Is it normal that learning how to serve is giving me the most trouble?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by firstblud, Jul 23, 2009.

  1. firstblud

    firstblud Professional

    Jul 18, 2007
    i would say that the level of my bh and fh are many levels above my serve.

    my groundstrokes have been solid lately

    but my serve is going no where. i've tried to learn from videos and my practicing hasn't seem to take me very far.

    any advice on where to start with serving? really in friendly matches, I end up just serving a "patti cake" serve to just get the ball in so my friend can slam it back on me.

    when i try to swing hard at the ball, I frame the ball badly. when i try to do a swing "correctly," my friend says I seem to slice the side of the ball so severely that it goes super slow and barely lands over the net.

    it's quite frustrating and i'm considering taking lessons and having the coach focus on serving. but before busting my wallet, I'd like to see if there's anything else I can try.

    After all, you guys have helped improve my backhand and forehand immensely!
  2. defrule

    defrule Professional

    Jan 11, 2009
    I found shadowing my service motion helps a lot.
  3. kuhdlie

    kuhdlie Rookie

    Jul 8, 2008
    a proper techique serve is the most complicated shot in tennis, so logically it's the most difficult thing to master. you're not the only one, vast majority of casual players have serves that are weaker than their groundstrokes. youtube it!
  4. volusiano

    volusiano Hall of Fame

    Oct 22, 2006
    It just takes a lot of practice to improve your serve, even if you know all the right things you're supposed to be doing (from lessons or whatever). If you don't spend enough time practicing, you can only be as good as the time you put into it.

    I would dedicate entire practice sessions on doing nothing but serve. That way, you can avoid all other distractions and be able to focus only on improving your serve. If the serve is half of the game like many people say, then you gotta ask yourself whether you've spent at least half of the time on it. Most people don't.
  5. Oldracquet27

    Oldracquet27 Rookie

    Sep 11, 2006
    The most important part in serve is learn a "THROW MOTION". Practice throwing balls like a pitcher would do : with a relaxed arm you take your hitting arm in a loop over your head and your back. Now , remember that when you are serving in tennis that arm goes up to impact the ball with A FULL EXTENDED ARM. Your grip need to be CONTINENTAL, don't forget.

    If you really want to get more ( because the motion is not only the hitting arm, your toss and the way you combine all movements is crucial) take a look to the video of Tom Avery (the serve). I am going to give a free promotion here but trust me nobody has my serve at my level and it was just after looking that video over and over. You can rent it for only 3.99 i think in or

    PRactice a lot once you see it, one thing at the time, be patient!
  6. zebano

    zebano Semi-Pro

    Jun 12, 2007
    In my first year of JV tennis in high school I had bad but workable groundstrokes (I needed practice with timing but my technique was there). My serve sucked. After teaching me the proper motion to hit a slice/topspin second serve my practices went like this (5-days a week).

    1. 10 min jog
    2. 10 minute hitting warmup
    3. zebano leaves everyone else and practices 100 service tosses (no hitting just watch them and make the motion repeatable) then serves 4 hoppers worth of balls: 2 to the ad court and 2 to the deuce.
    4. rejoin the rest of the team for other drills.

    In short, learn the correct technique then practice a lot. In your case it's hard to make any judgments without seeing it but if it is slicing make sure your racket head speed is faster than it is on your first serve. You could also try to hit more of a topspin serve rather than slice, but that's up to you.

    Learning to actually go for my second serves rather than dinking was the most difficult part, and that's all mental.
  7. saeta119

    saeta119 New User

    Mar 1, 2004
    yep, I agree, first you need to get that ball tossing motion in check.

    Once you have your tossing where the ball goes to where you want it to go, practice without the motion, the racquet is already behind your head and practice the point where the ball and racquet meet.

    THEN I'd say you can start practicing full motions of serve.
  8. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

    Feb 13, 2009
    Almost everyone has a harder time learning to serve. But since you can practice on your own with bunch of tennis balls, it's also the stroke you can take great satisfaction in from improving.
    Getting some lessons from a pro is a short cut to developing a serve, as you can get instant feedback, and don't get ingrained poor technique.
    Fuzzy Yellow Balls has the best free video instruction:
    Consider the following to get a better fundamental understanding of what you are trying to accomplish:
    1. Learning a consitant topspin serve where the ball is going to spin down and into the court should be your current objective. (It's hard to hit a pure topspin serve without some side spin, hence the "slice" serve should spin a little from left to right, and the "kick" serve will spin from right to left, but it is the topspin effect of getting the ball to spin down and into the court that is the most important element.)
    2. To hit a topsin serve, you have to have upper body bent backwards, so your chest is facing the sky. That way when your arm comes over the ball, you will be hitting up on the ball.
    3. Getting to that position is a the result of a quick, complex body motion after tossing the ball, which is what makes the serve so difficult to master.
    4. Obviously you have to start with your body perpendicular to the net, and using a continental (or even backhand) grip.
    5. At the end of your toss, your left arm (assuming you are right handed) is up and your whole body is lifted up with your right arm and body striking the "trophy pose".
    6. You must quickly twist your body down. Simultaneously bend your knees, rotate your trunk backward, protrude your left hip out, and raise your left shoulder (thereby lowering your right), and lean your chest back.
    7. Suddenly you jump up. The right arm and racquet inititially lag behind as your upper body is thrust up. The core starts to twist back around forward and the forward swing starts with a reverse in the direction of the shoulder tilt, even though you are leaving your upper chest pointed to the sky as you strike the ball.
    8. If you've been doing a simple back and forth pendulum motion, you will have much less power in your serve.
    9. If you're not in good shape with reasonable flexibility and strength, you are going to have a hard time practicing enough to get a good serve.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2009
  9. myservenow

    myservenow Semi-Pro

    Sep 27, 2007
    I would strongly encourage you to keep at it and not get frustrated with your serve.

