A Step-by-Step Guide
The tennis serve can be a powerful tool in the player’s hand when done correctly. However, if the technique is not appropriate, it can turn into a disadvantage rather than a benefit. & learn how to get better at tennis by yourself
Phase 1: the location
To perform a right-arm serve, the toe of your left (front) foot should point towards the right post of the net, while your right foot should be parallel to the baseline.
This setup will provide you with an adequate balance in every direction.
The toe of your right (back) foot should be in line with the heel of your left (front) foot, providing the stability to start the service motion.
They can adjust this starting position according to the direction in which they intend to hit the ball.
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In serving, there are two main ways to position and use the legs for the push: the “platform stance” and the “pin-point stance”.
In the platform stance, the feet stay in the same position throughout the serve motion. The player simply flexes his legs, rotates his shoulders, leans his body slightly, and then extends to hit the ball.
In the pinpoint stance, you start with the feet positioned as in the platform stance, but as the ball is tossed, the back foot moves forward to get closer to the front foot before pushing off.
Phase 2: the grip
For service, the Continental outlet is the most recommended.
The choice of grip significantly affects the effectiveness of the serve technique you use. That’s why it’s crucial to have a proper grip on the racket.
Phase 3: the strike (preparation, acceleration, and pronation)
This is where the service happens, and it will determine whether it will run successfully.
Look at the elements of the preparation phase (body twist, knee flexion, back swing of the racket, trophy position, etc.) as ways to build up energy that will then be released when hitting the ball.
During impact, it will determine what type of service you are hitting (flat, topspin, or slice) and whether they are delivered correctly and cleanly.
For example, if your trophy stance and backswing were incorrect, and you did not twist your body or bend your knees, you still can hit the ball cleanly and correctly (with or without spin). The only consequence of inadequate preparation would be a lack of power and fluidity of movement.
One could also execute all the movements preceding the impact with the ball perfectly and still not hit the ball well because, at the moment of impact, the hand and arm are not moving correctly.
There are several stages to the coup:
The backward movement of the racket arm
The upward swing and contact with the ball
It accomplished the racket swing by bouncing the racket back and letting it almost hang freely behind you.
The serve can become a powerful weapon because it exploits the dynamic movement of many parts of the body that must act at the right time. If the fluidity of movement is disrupted, we will lose power.
By explaining the service technique in such an analytical way, describing every single element, you risk not emphasizing the importance of the fluidity and continuity of the overall movement.
In the movement that leads to hitting the ball, the risk is to start the upward swing from a too-static position and to make this pause in the movement’s fluidity a habit.
For this reason, we speak of the “rebound” of the racket to keep the racket always in motion and the arm relaxed before pushing the racket upwards (which is exactly what should happen in the serve motion).
Upward swing and pronation can be learned more easily with this exercise: Place two rows of balls on the court, one at about 45° to the net and the other at about 90°.
These two rows of balls will give you the correct direction of the serve motion.
All of this will help you create a clear mental image of how your racket and arm should move to hit the ball.
This exercise will help you understand how pronation works and that the movement is not a single swing hitting the ball with your whole arm. This is one of the most common mistakes and misconceptions.
Seen from the outside, the service may appear to comprise a single movement and a final part performed at arm’s length. But watching the slow-motion videos, you can see that the movement of the arm as it rises and that of the forearm immediately after impact follow two different trajectories. They performed the movement with internal rotation of the arm and, after impact from forearm pronation, changed direction.
So imagine making the racket rise with a 45° inclined movement following the first row of balls.
As soon as you have hit the ball, push the head of the racket perpendicular to the net following the second row of balls, and then close the racket on the right; it will position itself with the end of the handle turned upwards and inclined at about 45° with the face of the racket facing the end court sheets.
If all of this seems like an oversimplification of the movement, by combining the two phases into one fluid movement, you will get exactly the correct flat serve movement.
Once this phase is well understood, the dreaded “server position” (racket face parallel to the court while the racket is behind the back) usually disappears naturally.
