Tennis 101: Perfecting the Serve

January 01, 2017

In tennis, your serve can be your ultimate weapon, and learning how to serve effectively is important to the overall development of your game.

Here are some tips from USTA Player Development's Elliott Pettit to get your serve going at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.


The Serving Basics of Tennis: Toss and Motion

The main thing is to get comfortable with the toss. Chances are, this is a motion with your non-dominant hand that you have never duplicated in any other activity. You should practice your toss because it doesn’t matter how good your serve motion is if your toss is off. Your toss needs to be in the right place so that your serve motion can make proper contact with the ball.


Try to go for a full “throwing motion” with the serve. In the very beginning, in order to achieve success, it is fine to have a more segmented swing or an abbreviated service motion. You can start with the tennis racquet behind your head and then toss the ball up and make contact, just to get acquainted with how the racquet face should feel when you are making contact with the ball. Once you are comfortable with that, do the full throwing motion as soon as possible.


Put Your Spin on It: Tennis Serving For Intermediate Players

At this level, you should start to have a little bit of knee bend, and you should be looking to experiment with the different types of spin. The continental grip is best for imparting spin and will allow you to be able to hit the ball with side spin or to hit the ball flat – all using the same grip.


Be sure to snap the wrist through the serve, and you should speed up the motion as well.

Mastering the Tennis Serve: Tennis Tips for Advanced Players

You should combine placement and spin with the serve at the advanced level. Every time you serve, you should have a goal in mind of what the outcome is: where you want the ball to go and what type of spin you are hitting. In doing so, you are essentially hitting the ball with intent, not just hitting and hoping.


Every time you step up to serve, you should have a clear target in mind and know what type of spin you’re going to use to hit that target. Also, your serve should have a little bit more of a dynamic motion. There should be more parts of the body engaged, and it should be an explosive movement. There should be a definite kind of slow to fast tempo to it – slow in the windup, fast in the delivery.


When you master the serve and understand basic tennis serving rules, you begin to feel comfortable stepping up to the line. From the toss to the motion to the spin you’re able to put on the ball, knowing the basics goes a long way in putting your skills to the test. The serve is essential to the development of your game, no matter the level you play.

2016 1026 Coach Elliott Pettit CP

Elliott Pettit is the National Manager of Growth & Innovation for Parent and Youth Orgs at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.



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