Just like with your other shots, you’ve got a lot of options with the types of tennis serves you can hit, helping to keep your opponents guessing what’s coming next. Indeed, even on the pro tour, where they’re capable of hitting huge serves, it’s often variety and placement that sets the best serves apart from the average ones.
Like the pros, you have the opportunity to use variety and placement to win more service games, so let’s take a look at some of the types of tennis serves you have available to you.
The Flat Serve
This is the bread and butter serve, the first serve you learn, and the most simple to execute in terms of technique. All you’re looking to do with the flat serve is hit straight through the ball, maximizing power to take time away from your opponent.
When you see the pros hitting really fast serves on the TV it’s tempting to think that the flat serve is the most important, point winning serve available to you, but it’s not necessarily the case. The thing with the flat serve is that it’s quite easy to read; it doesn’t move much in the air or off the court so it can be easy to return.
This means you’ve got to make sure you’re focussing on your placement with the flat serve, picking targets and stretching your opponent.
How to Use It
The flat serve is used almost exclusively on the first serve as you become a more advanced player. This is because the lack of spin on the ball means you have less ability to get the ball up and down over the net, reducing your margin for error for the second serve.
So, you should be looking to use your flat serve as an attacking weapon on the first serve. With the extra power you get, it’s a great way to change up the speed of your serve, and really go for your targets. Make sure you’ve got a plan for where you’re going to aim each serve, and make your opponent hit a return they don’t want to hit.
It’s much easier to go down the T with the flat serve because you’re hitting the ball straight down and the lower part of the net gives you more margin for error, but you can still hit the out wide serve as well.
The Slice Serve
The slice tennis serve is an amazing weapon because it not only gives you added control, but it also moves off the court, making your opponent’s life much more difficult. While you’re not going to be able to hit your slice serve as hard as you would your flat serves, what it loses in speed, it makes up for in movement.
When you get this serve right, it can move a lot in the air, before hitting the court and skidding off sideways, keeping low and making life very difficult for your opponent.
To hit the slice serve, the key thing is the feeling of hitting around the outside of the ball as our super coach, Dave Ireland explains in this great demonstration. At first, it is going to feel quite strange if you’re not used to hitting with slice, but the more you practice, the more you will find it becomes second nature.
Once you’ve got used to hitting around the outside of the ball, you’ll find the extra spin actually gives you added control over the ball, making it a much better option for the second serve than your normal flat serve.
How to Use It
Used as an attacking weapon, the slice serve is most often used to drag your opponent out of the court. For right-handers, this is going to be most effective to the deuce court, where you can get your opponent way outside of the tram lines, opening up the rest of the court to attack into with your next shot.
The one big danger with this serve is that you’re playing it into a right-hander’s forehand which in most cases is going to be their weapon. Still, the movement and fact that the ball keeps low off the bounce make this serve effective, even if you don’t want to use it too much and play your opponent in on their forehand.
For the lefties out there, this serve is one of the best attacking weapons you have. Why? Well, because not only do you get the benefit of all the movement, but you’re dragging your right-handed opponent out of court on their backhand side. This is why many lefties base their game around the slice serve out wide to the ad court, and for good reason – people hate returning it.
Especially when you’re playing at lower levels, if you can master this serve, then it’s going to cause your opponents all sorts of problems. The higher the level you play at, the better-equipped people are to return it, but it’s still a great weapon to have.
Don’t forget, you’ve also got the option of hitting the slice serve down the T too (ad court for right-handers, deuce court for left-handers.) It might not drag your opponent out of court, but it still means the ball keeps moving away from them and is more difficult to return.
The Kick Serve
The kick serve isn’t easy to master, but when you do, it can open all kinds of doors for you.
This is the most common serve to use on second serves as it allows you to get the ball going up and down over the net, giving you more margin for error. This combined with the way the ball kicks up off the court make it difficult for your opponent to attack, allowing you to work your way into the point.
However, the kick serve can also be used as a first serve weapon, particularly on slower courts such as clay. That’s because the kick gets the ball to bounce up and sideways off the court, dragging your opponent a bit wider in the court and making them hit at an uncomfortable height.
It’s also a good way to change up the pace of your serve because it can be quite hard to spot. If you’re opponent thinks the flat serve is coming, then the kick serve can really put them off and cause them to swing through too early.
How to Use It
If you’ve got good control over the kick serve (which you can with our Kick Serve Buckaroo course) then it’s probably going to become your go-to for the second serve. This is because it gives you good margin for error, but also makes it difficult for your opponent to attack.
As we mentioned though, the kick serve can be a potent weapon in its own right. If you’re playing at a level where few people see kick serves then you’re going to have all kinds of joy with it. That’s because the ball tends to go the opposite way to what people expect, and they really struggle to return it.
Even as you advance through the levels though, the kick serve is a great tool to mix into your first serves. One of the hardest things about returning is when you can’t get a rhythm, and if you’ve got a strong flat, slice, and kick serve, you don’t allow your opponent to get comfortable.
The main thing to remember when you walk to the line is that you’ve got plenty of options. Not only can you vary where you put the ball, but you can also vary the spin, and pace. This is a huge advantage, and if you learn to mix things up, then you will find you get much better results.
Great returners work on rhythm, but if you keep giving them different looks, then you never allow them to settle in and get on top of your serve.
If you’re still working on your strokes and haven’t yet developed the slice and kick serves, then it’s well worth putting in the extra time and making them a part of your arsenal. Your serve is the only shot in the point where you’re in complete control of what happens, so make the most of it and give yourself as many options as possible.
Article by: Will