Phase 4: Backswing and Throwing the Ball
After learning how to hit the ball, it’s important to master how to get there correctly. We are talking about two simultaneous actions: the backswing of the racket and the throwing of the ball.
Throwing the ball can be difficult to gain and is often trained separately. However, the advice is to always train it together with the movement of the racket (at least in a simulated way).
A typical drill is to have a target positioned in front of you to hit with the downstroke of the ball toss. It’s not very effective if you don’t adopt the position of the server to execute it. If you focus only on trying to hit the target, you focus only on that movement without involving other parts of the body. In fact, at that moment, you should also learn to rotate the body, bring the racket down behind you, incline the torso, etc.
They should also perform these actions when practicing throwing; that’s why we’ve combined these aspects into a single step of this tutorial on different stages of service Discover the secrets of a winning game with our comprehensive tennis singles strategy PDF, designed to elevate your skills and tactics on the court.
Instead of thinking about “throwing” the ball, try to imagine the movement as “lifting” the ball.
Here are some tips for a good launch:
Keep the ball in the center of your hand.
Gently support it with your thumb.
Always keep your arm straight and only move the shoulder joint.
Let go of the ball when it is at eye level, but continue to follow the movement by raising your arm.
We should do the backswing in a relaxed manner as if the arm and racket were pendulums.
The arm throwing the ball should move up at the same time as the arm holding the racket. The challenge here is that the arm throwing the ball will need to be very stiff, while the dominant arm will need to be extremely relaxed.
If during training you have difficulty synchronizing the two movements and keeping one arm stiffer and the other more relaxed, remember that it will take several repetitions before you can perform the movement correctly.
When the racket arrives in the famous trophy position, I advise you not to position it vertically for two reasons:
1: If the racket is vertical in the trophy position, it will fall backward in the server’s position because of the action of gravity.
2: To go from the position of the trophy to impact with the ball, perform a much larger movement, which will make it more difficult to find the right timing between the launch and the movement of the racket.
The most common mistake is to drop the racket too little behind you to hit the ball in time, but by doing so, the service will not be powerful.
We advise you to bring the racket into a more diagonal position, keeping the racket closer to the head and trying to touch it. The edge of the racket should be close to the head, above the nape.
Now, slightly distance the racket from the back of the neck, and you are in the correct trophy position. From here, swing your racquet down in an arc, and you’ll be able to sync with the ball more easily.
The sequence of the two movements comprises moving both arms with one arm throwing the ball (and then catching it) and the other getting into the trophy position.
The racket is now at a slight angle, with the tip aligned with the back of your head.
We now turn to another crucial point in the sequence. As you begin the sequence, rotate your body to align it with the baseline. Everything should start with the rotation of the body, which gives the first impetus to the movement of the arm.
This movement will also trigger the twisting phase, which will generate most of the power when it is performed in the opposite direction.
If you throw the ball before starting the twist, it will limit your twist because you won’t have time to do it. You won’t have much time to hit the ball.
I understand that turning your body first can make it more difficult to accurately pitch the ball to your ideal contact point.
However, with a little practice, you’ll be able to master the move and benefit from it because you’ll have more time for the rest of the move and generate more power.
Phase 5: The Biphasic Service
The biphasic serve comprises the combination of steps 3 and 4, namely the backswing and delivery (step 4), followed by the sequence of hitting the ball (step 3).
Complete your backswing and throw, then catch the ball while maintaining the trophy position.
First Phase: Backswing and throw, and then pick up the ball.
Relaunch from this position and then hit the ball by swinging the racket back (with rebound), then swinging it forward with the two trajectories previously explained.
Second Phase: Strike the ball with pronation.
You can keep a few balls on the court in front of you as a reference for racket motion during the upswing and pronation.
Keep repeating the biphasic service until you can:
Throw the ball accurately, so you can catch it without having to move your feet.
Easily find the position of the trophy with the tip of the racket just behind your head, with no excessive corrections.
Once you’ve mastered a good throw and the ability to easily find a trophy position with a smooth backswing, you’re ready to serve.