    I live in a rural area and was the only person playing tennis back when I started in the late 80s. I was awful to say the least but really motivated to be a good tennis player.

    I spent hours everyday the summer of my junior year (high school) doing nothing but hitting buckets of balls across the net. Since I had no one else to hit with, I had lots of time to practice my serve. By the start of tennis season the next spring, my serve was really good. While most people were overhitting flat first serves, and then tapping over weak second serves, I was spinning and kicking my serves with good pace.

    My advice is that if I could figure it out with many, many hours of dedication and practice, anyone can. Keep practicing. Experiment with different things to learn what does and doesn't work. Don't get discouraged with framing serves at first. It'll eventually come. Good luck.
  10. volusiano

    volusiano Hall of Fame

    Oct 22, 2006
    I was in the same boat here, not having a lot of people to play with in my earlier years of learning tennis, I used the free time to just practice the serve by myself with hoppers of balls instead until I got better. It's a great way of playing tennis solo, and I would much rather do this than hitting balls against a board. I got a lot of satisfaction from seeing the progress I made. Even now when I have found more people to play tennis with, I'm still setting aside time by myself to keep practicing my serve solo because it's just as enjoyable for me to do this as to hit with someone else.

    If you play golf, practicing your golf swing at the driving range is a good analogy. But practicing tennis serves is much better because I don't have to pay for buckets of balls like I do at the driving range.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2009
  11. Element54

    Element54 Semi-Pro

    Oct 5, 2008
    Perhaps a little off topic, but I found my serve first developed from doubles when I smash at the net during games. I had a continental grip, and unconsciously just "smashed" the ball with the grip: no over thinking about pronation, point of contact (height, left or right of body) - it just came so naturally because I didn't overthink it.

    I took this knowledge and confidence to the serve, I serve really slow, but I know I'm using the right technique now. Perhaps just try some smashes to get the "feel" of the racket-head and the adjustments to perform the serve?

    Toss the ball and using your upper body only, slowly develop your serve. Don't force it, no leg drive, just the racket head drop and straight-arm ball toss.
  12. tennisisawesome

    tennisisawesome New User

    Jul 23, 2009
    My serve took the longest time to learn, but my forehand, while learned quickly, has improved very little from 2 years ago to now.
  13. Topspin24

    Topspin24 Rookie

    Jul 15, 2009
    what i did to learn a solid serve was to dedicate two practice sessions a week to serve. At first my serve was going nowhere but after two weeks it started to improve. Just make sure the toss is out in front at 12 and your stance alwas stays the same. Dont serve one time with a one point stance and then the next time with a two. Have your ideal serve in mind and make sure your swing is in direction of the service box.
  14. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

    Feb 19, 2004
    Yes, serving for many and using the Continental can be frustrating. Keep trying to relax your arm and dont try to guide or turn your arm. Let it happen like you are throwing a football.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
  15. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006
    A few practical suggestions:

    You could have a pro do a 30-minute session with you, and 30 minutes is plenty. Then go practice and come back in 1-2 weeks. Do another 30 minutes again. I'll bet you'd have a greatly improved serve very quickly.

    If you can't find a pro who will do just 30 minutes, then maybe find a friend who also wants to work on serving and take a joint lesson for 1 hour. I like doing it this way because the friend's ability level has no impact on you. Also, you have some time to try to work on whatever you were just told while the pro is helping your friend.

    Good luck!!
  16. Team_Volkl

    Team_Volkl New User

    Jul 13, 2009
    Read this post:

    And this post:


    I kid you not, the night I went out to play after reading this, my serve improved so much so that the person I was playing with didn't even recognize it. Those posts literally changed my serve forever for the better and every time I make a mistake, I know exactly what I need to do to correct it.

    Now bear in mind that I was taught how to serve with proper tennis lessons, so I knew the fundamentals and had a lot of it down, but this information filled in all the missing gaps and I've never served better in my life.
  17. Double bagel

    Double bagel Banned

    Jun 30, 2009
    All you have to do is do what Pete Sampras did.
  18. Sometimes the problem is not the swing. Try to serve without jumping. If you cannot stand still after you serve, then you are off-balanced. You should be able to serve consistently without falling over. Try it as a warm-up.

    Your swing should be relaxed as possible. Don't worry about how your serve looks. Everybody's motion is unique. Do what is the least stressful to you. A relaxed swing and a balanced position will add power instantly.

    You can try a trick my coach showed me. This is for a first serve. Try to imagine that you are swinging up, rather than forward. When you bring the racquet up, imagine that the racquet head is still tipped back. Try to visualize and aim at the bottom of the ball. Hit thru the serve with as you normally would.

    This should add topspin to the first serve and increase your serve percentage. It works for me, since I cannot see what I am doing. If I visualize the tipped-back racquet and aim at the bottom of the ball, what physically happens is that my racquet is still moving up at contact, thus rolling over the ball for topspin.

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