin, flat serves do not have as much clearance over the net. For that reason, some beginning players can opt to use the more proper serving grip, which is the continental grip, which naturally provides topspin and sidespin, or slice.

To achieve the Continental grip, place your palm on the upper right slant bevel — this is 45 degrees counterclockwise from the Eastern forehand grip. With the Continental grip, the racket face will tilt slightly upward. It is possible to hit flat with the Continental, but to do so you must make contact with the ball farther back than usual.

When choosing a grip as a novice player, keep in mind that spin is much less important in the beginning than many other factors.

Tennis Serve Motion

When first learning how to serve in tennis, a wind-up is not necessary. Try a wind-up if you wish, however; you’ll eventually need one — and for some players, learning how to serve in tennis is easier, more comfortable, with a wind-up.

Begin with your elbow up and your racket down. Hold the ball in your fingertips, not your hand, toss it just in front of your right leg. If you release the ball farther forward as some players do, you’ll create a curved toss path, which makes tossing it too far forward or too far backward a possibility.

Tennis Serve Toss

Learning how to serve in tennis requires that when you toss, you imagine a straight line from your starting point to the point where you want to make contact with the ball; toss the ball along that line. Remember, also, that the higher your hand is when you release the tennis ball, the shorter the distance to the point where you’ll make contact — thus, the ball has less time to stray off course.

You’ll want to release the ball with as high a reach as possible, definitely from at least above your head. Release all of your fingers from the ball at once; this, plus holding your wrist in a static position, will ensure the ball stays on course.

At this point, we need to address your hitting arm. While tossing with your non-dominant hand, your hitting arm should swing backward to begin the striking motion. And, as soon as you have released the tennis ball, begin bending both your knees and your elbow. (As you progress in your learning of how to serve in tennis, you will begin to bend your knees more, and your legs will provide more power.) You’ll best know how to serve in tennis if you remember to keep your elbow fully bent, your wrist relaxed, and your racket hanging down behind you; these are the key features that allow you to get the most power with the least effort — and, you won’t suffer shoulder injuries, an injury you certainly want to avoid.

Utilizing the lower body

Make sure to straighten your legs, as your approach the contact point. This begins a kinetic chain within your body that will eventually end up energizing the wrist upward and forward to create speed in the racket head, which delivers power to the tennis ball.

Here’s how it works: as your legs finish straightening, your elbow should be straightening as well. The energy from your legs and parts of your arm is now transferred to your wrist, which remains at a ninety-degree angle to your forearm. All of that energy then whips the wrist forward, creating racket head speed. (Another energy source delivered to the tennis ball comes from turning your body from sideways at the beginning of the wind-up to facing the net.)

In learning how to serve in tennis, you needn’t think about this linked sequence of energy transfers — just keep your elbow up, your racket down, and your arm relaxed and it will happen! Remember — don’t snap your wrist (a mistake many beginners make when learning how to serve in tennis); let it whip forward naturally without any deliberate effort on your part, otherwise you’ll damage your serve — and possibly your arm.

Contact Point

Also, keep your arm relaxed and reach up to full extension; your forearm will then pronate, the strings facing much more forward. With little effort, your weight will now transfer forward as well, your dominant foot barely touching the ground at this point.

To know how to serve in tennis well, you also need to know how to make contact with the ball in the right spot. To hit a fairly flat serve, you should hit the ball at full upwards extension, approximately ten to twelve inches farther forward than your head, and ten to twelve inches to the dominant side of your head. You should attempt to see your racket hit the ball; continue looking at the contact point for a second afterwards, particularly when you’re just learning how to serve in tennis.

Serve Follow through

Once you’ve hit the tennis ball, your dominant foot will likely come forward into the court — this is not a problem; you can step over, or on, the baseline once you’ve struck the ball. Also, as you’re learning how to serve in tennis, you may find that during your follow-through you occasionally hit yourself in the legs with your racket; with practice, you’ll learn to always bypass your legs on the follow-through.

You may struggle at first as you learn how to serve in tennis. But it needn’t be difficult if you dissect the serve into smaller components, as we have in the instructions for how to serve in tennis; and master each component until you have a respectable serve, dependable and eventually powerful serve; that is, until you’ve learned how to serve in tennis.

It takes practice — and, time and patience — to learn how to serve in tennis, but once you do learn how to serve in tennis, you’ll enjoy the game on an entirely new level; and, you’ll have a big advantage, dictating points on your service games. (Advanced players develop different serves for different occasions, but for beginners learning how to serve in tennis, the above tips will serve you well.)

A drill for players learning how to serve in tennis

Finally, here’s a practice drill to help you — it’s a particularly good drill for when you’re at the stage in learning to how to serve in tennis when you’re ready to practice your aim. Go to an empty court and set up pyramids of ball as a target; place them close to the corners to begin. Practice serving, keeping your aim in mind and, as you advance, how much slice you want on your serve.

Practice again and again; that’s the key. Experiment with wide shots and down the middle shots, and with flat serves and slice serves. You now know how to serve in tennis with an intention to do more than just get the ball over the net.

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