Make no bones about it, the serve is the most important shot in tennis. If you are unable to start the point well, you won’t win very many of them. The serve is the only shot that’s entirely in your control, yet it’s also one of the most difficult shots to hit.
There is no truer saying in tennis than the old Aussie proverb “you’re only as good as your second serve.” In this episode of "Distance Learning", Paul Annacone and Prakash Amritraj break down the basics of an effective—but most importantly, repeatable—service motion.
Annacone’s “Do’s” for serving the right way:
Keep it simple: A consistent ball toss is the most important aspect of the serve. Only with a consistent ball toss can you improve your accuracy and percentage.
Use your legs: As Pete Sampras’ former coach, perhaps no one knows the importance of an explosive lower body better than Annacone. If you don’t use your legs and push up and outward into the court, your serve will never reach its fullest potential.
Synchronize: The best servers typically have the most fluid motions. From the knee bend to the shoulder turn, you must have a smooth kinetic chain in order to maximize pop and velocity at the top of the serve. A good way to practice this is with the classic towel-drill.
Prakash Amritraj’s “Don't’s” for serving the right way:
Don’t move your feet too much: A good rule of thumb for anyone learning to serve: If you have to move your feet, do not hit the ball. There is no penalty for catching your ball toss, so if it’s not in the right place, don’t hit it.
Don’t go straight up and down: In any sport, at any level, whether it’s a jump-shot or a backhand, your weight must push forward toward your target. Nothing good happens when your weight falls backwards. The toss should ideally be 6-12 inches in front of the baseline, and you should push forward into the court, while reaching up and snapping your wrist at the top.
Don’t be too rigid: You will not find a great server with a stiff, rigid arm. If you serve with a tight and tense arm, you will almost certainly hurt your shoulder at some point. This goes for your grip as well. Loosey-goosey baby, loosey-goosey.