How To Serve in Tennis in 5 Simple Steps

How to serve in tennis using 5 simple steps by Top Tennis Training

The tennis serve is one of the most complex shots in any sport and for tennis players around the world it causes many problems.

However if you follow our 5 step serve guide, you will be serving better than ever. As the serve is very complex, it's much easier to improve if you break it down into smaller parts.

Let's get started.

Step 1: The Grip

The grip that almost every single tennis Pro uses for a proper serve technique is the Continental grip, also known as the chopper grip.

This is the same tennis grip we use to serve with, slice with, hit both the forehand and backhand volleys with and we hit overheads (smashes) with.

This grip allows you to impart both power and spin on the serve.

If you use a tennis forehand grip to serve with, you may well be able to get lots of power because the grip allows you to hit the ball very flat, however for control and accuracy it will let you down.

As you will learn later in this article, most Pros use supination and pronation on serve for extra control, power and spins.

If you don't use the tennis continental grip, these actions won't be able to occur naturally during the motion.

To find this grip, simply imagine you were going to shake hands with your racket whilst holding the racket with your non dominant hand by the throat.

You could also grip the racket like you were holding a hammer and imagine you were going to "hammer" a nail. The index knuckle would be on bevel 2 with this grip.


Step 2: The Ball Toss

The ball toss on the tennis serve should be a very simple and straightforward action, yet millions of tennis players around the world struggle with it.

One of the best ways to "tame your toss" is to toss the ball only to around 4-6 inches higher than the height  you will make contact at.

Most players that struggle with their ball toss throw the ball way too high, which causes erratic, inconsistent ball tosses. By tossing the ball high, it breaks the momentum you are creating with a fluid service motion, often causing players to break up their motion, imagine the player at your club who tosses and waits for 3 seconds with the racket head dropped behind their back.

So to have a consistent ball toss on your tennis serve, try to have a steady tossing arm with a down-up motion and aim to toss no higher than 6 inches above the contact zone.

Hold the ball in your fingers (not fingertips) instead of in the palm of your hand and release the ball when the hand reaches head height.


Step 3: The Trophy Position

With our extensive research and many years of tennis experience, we can say without a doubt that almost every single tennis player with a great serve reaches a very similar position called the tennis serve trophy position, also known as the tennis serve power position.

Reaching the trophy position is crucial for maximum power on your tennis serve.

In this position some of the crucial elements are -

Back shoulder lower than front

Tip of the racket pointing upwards

Tossing arm reaching upwards helping the body balance

Knee bend

Balance throughout the entire body


Step 4: Pronation

The biggest servers in tennis all use supination and pronation during their service motions.

Prior to contact the forearm, if relaxed and the player is using the continental grip, should supinate. The more supination occurs prior to contact, the more you can "snap" your racket through the contact zone using pronation.

Some players will use very little supination prior to contact and then go straight through with pronation, however Pete Sampras used a great deal of supination on serve to generate more "whip" through contact.

When in supination the palm of the hand and the strings (side you will hit the ball with) will be facing the right side of the court, if you supinate further your palm will be facing slightly backwards also.

At contact the palm opens up towards the target on serve.

Pronation has now started and will continue if done correctly to the point of full pronation where the palm and strings face the left side of the court.

For many WTA players this is the main issue they face on serve, not achieving the full range of motion with full pronation.


Step 5: The Finish

One of the main causes of serve breakdown or even worse, injury from the serve is an incorrect finish or follow through.

When you hit your serve, your body should be in a relaxed state and the follow through should be relaxed and allow the arm and body to slow down in a natural way using the correct muscle groups.

If we swing the racket at high speeds during the contact zone, then suddenly stop altogether or finish in the wrong way, the stress will be felt greatly in the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

If this is done time and time again, the result can be serious injury.

A natural, relaxed follow through should take the racket all the way to the left hip, a great way to remember this finish is to imagine your racket is a gun and you are placing it back into a holster.

The elbow should be bent when you are finishing to take the stress off your shoulder joint, a straight arm places a great deal of stress there.