The serve is where it all begins in a game of tennis, from a logistical standpoint, as this begins match play, and from a strategy standpoint, as this move can often decide success or failure on the court. Many teachers focus much of their instruction on developing their student’s serve because they know how important it is in creating a complete game. All tennis players can benefit from a more direct focus on their own serve, regardless of how much experience they have already.
Also called a service, a serve begins a point in a game of tennis, whereas the serving player will toss the ball into the air in an attempt to pass it over the net into the opposing player’s court in a diagonal direction. The ball must land in a legally designated spot on the opposing player’s side and clear the net completely without touching it. On the return, the ball touch the net but must fall on the opposite side. If it touches on the serve it is called a let and is not a legal serve but nor is it a fault.
Because the server has total control and more time to set up, the serve is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of a tennis player. For professional players, they are expected to win all the point in which they control the serve and thus returning a good serve is paramount for consistent success in the game of tennis. This swing is difficult for beginners at time to master but once done, it becomes a foundation upon which is built a total strategy against the opposition.
One of the first and more important things to consider in a tennis serve is the stance that each player will take while performing it. There are two main stances practiced today.
The first is the platform stance. This stance has the player stand with feet about shoulder width apart and this provides a very stable support to both feet and easy transition with weight distribution and quick transfer of weight when moving. The hips do rotate on this serve and at times the back foot will swing forward to assist in hip rotation.
The platform stance sacrifices power for stability. While players may lose power on the serve, this stance allows better consistency over time and this can balance out the sacrifice of power. Not all players use this stance but those that do swear by it. It is also good for beginners wanting the confidence that comes with consistency.
The next type of stance used during a serve is called the pinpoint serve where the feet begin apart but come together during the process of the serve. This can cause balance issues and is not recommended for beginning tennis players. Some advantages include greater power on the serve, as more of the body is used in adding weight to the downward motion of the racket.
Players using the pinpoint stance must learn better body control in order to utilize this type of serve stance to best effect. Learning how your body moves first is key before attempting the pinpoint stance but practice will lead to greater overall power on the serve.
There are four types of serves as well. The first is called the flat serve where the player swings a path directly through the ball. This is a simple serve buts leaves little margin for error as it comes close to the net.
The slice serve is hit with topspin that can cause the ball to curse to the left side if hit by a right handed player. The kick serve also uses topspin but also creates a great deal of spinning air around the ball before striking.
The underhand serve, striking the ball below shoulder level, is used primarily by children to help them better learn the game.