Every point in a game of tennis begins with a serve, so if you want to be able to hold your own on the court, then you’ve got to master the tennis serve as quickly as possible. The basic serve is called a flat serve, but once you develop your skills, you can also surprise your opponent with a kick or a slice serve. Beginners and children often begin with the underhanded serve, which is a bit easier to execute than a traditional serve. If you want to know how to serve a tennis ball and to start acing your opponents in no time, see Step 1 to get started.
Get in position. Before you begin to serve the ball, you have to stand behind the baseline, on the side opposite the service box where you’ll be serving. You should stand sideways, pointing your left foot to the opposite post of the net, with your right foot being parallel to the court. For singles, stand close to the center mark. For doubles, stand farther toward one side, depending on what type of serve you plan to execute and the strategy you and your partner have planned.If you’re serving toward your opponent’s right service box, you should be standing on the right side (deuce side) of your court.If you’re serving toward your opponent’s left service box, then you should be standing on the left side (add side) of your court.Your right shoulder should always be pointed in the direction of the service box where you are serving.You get two chances to serve the ball into the opposite service box. If you miss both times, that is considered a double fault and you should move to serve to the other service box. If your ball hits the net and drops into the service box, that is considered a let and you can replay the serve; you can have an unlimited amount of lets, though this does not happen very often.These instructions for serving are for right-handed players. If you’re a lefty — which happens to be a huge advantage in the game of tennis — just use the opposite hands and feet.
Grip the ball and racket correctly. Grip the ball lightly toward the fingertips rather than in the palm. Bring your ball hand toward your racket to help line up the serve and shift your weight slightly forward. Remember that before you toss the ball, you should bounce it at least 2-4 times to get into the rhythm of serving and to get a feel for the court.For a flat serve, you should hold the tennis racket using a Continental grip. For this grip, you should hold the racket perpendicular to the ground, with your pointer finger along the first bevel of the racket, so that your thumb and index finger make a “V” shape when you look down at your hand.Many new players try to grip the racket as tightly and as hard as they can. This should not be the case, especially not when you serve. Keeping your grip more relaxed — about a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the loosest — will give your serve more power and fluidity.
“Scratch your back” with your racket. Most beginners just kind of raise their racket in the air slightly behind them and then go after the ball. Not you! For optimal success, you should bring the racquet head up above behind you and bend your elbow so as to drop it behind your head, as if you were to scratch your back with the side of your racket. Bend your knees to help project the racquet head upwards; it will give the ball more power.Once you get good at it, you’ll have this down as one fluid motion — tossing the ball up with one hand while “scratching your back” with your racket with the other. Practice the toss along with this motion as much as you want before actually hitting the ball (just not during a game, or you will try your opponent’s patience.).You will see that some beginners like to lift the racket up behind their back before they toss the ball. Though this will make it easier to hit the ball, in some ways, you will generate much less power and momentum this way.As you release the ball you’re tossing, load your back knee by forcing most of your weight onto your back leg. You can bend both of your knees but focus on having most of your weight in your back leg so you can use it to spring forward when you make contact.
Hit the ball with the “sweet spot” of the racket. Bring the racquet head up to hit the ball with as much speed as you can while keeping control. Your shoulders will rotate similarly to how they would if they were throwing a ball. Don’t try to hit as hard as you can; instead try to be fluid. Make sure you pronate your wrist so the ball is hit with the racquet face, right in the center of the racquet. Pronation is necessary in every type of serve, including flat, slice, topspin, twist, and topspin-slice.If you hit the ball off-center, you won’t have as much control over where it will land. If you hit the ball with the frame of the racket, then 9 times out of 10, it won’t land in the service box.
Follow through by bringing your racket down near the bottom of your opposite foot. At the end of the contact with the ball, snap your wrist downward to get the ball in the best position. Transfer the weight from your back leg onto your front leg to propel the ball forward. You may even end the serve with your right (or dominant) leg lifted off the ground.
“Fall into the court” after your serve. The follow-through as you finish the serve should naturally cause you to step forward into the court. Be prepared for the ball to come back. Always look at the ball. Never look at the opponent. This way, you can anticipate where the ball is going to fall and react quicker. Remember that footwork is absolutely key in your reactions to the ball; take hundreds of tiny baby steps to get you to the optimal position you need to be in to hit the ball if it is returned to you. And if your opponent cannot return the serve, then well done!