Stan Wawrinka hitting a ball with a racket

Serving is perhaps the most important shot in tennis. For starters, the serve is the shot that begins each point. Needless to say, if your opponent can’t get the ball back in the play, you win the point. It’s not only a shot that is sometimes difficult to return, but it also forces your opponent into a situation he or she doesn’t want to be in-if you do it correctly.

Pace/Speed –The serve is a shot that can be hit really hard. Serves with more pace (or speed) on the ball tend to be the most difficult to contain and control. Unfortunately, speed alone isn’t enough to make a serve a deadly weapon. Hard serves are easily returned if hit directly to your opponents forehand, or in some cases, backhand.

Angle- The angle of the serve will determine much of the outcome of your opponents return. If served wide, with good speed, the ball becomes predicable off the return. Obviously, serves placed wide enough, or deceptively enough down the line or the “t”, are often out of the reach of the opponents racquet. Angle should be mixed throughout your service motions making it difficult for the opponent to predict where your next serve will land. You can serve out wide, down the middle or into the body of your opponent.

Spin – Spin creates several advantages for the server. First, the spin creates a more reliable ball which is why it is often used in second service attempts. The spin allows the ball to travel into the service box at a higher percentage rate than balls with no spin, or “flat” serves. Secondly, spin creates a very deceptive ball often forcing unpredictable outcomes for the ball once it has hit the surface of the court; for example, a top spin serve, or “kick” serve, will often “kick” off the court after hitting the courts surface, thus, throwing your opponents timing off. Finally, certain spins create advantages for left-handed players. Be sure to acknowledge which hand your opponent is playing with.

The serve can be a true advantage when done properly. Unfortunately, terrible serves are often destroyed by the returner, thus, weaker serves become a distinct disadvantage. I recommend practicing serve by choosing targets along the service line and trying to serve consistently to these designated spots. Once you have that down, begin to throw in a little extra pace and spins.