But before we proceed, let’s focus one more moment on a fundamental movement that will help you deliver a powerful stroke.
Phase 6: Movement to Generate Power
The movement to generate power starts from the trophy position and involves performing two actions simultaneously:
The racket descends.
The body rotates forward.
If these two actions take place, the dominant arm and the racket will fall back naturally.
This movement will create a sort of “whip”, which will automatically generate considerable power.
For right-handed players, there will be a muscle strain starting at the shoulder, through the chest, and down to the left hip.
Imagine pulling a huge rubber band to the max. The elastic then spontaneously returns to its original state, which is exactly what we want to do with our body.
Many tennis players make the mistake of contracting their muscles in this phase, thinking that a tense musculature will help them serve with power.
Sure, you can serve like this, and the ball will have some speed, but if you want to serve like the ATP pros, you need to know that they use a different method to power up your server.
The method of stretching the body, followed by a spring return to the starting position, generates a much higher racket speed than that generated by muscle contraction or by attempting to hit only with force.
The peculiarity, in this case, is that you have to RELAX the muscles to allow them to stretch, a concept that may seem paradoxical when you are trying to strike fast and hard.
This basic tennis techniques must also be adopted by amateurs and trained intensely to properly perceive the delay in the racket’s movement and the “whip” effect, which generates great acceleration with little muscular effort.
To rotate the body, we must start from the hips and then also rotate the torso and shoulders forward while letting the racket descend behind us.
The power movement seen from the side is the descent of the racket and the rotation of the body occurring simultaneously.
All of this can only happen if we relax the arm and allow the shoulder and chest muscles to stretch.
Since this is a sensation-based exercise, we suggest exaggerating the rotation of the body to better feel the racket’s movement slowing down and then speeding up towards the point of contact. Thus, we can fully rotate the body until we are parallel to the net.
Phase 7: Completion of the Service
An excellent starting point for mastering an effective serve is to first execute two-phase serves, then progress to the full serve movement.
However, I now want to focus on the final action of the service. If you look at professional tennis players, you notice they serve on the left side of the body (for right-handers).
The arm moves in a rotational arc toward the ball. For right-handed players, this movement occurs forward pronation then changed to the right with an inclination of approximately 45°.
As soon as the pronation is complete, we need to relax the body and arm (since the strike has been made and the ball is in flight), and the final action to the left will occur accordingly.
The final movement on the left side of the body occurs spontaneously; it must not be intentional or forced.
So remember that some aspects of movement require intentional movement and the application of force, while others occur naturally through inertia and muscle relaxation.
Therefore, we do not recommend that you try to force those movements that should occur naturally.
Execution of a Fluid Movement: How to Generate Power in a Simple Way Starting from Step-by-Step Mechanics
We have divided the service into different parts to facilitate the explanation, but now we must make sure that this division does not compromise the fluidity of the movement. By following these steps, we could risk a mechanical movement. Our focus now is on restoring the smoothness of motion, another key element in generating more power.
It can perfect fluidity through various exercises that help maintain a continuous flow of motion and avoid kickbacks. This exercise allows you to simulate the movement of the service, trying to execute it with continuity and fluidity. The final sensation will be that of being able to feel the ball speed up easily and naturally.
The serve in tennis is the most complex stroke to execute. Here is because:
1: Accelerating the movement in a relaxed and easy way will give more power than using muscle tension in the arm and body and “hitting hard” (although this may seem like the most logical method).
2: Observing the professionals, you may have the impression that the arm performs a unidirectional movement, but in reality, the racket will have to follow two distinct trajectories with a change of direction through pronation just before impact.
3: We will get more power by reducing the acceleration just before impact instead of continuing to rotate the body during impact (although it may seem counter-intuitive).
4: The movement of the dominant arm that approaches the ball must be upward and not downwards, even if the target is lower than the ball (another aspect that may seem illogical).
5: The first part of the movement is performed in a different direction regarding the final target, and this difference is even more marked with the kick and slice serve.
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