Tennis Serve

The Serve is the most important stroke in tennis.

The Serve is not only the most important stroke in tennis, but also the only stroke that the player can have full control over. Great tennis servers, such as “Pistol” Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, Goran Invanisavic, have been able to hold their service games easily and get themselves out of trouble when down on their service games.

Pete Sampras’ serve, arguably the best of all time, earned him the nickname, “Pistol.” But it wasn’t because Sampras had the fastest serve, but the most unreadable: the combination of disguise, power, placement, and spin made his serve unpredictable. Often, when he was losing Love-40, he could quickly reach Deuce with three un-returnable serves. This ability to come back when losing puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the opponent.

There are three types of Serve: Flat Serve, the Slice Serve, and the Kick (Topspin) Serve:

  • Order: Flat and Slice Serve are usually utilized for the first serve; Kick (Topspin) Serve is usually used for the second serve.
  • Flat and Slice Swing: Flat and Slice Serve are similar in swing pattern and toss – hit down and through, with the Slice Serve hitting more from the outside of the ball. 
  • Kick Serve Swing: The Kick (Topspin) Serve is hit from low to high: once the racquet drops below the shoulder, you hit the ball while the racquet is accelerating upwards. If you imagine the ball resembling a clock, the strings of the racquet hit the ball at 7 o’clock, going up towards 1o’clock. It is more of a brushing motion that creates spin on the ball, instead of a through motion, which focuses on power.

Grip: Continental Grip

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38 Responses to “Tennis Serve”

  1. Fantastic jpegs. How about shots of your slice serve?
    Thanks for your terrific site.

    [Reply]

    lockandrolltennis Reply:

    Thanks! Glad you like the site. I will be making a video on slice serve in the future.

    [Reply]

    Luiz Armando Reply:

    Just so you know, I’m very interested in a slice serve video as well. ;-)

    [Reply]


  2. The information u gave me helped me a lot to improve my “proper” flat serve. I used to serve with a semi-western grip which i know is wrong because i was having trouble serving with continental grip. I also noticed that if I move my continental grip slightly to the middle of the racket handle it improved my power a lot more than just gripping in the lower section of the handle. I dont know if this is true for everyone else though.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your wisdom in tennis. Keep it up!

    [Reply]

    Artzy67 Reply:

    You have to use continental on the serve grip, because that will put the racquet ‘on edge’ properly as you swing up. The forearm pronation (the arm will do that naturally, at the top just before you hit the ball will properly put the strings on the ball.

    Recreational players will often, mistakenly, use a forehand grip for every stroke, including the serve. That produces nothing more than a ‘pitty-pat’ serve. They call it the ‘frying pan’ and ‘waiter’ serve. You might be doing that to an extent. You can get some speed if you are big and strong, but you’ll never get an efficient result and will also wind up with unnecessary injuries.

    And ‘choking up’ on the handle will rob your serve of easy, natural momentum in the ‘kinetic chain’.

    [Reply]

    lockandrolltennis Reply:

    Thanks for the thorough comment! Please comment more on this site.

    One thing I don’t fully agree with you on is that the forearm will pronate naturally. There are a few exceptions with some players that can make a quick adjustment with their forearm pronating. However, for most beginning players, it takes some conscious effort to work on the pronation. Players that change their grip from the Forehand grip to the Continental grip are not used to the pronation so they end up over slicing the ball. Often times the players give up on the Continental grip because they can’t hit it clean.

    [Reply]


  3. Thanks for the comment! I’m happy your serve has gotten better. The holding of the grip towards the middle of the handle for more power is new to me. Usually the lower you hold on the handle, the more power. Eventually you would want to start holding the grip lower to get more leverage on your swing. Thanks

    [Reply]


  4. You could say there are 5 types of serve… if you add ‘less or more’ slice or topspin to the basic slice or topspin. In other words, you can add a ‘mainly slice with some topspin’ and a ‘mainly topspin with some slice’. And what about the good old ‘American Twist’… a good one for a righthander to kick out really high and wide into the ad court (or a lefthander into the deuce court). That may have been more in use in the serve/volley days.

    [Reply]

    lockandrolltennis Reply:

    IMO, the three main serves are Flat, Slice and Topspin. The other types of serves you mentioned fall under the main three. Yes, you can mix it up however you like but I don’t think it’s necessary to say there are five types of serve. Thanks for the post.

    [Reply]


  5. Don’t forget to talk about recruiting the abs in for more power. They are a major muscle group!

    [Reply]


  6. How about a video on slice serve, please. (I am so glad I’ve found your site. My forehand is pretty good, but mainly not consistent due to linear swing and not enough body and leg into the shot. I know there must be a way to make it bigger, a la Federer, Djokovic, but only now after reading your concept on Lock & Roll that I’ve felt I can finally do it…later :)

    [Reply]

    lockandrolltennis Reply:

    Good Luck! Hope to hear good results from the forehand. I’ll be working on the slice serve but most likely going to be on my premium site. Thanks for checking out this site!

    [Reply]


  7. I would like to report that I successfully emulated the serve body moves. I was looking for a long time to improve my serve and could not find good instructions out there.

    The lock & roll concept is applicable to serve as well. I changed my serve position from platform to pinpoint and jump a lot higher now.

    LOTS of THANKS for this!!!

    I also found the technique about the arm pronation to add pace and good target positioning. Now, my serves have a loud pop, land mostly in the box (high percentage) and are easier on the arm and shoulder.

