In 2011 and the first few months of 2012, I have traveled all over the country talking with pros, visiting tennis clubs, facilities and academies in order to observe and talk with pros about serve techniques. There are many thoughts about how to best achieve a great serve and many personal opinions on how to get the job done. Whether your technique is classic or abbreviated, platform or pinpoint, there are some core characteristics that every successful serve must contain. No ONE technique is the right or only way to produce a serve … beware of anyone trying to convince you otherwise.
Generally speaking, the following components must be incorporated into every serve, no matter how you choose to get there:
►Starting position and Continental Grip: In order to produce a “throwing” motion, the hand, arm and shoulder must be positioned so that they can produce the act of “pronating.” Pronation is defined as: The forearm moving the palm of the hand from an anterior (inside) position to a posterior (outside) position, or, palm away from the body.
►Toss: Is the first critical movement of the serve. The toss is a “whole body” action: An integral part of the beginning phases of leg movement and the start of racket arm movement.
►Weight loading (shifting): Platform and pinpoint stances are two primary stances for the serve. Weight is set back at the initial phase of the serve and it is important to get a feeling of pushing against the ground with this back foot. This weight is then released upon acceleration to the point of contact.
►Shoulder over shoulder position: Dropping the tip of the racket in back so that the tip is pointed to the ground as the tossing arm is beginning to tuck. I also refer to this as the “Chest to the Sky” position.
►Acceleration and pronation: The lower and upper body quickly accelerating up with all timed forces to the contact point, combined with (pronation) the forearm moving the palm of the hand from an inward to outward position.
►Contact point: The contact point is at full extension of the body, with the weight of the body falling into the court. The eyes and head are always up to the contact point.
►Deceleration: Slowing and stopping of the racket as it crosses the center-line of the body after contact.
►Finishing position: With the finishing position, the head is still, the eyes are looking forward, while landing on a flexed front leg and being balanced for movement to the next shot
The serve is commonly called the most important and most difficult shot in the game of tennis and rightfully so. The serve is often difficult to change, but great change is possible if you want it. Work towards developing these key components and challenge yourself to improving your serve at all costs. The benefits are many if you work on the basics. Have more fun, be the player everyone wants to play with and not against! Win more matches with a new and improved serve!
Lisa Dodson is the developer and owner of Servemaster, a USPTA Elite Professional and a former WTA world-ranked player. She is currently the director of tennis at Shenorock Shore Club in Rye, N.Y. She may be reached by e-mail at Lisa@TheTotalServe.com or visit TheTotalServe.com.