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How to Improve Your Tennis Serve
Your guide to improving your tennis serve.
1. Think about your stance: It may seem simple, but the way you stand during a serve makes all the difference. Keep your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your front foot is a few inches away from the baseline to avoid foot fault. Align your feet so that your toes point toward the target area.
2. Get a grip: The best grip for serving is the Continental Grip. Place your hand so that the base knuckle of the index finger is right on the second bevel. It's also called the Chopper Grip, since it's how you would hold an axe for chopping. The benefit of this grip is two-fold: it allows you to snap your wrist for maximum power and puts a spin on the ball when you hit it.
3. Tossing the ball: Hold the ball between your thumb and all four fingers. Toss the ball in front and a little to the right of the leading shoulder. Toss it slightly higher than you can reach with your racquet, so that the ball falls a couple of inches before you hit it. Make sure your arm is at full stretch when you release the ball.
4. Practice your stroke: The position of your racquet before, during and after it hits the ball makes all the difference. As you prepare to hit the ball, the racquet should be back into a throwing position between your shoulder blades. The farther the racquet is away from the ball, the more momentum it builds. At this time, the inside of your wrist and the face of the racquet should point toward the surface of the court. As you move your weight over your bent front knee, push your front hip forward. As the head of the racquet is thrown up to meet the ball, turn your back shoulder in to add to the power of the hit. Turning too early or too late will make your serve ineffective. Keep your head up and your eyes on the ball all the time. Snap your wrist forward so that the strings of the racquet hit the ball. The action of the swing should be up, through, and over. During the follow through, the racquet should go past your left leg as your weight goes forward onto your right foot.
This final outcome of an unreturnable serve is made up of many small steps. Work on any one of these small steps and you are sure to improve your serve. Work on all of them, and you'll be well on your way to serving like Pete Sampras.