The serve is the single most important shot in tennis — it starts every point. It is also a closed skill, meaning the other player can’t affect the quality of your serve in any way.
As a result the serve should be your most consistent shot, but in reality most club players have an inconsistent and high-risk first serve and, often, a very defensive and weak second serve.
This month, we break down the basic fundamentals and mechanics of the service action.
Grip — A continental or hammer grip is key to allow you to hit the ball with different spin and create angles.
Stance — Your front foot should point at a 45-degree angle towards the net pole and your back foot should be parallel to the baseline.
Starting position — With both feet behind the baseline, hold the racquet in one hand and the ball in other other. The racquet hand and ball hand should be pointing toward the target together, with the ball touching the racquet strings.
Preparation phase — Your hands drop down together with the racquet going over your shoelaces and back behind you while the ball hand extends out in front. Your arms go down together and then go up apart, with one in front of you and one behind you. Your arms should be at the same height in front and behind you throughout the upward motion. From here, your racquet head drops down behind your shoulder, as if you’re scratching your back with it, and you extend your front arm up as you release the ball. You should bend the knees slightly here to allow you to explode up to the contact point.
Contact — Extend the racquet up from the back-scratch position to hit the ball at its highest point, like you are trying to reach for something on a high shelf. That allows you to get more power and creates a better angle to help clear the net. A bent arm at impact means you have failed to make contact at the correct height.
Practise the motion in front of a mirror without a ball throw so you can see the arms working together. See how high you can reach to get the contact point. The movement is slow and controlled and we accelerate only as we move up to the contact point from the back-scratch position.
To practise, take a basket of balls out on the court and aim for targets. The serve is the one shot we can practise alone, so get out on the court and improve your most important tennis asset.
Next month we focus on the ball toss during the service motion.
Tennis coach Warren Urquhart is the owner of Cayman Sports Limited, which provides a variety of tennis classes at the Camana Bay Sports Complex and elsewhere on Grand Cayman.