Basic Tennis


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A serve in tennis is a shot to start a point

A 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.

Flat 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) or more.

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 circumstances.

Slice serve

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

Great servers, particularly known for the power of their serves, include (amongst many others)

* Maurice McCloughlin, the California Comet, who was the first well-known player to use the cannonball serve
* Bill Tilden, who popularized the cannonball
* Ellsworth Vines
* Don Budge
* Jack Kramer
* Pancho Gonzales
* Roscoe Mountain Tanner
* Boris Becker
* Pete Sampras, had the best second serve and arguably the best first serve among modern players
* Goran Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon largely with his serve
* Ivo Karlovic
* Greg Rusedski
* Joachim Johansson
* Andy Roddick, the fastest serve in history at 249.45 km/h (155 mph)
* Steffi Graf
* Venus Williams, fastest serve in women's tennis.
* Serena Williams

Serve terminology

* 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 designated box.
* 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


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia Articles Serve (Tennis).
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