The most difficult shot to master in the game of tennis is the serve. Here are some basic tips to help improve your serve and assist in making this shot a more attacking weapon.

1. Change your grip
2. Put more spin on your serve
3. Direct the serve to your advantage
4. Increase the speed of your serve

1. Change your grip. Most beginners use a forehand grip on the racquet when learning to serve. This grip assists beginners to hit more serves into the service box with fewer mistakes. More advanced players should change to the more advanced continental grip. You should start slowly by hitting only at around 25% speed, as this new grip will feel slightly uncomfortable. Gradually increase the speed of the serve as you become more competent.

2. Put more spin on your serve. Once you become more comfortable with the new continental grip, experimenting with the ball toss is vital to imparting more spin on the ball, either with slice or top spin. Throwing the ball slightly behind your head and arching your back to strike the ball should assist in putting some top spin on your serve.

3. Direct the serve to your advantage. As you become more competent with your new service action, the next step is to focus on the way you direct the ball into your opponent’s service box. Whether serving it to the forehand or backhand side of the court, a cleverly directed serve can apply more pressure on your opponent’s return of serve.

Eg. Hitting a slice serve out wide to the forehand side of the court or hitting a top spin serve wide on the backhand side of the court will open up the court for your next shot in the rally.

4. Increase the speed of your serve. Once you get comfortable hitting more balls into the correct positions in the service box, you can begin to increase the speed of your serve. Throwing the racquet head at the ball with more force and following through past your left leg will naturally increase the speed of your serve.

*Remember: the serve is the only stroke that you can control from the outset of the point. Every other shot you play depends on where and how your opponent hits the ball. Therefore, take as much time as possible to organise your stance, grip the racquet with the continental grip and position the ball toss in exactly the right position for where you want to hit the ball.

I hope these tips improve your serve and assist your enjoyment of this great game.

Sportsmart Tennis Manager and TCAV tennis coach, Ray James

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