    One tip that I saw in another instruction was to keep the hitting arm straight with the shoulder line so as to minimize or protect from rotator cuff injuries and use the arm pronation technique to add pace.

    I would like to measure the speed of my serve. Do you know what are some of the usual (inexpensive but not “cheap”) serve radar guns out there?

    [Reply]


  8. Your videos are great. Most instructors do not explain the use of the feet, the way you do. I have a question on the kick serve: I understand that the toss should be behind the server and at 11 o’clock. This means a bit to the left. Since the racquet drops behind the right shoulder why not to toss the ball behind the right shoulder? Then the racquet would go up vertically to meet the ball.

    [Reply]


  9. I think that we toss the ball not to the right but to the left for using our body to generate more power and spin.

    [Reply]


  10. Hi Tae. I am looking forward to seeing your Slice Serve video :-)

    [Reply]

    lockandrolltennis Reply:

    Thanks for checking out my website! I’ve already made the Slice Serve video. It’s in the Premium Site. Thanks!

    [Reply]


  11. Matchless topic, it is pleasant to me)).))

    [Reply]


  12. this site is my inhalation , very fantastic design and style and perfect content material .

    [Reply]


  13. Greetings!
    Love your website! I have learned and improved greatly since discovering your LOCK and rollapproach.
    My question concerns the flat serve and the toss. You mention to toss out in front, but that seems somewhat “vague” to me. Watching your serve, I see that you land about 3 feet inside the baseline…is that a result of your ability to jump or a function of your toss? I miss my flat serve long 95% of the time…would you attribute that to the toss( not far enough in front) or the pronation?
    I thank you in advance for your response…keep up the great work!

    [Reply]

    Tae Byon Reply:

    Hi Robert,

    So glad to read that this site is helping you!

    First practical thing I will tell you is… stop missing it long!=) Change your mistake, aim the serve to the top of the net. Often times your body will adjust and do things necessary to change the direction of the ball. Once you’ve hit the top of the net, aim it a little over the net and aim back and forth until you have your desired serve. I know it’s easier said then done but you can do it.
    Also, try experimenting with the toss. Tossing it more in front will help the ball go down. The toss is the most important part of the serve. As for me, there is no way I can land inside the baseline if the ball toss is behind me. Hope this makes sense. Thanks!

    Tae Byon

    Tae Byon

    [Reply]


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  15. Reading from the tread, it has been over a year since a request for slice serve tutorial. Are you still active in this website tutorial? I been searching for a good slice serve tutorial all over the internet. There is very few good instructions on this subject.

    [Reply]

    Tae Byon Reply:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for checking out my site! I have the slice serve tutorial on my Premium Site. Thanks!

    -Tae

    [Reply]


  16. Hi Tae!

    I’m really glad i found your site and signed up for the Premium site as well. I just started with a trainer last year, but he mainly teaches classical tennis. I had to fend for myself and try to learn modern tennis through you tube and FYB…but i just kept mixing it with the classical stuff and it just messed up my game. Then i watched your monkey drum video and BOOM. all fixed. In the few weeks since i’ve signed up, my game has gone up a notch and i’ve even impressed my trainer. I do have a few frustrations though. I still have a lot of trouble with double faulting. And the mistakes aren’t consistent. Sometimes its a net ball, sometimes it goes long. Now that my kick serve is improving (again thanks to your vids) it’s just the 1st serve i need to work on. I practice my serve almost everyday but i still don’t have a reliable 1st serve. Can i request a “Common Serve Mistakes” video? I can’t find one on youtube either so i think this will attract a lot of interest as well. Thanks again for the great tutorials!

    [Reply]

    Tae Byon Reply:

    Hi Jim,

    Great to read that you have made improvements on your game through my Premium Site! The “Common Serve Mistake” video sounds like a great idea! I’ll make it in the future as I’m very busy. Until then, here are a few things you can try in order to help your serve.

    Toss – Most important aspect to the serve. Is your toss consistent every time? Is it too high or too low? I prefer a lower toss as more mistakes can come from higher tosses. Of course the toss should be high enough for you to fully extend and even jump.

    Over hitting – Perhaps you should try slowing it down a bit. First get consistent with a slower serve and then speed it up comfortably. Most of us want the “big” serve so we tend to serve at a speed at which we are not comfortable with.

    Narrow down your mistakes. Hit some serves long and then bring it in. Try to avoid the net. Once you hit the net, start again by aiming long. It’s easier to make your serve more consistent once you eliminate an error.

    Try them out and let me know if it helps.

    Thanks!

    Tae

    [Reply]


  17. hi….great service tips…..however the wrist does not pronate…the forearm does

    [Reply]


  18. Thank you so much for your very informative lesson on serve. I’ve had a hard time developing my back scratch on my serve until I saw your video which showed turning the body forward automatically drops the racquet prior to forward swing. What I’ve been doing was letting the racquet drop without body rotation which obviously was not the way. Now I can at least serve the proper way.

    [Reply]

    Tae Byon Reply:

    I’m glad that the serve video has helped. The racquet dropping is a common mistake by many players and it’s a total power killer!

    Thanks for checking out my Website.

    -Tae

    [Reply]


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  23. Whenever I hit the serve…the ball hits racquets side and then there is problem in net clearance…..can u tell me something …how to improve it

    [Reply]


  1. 4 Trackback(s)

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