A player’s game can often be measured by their service (or serve). A serve is often the indicator of how skilled a player’s game is, how strong they are and how much they have practised. A serve is one of the most important areas of the entire game, being the point at which a player is given the most opportunity to score points, but it is also one of the hardest to master.
Two things make up a good serve, power and accuracy. There are two opportunities to serve a ball and more often than not the player’s first serve will be more powerful than their second attempt. There will always be accuracy in the first but there will predominantly be more power, as the player can afford to risk the chance of it not landing inside the court.
If the player’s first serve is out, then their second serve will often be slower and more accurate to avoid losing a point by being given a double fault. The key is to practice until the first serve blends both power and accuracy and avoids the need for a second serve altogether.
From a standing start the non-favoured foot is placed forward just behind the base-line. The ball is held in the non-favoured hand and often bounced to soften the ball (and to make sure it’s a good one). The favoured hand holds the racket loosely but with a steady grip. The racket is held at the base of the grip as though shaking hands with it.
The ball is then gently thrown into the air, reaching no more than a foot above the tip of the outstretched arm. The further the ball is thrown in front of the player, the harder the player will end up hitting it as they fall into the ball more. When the ball is released from the throwing hand, the player’s knees are slightly bent and their body leans on the non-favoured leg balancing their entire body weight on it as though the player might fall over.
Just before the player hits the ball, all of the muscles rise up through the player’s legs, especially from the non-favoured leg, as though the player is pushing all their force up at the floating ball. Just before the ball starts to drop from its ‘throw-up’, the player brings the elbow of their racket arm in up towards the net, then brings the racket back and behind their head, towards the back of their neck, and finally swings it forward and strikes the ball in the very middle of the racket (the ‘sweet-spot’) with very little spin and with a final flick of the wrist.
The power from the stretch and the pulling back of the arm has now been transferred into the ball but most of it is still in the player’s body on the base-line, enabling them to be propelled forward closer to the net ready to return the ball.
Ideally the return from the serve will be a ball that the serving player can volley (i.e hit without a bounce, see Volleying) and therefore have more chance of gaining the point. This is called a Serve and Volley Game. If the serve has been particularly powerful and accurate then it will be impossible to return (an Ace).
Here is an example of a good serving technique.