Did you know that a tennis serve, on top of being the official start of each rally, is actually more often than not used as a strategy? It’s true! While most of us tend to focus on the excitement of the back-and-forth rallies, we might overlook the importance of the serves used by the players. Depending on the style of play utilized by your opponent, it is possible to make good use of a serving style that is designed to exploit his weaknesses, whatever those might be. The overall objective of the serve is to land the ball into the square area on your opponent’s side that is positioned diagonally from your position. If the ball makes the landing in that area and then proceeds to go out of play, that is an easy point. Here are a couple examples of styles commonly used by tennis players today, and the reasons they are as effective as they are.
Bounce n’ Hit and the Flat Serve
The first style is the basic “bounce-n-hit” method (That’s what I call it. Aren’t I clever?) Hailed as the single simplest serve to execute, the bounce-n-hit is most commonly employed by beginning players. It consists of bouncing the ball at roughly waist-height level, then catching it in midair with a forehand swing to hit it over the net. This is considered the easiest serve to both hit and receive, because it tends to be a bit more on the slow side.Also, the bounce-n- hit ensures the most control because it has minimal spin on the shot and is hit from the side instead of straight on. However, it is effective for players who are just starting out and are practicing rallying back and forth. Once this style is mastered, players can move on to the style known as the “flat serve”, which consists of the same mechanics, except that this serve is executed without the first bounce.
Next on our list is the slice/reverse serve. This one is ridiculously difficult if you do not have a strong backhand. It is executed by hitting the ball backhanded on the server’s dominant side, and designed to surprise your opponent right off the bat. Don’t worry though- this serve is hardly ever done anymore. Any player that uses it is just showing off for fun.
The Overhead Shot
Now let’s talk about the most important serve of all- the overhead shot. This is the serve used most often by pros and recreational players alike. To execute the overhead, the player throws the ball straight up in the air. Once the ball has reached its peak height, the player then swings their racquet in a downward arc to hit the ball straight across the net to the other side. Getting the angle right on this one can be a challenge, and there is much more power on this serve than the others.A racquet like the Prince O3 Silver is great for perfecting the overhead serve because it is specifically designed to minimize air resistance, which in turn makes for a much faster swing. At first, it is desperately tricky to control because of the power and angle, so it is important to practice until you are able to work out the flaws and consistently hit the shot perfectly. It takes muscle memory to learn the technique, but I promise that it will most certainly pay off in the long run.
The Reverse Kick Serve
A fun little serving variation inspired by the overhead shot is the “reverse kick serve”. Like the Slice/Reverse serve, it is generally not used in competition and is considered by all accounts to be simply a trick shot. The best way to describe the reverse kick serve is the tennis equivalent of a curveball in baseball. Basically, it is performed by throwing the ball in the air, then brushing the ball upon contact with the racquet head which results in an insanely fast backspin as it goes over the net. If you are looking for a consistent, reliable serve, this one probably isn’t for you. But it is extremely cool to watch and I thought it deserved an honorable mention on the list regardless of its lack of practical use.
The Underhand Serve
Last but not least is the underhand serve. Like the flat serve method I discussed previously, this serve is preferred by beginners and often used by very young children. It is executed by dropping the ball, followed by making contact in an upward fashion with the racquet to hit the ball over the net. Technically speaking, it’s legal. But the underhand serve is still frowned upon-no, actually it’s despised- by recreational and professional players and audiences alike.
Postgame Wrap Up
Developing a consistent serve is one of the most important things you can do as a tennis player in my opinion. Knowing your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses can help you pull the right serve out of your bag of tricks to achieve the best results. Bear in mind that power and control are important to consider when learning serves-it does not bode well for you if you can’t capitalize on them. Do not forget to figure out what the racquet situation is either! Using the wrong one can wreak havoc on your serves. There are many high-quality racquets out there that are designed for different purposes, so remember to figure out which ones work best for you in your quest for learning the perfect serve!