serve (or, more formally, a service) in tennis is a shot to
start a point. The serve is initiated by tossing the ball
into the air and hitting it (usually near the apex of its
trajectory) into the diagonally opposite service box without
touching the net.
The serve is one of the more difficult shots for a novice
to master. Its great advantage is that a server can take his
time to set up a good serve instead of having to react to
an opponent's shot. Advanced players can hit the serve in
many different ways and often use it as an offensive weapon
to gain an advantage in the point or to win it outright.
A legal serve
A serve is termed legal when the ball travels over the net
(without touching it) and into the diagonally opposite service
court. The server is given two chances per point to make a
legal serve, called first serve and second serve. A serve
that is not legal is termed a fault. If the first serve is
a fault in any way, the server has a second attempt at serve.
If the second serve is also a fault, this is called a double
fault and the receiver wins the point.
If the ball hits the net but lands in the service court,
this is a let service, which is void and the serve is replayed.
A ball that hits the net but lands out is a fault.
The server is required to keep his or her feet in nearly
the same position during the serve. The server's feet may
be raised off the ground, but walking or running is not permitted.
This prevents the opponent from being misled as to where the
serve will originate. Breaching this rule or exceeding the
permitted part of the court constitutes a foot fault.
A player unsatisfied with his or her toss can let the ball
fall to the ground and try again. If the server swings the
racquet and misses the ball this is a faulty service.
Types of serve
There are different types of serve: a flat serve, an American
twist serve (or kick serve) and a slice serve. Each type has
its tactical advantages. The different types of serve, not
to mention the placement of the serve, allows the server to
have many varieties and thus a major advantage. A widely used
tactic is to hit a hard flat serve on the first serve, and
a twist serve on the second serve.
A flat serve (in the old days sometimes called a cannonball
serve) is hit very hard and with relatively little spin. Since
it generally is hit quite close to the top of the net, it
has a smaller margin for error than spin serves. A flat serve
is generally used as a first serve, when the server can afford
the greater risk of hitting a fault, in an attempt to win
the point outright, possibly by an ace. It is executed by
hitting the ball squarely with the racquet held in an Eastern
or Continental grip. Since it has very little clearance over
the net, it is most often hit straight down the centerline,
where the net is lowest, either to a righthander's backhand
in the deuce court or to his forehand in the ad court. The
flat serve is commonly the easiest to learn, particularly
for a relatively tall person, who has more court space to
hit it into than a shorter player. A good server in the ATP
can hit a flat serve with the speed of 200 km/h (124 mph)
American Twist serve
An American twist serve (or kick serve) is hit with topspin
and travels at a lesser pace than the flat serve. The ball
travels in a higher arc over the net than a flat serve. It
then dips quicker and bounces higher, generally away from
the receiving player's backhand. The kick serve in general
is safer to hit and is often employed for the second serve.
A twist serve is harder to learn, however, because it is hit
somewhat behind the head of the server and requires slightly
more complex mechanics. It is hit with a Continental grip
or a Eastern forehand grip. The American twist serve is useful
for second serves, serve and volley tactics and many other
A slice serve is hit with sidespin, which causes the ball
to curve and skip sideways. A right-handed player hitting
a slice serve would cause the ball to curve to the left. The
slice serve can be used to either draw the receiving player
away from his initial stationary position or to "jam"
him with the serve as the ball curves directly into his body.
In either case, it is generally more difficult for the serve
to be returned. The slice serve is made by bringing the racquet
around the side of the ball and can be hit with various grips
including the Continental and the Eastern backhand. A severely
sliced serve is sometimes called a "sidespin".
Great servers, particularly known for the power of their
serves, include (amongst many others)
McCloughlin, the California Comet, who was the first well-known
player to use the cannonball serve
* Bill Tilden,
who popularized the cannonball
* Don Budge
* Jack Kramer
* Roscoe Mountain Tanner
* Boris Becker
* Pete Sampras,
had the best second serve and arguably the best first serve
among modern players
Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon largely with his serve
* Ivo Karlovic
* Greg Rusedski
* Andy Roddick,
the fastest serve in history at 249.45 km/h (155 mph)
* Steffi Graf
Williams, fastest serve in women's tennis.
* Ace – a good serve (not a fault) that is
untouched by the opponent
* Big serve – a forceful serve, usually giving
an advantage in the point for the server
* Break – losing the game when serving
* Break point – one point away from a break
* Double fault – two faults in a row in one
point, causing to lose the point
* Fault – an unsuccesful serve that does not
start the point, because of not hitting the ball into the
* Foot fault – a fault caused by the server
stepping into the tennis court
* Hold – winning the game when serving
* Let – when the ball touches the net but still
goes in, the serve is replayed