Serving in tennis can be stressful unless you’re confident that you can consistently hit your spots.
If you thought you were bad at tennis because you keep serving into the net, think again.
You’re not alone, and there’s a ton of people who have dealt with the same issue.
It’s actually far more common than you think, but we’re going to help you fix it.
Nobody wants to hit the net – it just sort of ends up happening.
There’s likely a few things that you’re currently doing that add to your chances of hitting the net and they’re simple enough to correct.
If you’ve been playing tennis for a long time, you might have more difficulty administering these changes to your routine and form, but trust us, it’s absolutely worth it to at least give it a try.
- 1 Different Types of Tennis Serves
- 2 Most Common Serving Mistakes
- 3 How High Should Your Ball Toss be When Serving?
- 4 5 Tips for Consistent Tennis Serves
- 5 Stronger Tennis Serves Every Time
Different Types of Tennis Serves
Let’s start off with defining the different types of tennis serves.
So your game isn’t super predictable, give different serve types a try.
If your opponent doesn’t know how the ball will come at them, you have an advantage.
Here’s info on the three main serve types:
Commonly used on the professional circuit as well as in local tennis clubs, a flat serve tends to have the most pace.
You throw the ball up into the air in front of you and slightly toward your right (for a right-hander).
Pull back with a slight elbow bend on your racket arm.
Your body twists slightly into the direction of your racket before you swing up to make contact with the ball.
A slice serve is kind of like a change-up pitch in baseball.
When you want to add some spin or pull your opponent off the court, using a slice serve can accomplish either of those goals.
Like the toss for a flat serve, you throw the ball up into the air slightly toward your right, but not as far forward into the court.
Hitting up, your racket is to hit across the ball so that the spin starts with the racket first hits the ball.
A kick serve is one of the best serves in all of tennis.
If executed properly, the bounce on the ball when it hits the court will propel itself into your opponent above their strike range.
Unless they’re prepared to hit the return early, they’ll be hitting a very high ball and will likely be off balance when they do make contact.
The toss is always important in serving, but in a kick serve it’s crucial.
The ball should be tossed (for a right-handed server) above your head and slightly to the left.
When you strike the ball, you may sense a bend in your back as you reach up to make contact with the ball.
Have you seen headlines about underhanded serves being used to win matches?
They’re tricky, but they’re legal moves you can use at any point in any match. They’re just not expected so they tend to catch returners off guard.
Rather than an overhead toss, you use an underhand toss and hit up from directly underneath the ball.
While this article is about making sure you don’t hit the net, this type of serve can often skirt the top of the net if you don’t give it enough gusto.
(I’ve included this in the types of serves section, but to me, it isn’t one of the primary serves used in matches on a consistent basis. Having it in your arsenal might come in handy some day.)
Most Common Serving Mistakes
We’re all going to make mistakes, but there are rookie mistakes that certainly affect your serve.
Avoiding these each and every time you serve is imperative to maintaining your form and adding consistency.
Leaning Too Far Forward
When you serve, leaning forward too early compared to where you expect your toss to be usually ends up in a missed serve.
Your balance and center of gravity are going to heavily impact your game.
If you lean forward too far, you’re likely early to the ball.
As timing is crucial to a serve, being too far forward (or too far back) will impact the timing and the serve will go into the net or out toward the fences.
Timing is Off
If you toss the ball up too or swing before you should, it’s going to throw off your timing and you’ll be out of sync with your service motion.
Then you shank the ball and it grazes the top of the net or doesn’t even make it over.
Timing is everything.
A good wrist “snap” is often key for serving.
It’s usually referred to as pronation. You can’t just swing the racket and have it merely graze the ball.
Hit it with authority and pronation and you’ll be amazed at the results.
Yes, you should grip your racket, but don’t use a death grip.
Your wrist is what provides that snap/pronation mentioned above, so constricting it will bring on other common problems.
Your ball needs some spin to it, otherwise, you’re making a series of ultra predictable moves that your opponent can quickly catch onto.
It’s best if your opponents are always kept guessing..
Some spin in your serve makes you more unpredictable, but it also allows you to use multiple serves and deliver more power and placement for serving success.
How High Should Your Ball Toss be When Serving?
Your toss happens with your non-dominant hand. It requires a lot more fine-tuning to get it right than one might think.
How high you throw your toss is entirely up to you, but is often based on your height, playing style, and speed so you’ll have to experiment to find the best toss height for you.
You need to throw the ball high enough so that by the time it falls, it’s making contact with the sweet spot of the racket – not near the bottom of the frame, or the top of the frame, but right in the center.
That allows you to harness the full power of the entire service motion. When you hit too high, the string is tighter and has more resistance, slowing the ball down.
On paper, throwing your ball up and smacking it perfectly in the middle of the racket looks easy, but it takes practice.
You can practice your form simply by performing ten swings in a row without a tennis ball.
Yes, without a tennis ball. On the eleventh swing, that’s when you’ll put the ball into the mix and see how you do.
You can also forget the hitting part and just toss the ball and see where it bounces. If it bounces in the same spot repeatedly, you’re gaining consistency.
If it lands in the same spot repeatedly but that isn’t where it needs to be, work on that!
Be open to working on your toss as much as you practice hitting serves. The toss starts the whole thing off, so if it’s incorrect and you hit it anyway, the chances of a fault are pretty high.
5 Tips for Consistent Tennis Serves
#1 Relax Your Toss Arm
Your non-dominant hand will be the one tossing the ball into the air – and it needs to be fully relaxed.
Relax your wrist and throwing arm so you’re not constricting your range of motion. You can have control over your arm without holding it so rigidly.
#2 Zero Bend
Keep your tossing arm as straight as possible.
Practice having that loose wrist and shoulder, but the goal is to throw the ball into the air without bending your arm.
Let your body be as fluid as possible throughout the serving motion but especially during the toss.
#3 No Head Dropping
You see it all the time on television replays of a serve that hit the net – the server’s head fell after the toss and before the ball strike.
Maybe the sun was directly in their eyes or maybe they got ahead of themselves, but it happened.
If your head tilts down during your serve, the ball will likely go into the net rather than over the net.
Watch the ball as you strike it to ensure that your head doesn’t go down as then your shoulders are pulled down, and ultimately the ball heads into the net.
In the picture above, Serena has her eyes squarely on the ball as she makes contact. Her head is up, her arm is extended, and the likelihood that the ball sailed over the net is high.
#4 Practice Toss Height
Make sure you’re throwing the ball up enough but not too much.
Some people like to think that tossing it up higher is beneficial, but that thought process is incorrect.
Using a higher toss that necessary increases your chances of missing the ball because your timing might be off.
Serving is about technique and timing is a key component of that technique.
Practice the right tossing height so you can be comfortable every time you step to the line to serve.
#5 Know Your Grips
Stronger Tennis Serves Every Time
When you step to the line to serve you’ve got multiple ways to start off the point.
Will you slice it and pull your opponent off the court, hit a flat one with some pace to their their reaction time, or kick it so they have to deal with a high bounce?
Based on a proper toss and head position, your serves can be weapons.
You’re not only going to stop hitting the net after reading this, but you’re doing to diversify the serves you have at your disposal to keep your opponents always guessing.
Practice, practice, practice!