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The First Serve
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

The first serve can be someone's biggest weapon making it someone else's worst nightmare! I personally rely on the first serve for a large part of my game since I serve and volley. The first serve can be pound it into the court and it is usually un-returnable, or someone like Patrick Rafter who uses well placed serves to get his opponent off of the court only to come in and volley into an open court. You do not have to be strong or work out to have a big or effective first serve. The service motion is not just your arm strength. The use of your legs, shoulder rotation and stomach muscles all play a large role in the speed of your serve. The choices for those with out the option of a big first serve can be to mix up the 4 types of serves and placement options keeping the opponent guessing what might be coming next. The worst thing you could do when serving, besides double faulting, is make your first serve easily attackable and predictable.

The Serves: When serving you have 4 different types of serves to choose from and 3 different options of placement. The four different types of serves are the flat serve, slice serve, kick serve and the topspin serve. To learn more about these four types of serves check out the article "The 4 Types of Serves". To learn more about your three choices of placement check out the article "The 3 Choices of Placing the Serve". Using all of your options when serving will give you an advantage always keeping your opponent on his toes. Mixing up all these options will help to keep your opponent from getting into a rhythm from seeing the same serve hit every time. Use all of these options to your advantage for a more effective serve.

Power Servers: I do not suggest just throwing the ball up and hitting it as hard as you can hoping the serve lands in the service box. Being able to place the first serve is much more important than how hard you hit the ball. Placement of the serve will allow you to keep your opponent guessing and when necessary hit to the weaker side of your opponent. This strategy will give you more control of the point. If you do have a huge first serve and just aim for the service box hoping it goes in, I suggest you slow it down for some added control. At first this may not feel correct, but I promise you it will improve your serve 2 fold! After you have established some rhythm, some timing, and better placement then you can add some power back into your serve. Notice how effective your serve can be when you have added control to place the ball on either side of your opponent.

Non-Powerful Servers: Players like Agassi who are smaller players on the ATP tour use their serve wisely. Since Agassi did not have a huge weapon for his first serve he uses a lot of spin and good placement to give his opponents problems attacking his serve. Basically, if you don't have a big serve, use as much spin and placement as you can to hit your serve. As time goes on and you improve, your serve will get better, faster, and more accurate. Practice makes perfect! Keeping your opponent from attacking your first serve is key. If your opponent is able to attack your first serve you could be on the defensive through out the entire match. This will give your opponent the opportunity to start each point by controlling the flow of the point. The use of spin and placement is important, knocking your opponent out of the court so that you can control the point and take the offense. This will also help to keep your first serve from being attacked easily. It is more important for the non-powerful servers to hit the serve deep in the service box. If your serves land shallow in the service box your opponent will have the opportunity to step into their return and hit better shots. For some quick options on how to possibly speed up your serves check out the "Speeding up your Serve" article from Tennis4you.

You do not always need power to have a great first serve. Players who do not have the height and power have other options to be effective. Find what works for you and play it to your best advantage.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker