The first step to a great serve, is to get the ball above your head in the prime position for hitting it. Practice your ball toss first and the full serve will be easy. Place the ball in your non-racket hand and hold it with the pads of your fingers but not too tightly. Put your thumb on top of the ball, to stop it from spinning backwards. Hold your arm out in front of you, with your hand at hip height.
Your arm can be straight or slightly bent, whichever feels more comfortable for you. Raise your arm upwards and, when the ball reaches eye level, allow it to leave your hand. A good ball toss should be controlled and smooth, Think of it as a placing it rather than a throwing it.
Aim to place the ball around half a racket's length higher than you would be when standing tall with your racket in the air. This gives you enough time to get your racket up to meet the ball when you’re executing a full serve. The aim is to hit the ball just in front of you. Toss the ball slightly forwards and to the side - to one o'clock if you are right-handed, or 11 o'clock if you are left-handed.
First steps to a great serve
Stand on the baseline and toss the ball, making sure it lands just inside the baseline rather than on it or behind it. Then toss the ball and, keeping your arm out in front of you, try to catch it on its way down (without moving your feet). This might sound a little odd but trust us, fill a cup one-third full with water and hold it in your non-racket hand. Practise lifting the cup upwards and down again without spilling any water. Then, lift it up while you bring your racket up at the same time. Then, If you can, find a volunteer and have them stand on a chair, holding out a piece of cardboard just higher than where you need to toss your ball to. Practise tossing the ball up so that it goes almost as high as, but doesn’t hit the cardboard.
Breaking down the moves
If you’re having trouble with the full serve, try these steps. As you work your way through them, they’ll provide all the tools you need to smash full serve.
Getting used to hitting the ball above your head
Stand with your feet facing the net, shoulder-width apart. Hold your racket at a comfortable distance in front of you, just to your side, with the strings facing forwards. Your arm should be slightly bent and held up above your head. Raise your non-racket arm up and, when you get to eye level, toss the ball up to your racket and hit it flat on.
Extending your arm
Now practise extending your arm to hit the ball. Stand as you did for the first step. Hold your racket arm up so that the racket points backwards, your arm is bent and your hand is beside your ear. Your arm should be at right angles to your body, forming an "L" shape. Now toss the ball as before, and just as it starts to drop, extend your arm upwards to meet it and serve. Try to hit the ball when your arm is fully stretched upwards.
Putting it all together
Now you are ready to adopt the stance of a full serve and extend your non-racket arm even further to hit the ball. Stand with your feet facing the side of the court. Place your right foot behind your left foot (or vice versa if you're left-handed). Hold your arm in the same way as you did for the second step, but position it so that your elbow points to the back of the court. Face the net. Toss the ball up, then extend your arm to hit it, remembering the ideal contact point is as high as you can. And you’ll have an impactful serve.
Troubleshooting your serve?
If your serve keeps going long, you are probably hitting the back or the bottom of the ball, rather than the top of it. To hit the top part of the ball, remember to stretch up so that you hit the ball at full height. Shorter people may want to jump to get their contact point as high as possible. If your serve keeps going into the net, this might be because you aren't tossing the ball high enough. Practise your ball toss until you are confident you can throw it accurately and to the correct height. With these tips and techniques you’ll be getting acing your serves in no time!