How to Hit a Powerful Serve In Tennis
In tennis, the serve is more than just the stroke that starts the point. Because it’s the only stroke that a tennis player has complete control over without the influence of an opponent, it dictates the pace of the entire game.
A strong serve can be your ultimate weapon, hence the reason for the saying, “You’re only as good as your first serve.” While the serve can be intimidating for beginners, it’s best thought of as an opportunity — one that allows you to start the point with a concrete advantage.
There’s a lot that goes into hitting a great serve with power, precision and consistency, so Anna Pomyatinskaya, CA’s adult tennis director, swooped in to serve up some expert advice!
The basics of the tennis serve
So, how exactly does the serve unfold in tennis?
The rules of the game are pretty simple: The serve is hit from behind the baseline and needs to land diagonally from the server’s side in the appropriate box. There are two serves that a player gets for each point, and if it’s missed both times, it is called “double fault” and the opponent gets the point. If the serve touches the net and lands in the appropriate diagonal box, the server gets to redo it; if the serve after touching the net does not go into the appropriate diagonal box, it is considered a fault.
According to Pomyatinskaya, one of the most fundamental aspects of a good serve is height. Tall players tend to have the most successful serves for a reason: They have the best angle with a greater margin of error. After all, the more height you have, the easier it is to swing downwards harder and not miss.
However, you don’t need to be 6’3” to be a serving machine — you just need to get comfortable tossing the ball high enough and embracing the continental grip.
The continental grip is best described as holding the racquet like you’re holding a hammer. If this feels awkward to you at first, you’re not alone; however, it will feel much more natural with practice. The forehand grip might seem like an easier and more comfortable option, but it has limited movement where you can’t generate much power or spin (which are the keys to a strong serve!).
“The continental grip allows you to get extra height over the net and strike the ball down, rather having to get under the ball. You’ll want to hold the racquet in your dominant hand with the continental grip. Then, use your non-dominant hand for a straight toss high enough to stretch as high as you can with an extended arm and racquet.” -Anna Pomyatinskaya
More tips for improving your serve
According to Pomyatinskaya, becoming tense and clenched under pressure is one of the easiest ways players sabotage their serve. You want to keep a loose arm, since a tight one will slow your racquet down. You’ll also want to hold the racquet somewhat loosely (not to the point where it’s flying out of your hand, of course).
“I often see players being too careful and tense up. It’s so important to stay relaxed and loose to let the racquet swing most efficiently for you,” she says. “When there’s pressure, people worry about getting the ball in. It’s far more helpful to your game, however, to focus on getting tall and stretching.”
This ability to stay loose comes with confidence and experience, which is why consistent practice is the key to success.
Here’s a few additional tips to improve your serve technique:
- Find the proper stance. You should be turned sideways to the tennis court, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your non-dominant foot (left for a right-handed player) should be at a 45-degree angle towards the court.
- Make sure the racquet is back and behind your head enough, just like you’re throwing a ball with your right hand.
- Stretch upwards for the ball (remember, it’s all about the height).
- Keep your wrist loose and flexible, which will not only allow you to get the ball over the net, but also help make sure it gets in.
- Finish to the left side of your body for right handers, and to the right side of the body for left handers.
Pomyatinskaya’s final tip is to consider hitting your first serve with some speed. If you have pressure from the score or haven’t been as successful with your first serve, consider hitting your second serve with more spin and height over the net to keep the opposition on their toes!
Master your serve with CA
Want to feel even more confident stepping up to the line to serve? With a variety of programs and 37 available courts, CA’s tennis program has options to suit every age and experience level. Learn more here.