4 Types of Tennis Serves

The serve is probably the most important shot in tennis as it is the first shot in every point and can allow you to dictate the point from the start if you hit a good serve.

Having a powerful and consistent first and second serve is, therefore, a big advantage in tennis.

This article will look at the 4 types of serves in tennis which are the Flat Serve, the Slice Serve, the Kick Serve, and the Underarm Serve.

Find out what are the main advantages and disadvantages of the 4 types of serve.

Table of Contents

Types of Tennis Serves
4 Types of Tennis Serves

4 Types of Serves in Tennis

1. Flat Serve Tennis

The flat is the most powerful of the four types of serves and is used most often as a first serve.

The flat serve has less spin on it compared with a slice or kick serve which means it is a riskier shot and is more likely to go into the net or sail long.

This is why a flat serve should not be used as a second serve, instead, you should opt for a slice or kick serve for your second serve.

The main advantage of a flat serve is that you are more likely to ace your opponent with a flat serve.

Although you can get an ace using a slice or kick serve, it is much more common to get aces using a flat serve.

Even if you don’t get an ace, A good flat serve can allow you to dictate the point.

2. Slice Serve Tennis

The slice serve has a slower pace than a flat serve but because of the spin on the ball, it is a more consistent serve to hit.

Beginners often use a slice serve as their first and second serve as it is easier to learn than a kick serve and is more consistent than a flat serve.

For more advanced players, a good tactic to use a slice serve for is to slice the ball out wide on the deuce side if you are a righty or on the ad side if you are a lefty.

If executed correctly, this will open up the opposite side of the court so you to hit a winner.

If you have a good flat serve as your first serve, it is useful to throw in the odd slice serve as this will keep your opponent guessing and avoid them getting comfortable on your serve.

3. Kick Serve Tennis

The kick serve is probably the most important serve to learn but ironically is probably the least used at the recreational level.

A kick serve is an ideal serve to use for your second serve as the ball is hit high over the net and the spin generated on a well executed kick serve will kick up on your opponent, making it hard for them to hit a strong return.

As the majority of recreational players have weaker backhands, a good tactic to use with a kick serve is to hit it to your opponent’s backhand side the majority of the time with the odd kick serve going to their body or forehand side to keep them honest.

4. Underarm Serve Tennis

The underarm serve is the least used of the four tennis serve types mainly because it is hard to pull off effectively and some see it as showing disrespect to your opponent as the underarm serve relies on catching your opponent on the hop as they expect you hit your regular serve.

The underarm serve is especially effective if you have a powerful first serve and your opponent is standing further back to give them a chance to return it.

In this situation, you can hit the underarm serve as your opponent will have a greater distance to cover to get to your ball.

I wouldn’t recommend using the underarm serve in a competitive match but you can throw it in if you are having a friendly match with people you know well. My only advice is to not to overdo it.

Nikola Aracic from Intuitive Tennis has a good video on why you shouldn’t use the underarm serve. You can check it out by clicking here.

Common Serve Mistakes in Tennis

1. No Pronation on the Serve

A common serve mistake I see from recreational players is the lack of pronation on their serves.

Correct pronation on the serve is often the key to getting more power on your serves.

2. Using a Forehand Grip to Serve

Using a forehand grip on your serve is another big mistake I see.

Having a forehand makes it hard if not impossible to pronate on your serves and you are much more likely to have what they call a waiter’s tray position when you are in your trophy pose on your serve.

Many players can get decent power using a forehand grip on their first serve but when they have to hit a second serve, they usually have to just tap the serve over as they can’t generate sping on their serves.

3. Not tossing the ball in front on first serves

Another common mistake I see with recreational players is not throwing the ball in front of themselves when hitting their first serves but instead they hit the serve directly over their head which is more appropriate for a kick or slice serve.

The result of this is that they lose a tremendous amount of speed on their first serves.

4. Not throwing the ball high enough

This next mistake is probably the one I see most frequently and that is making contact with the ball on your serve too low.

If you want to hit a good serve then your arm should be fully extended and you should be reaching for the ball when you make contact.

5. No Serving Routine developed

The final mistake I see from recreational players is the lack of a serving routine.

I am not saying you have to bounce the ball 30 times in a row before every serve but you should develop some sort of routine on your serve so that you can improve your consistency.

It is also important to take your time on your serves and not rush between hitting a first and second serve.

Tips for hitting a better Serve

1. Use a Continential Grip to hit all your Serves

Use a continental grip for all your serves (slice, kick and flat).

If you use a different grip for each serve then this will be a tell for your opponent and they will know what kind of serve you are about to hit.

2. Mix up the type of Serves you hit

Be sure to mix up your types of serves.

Don’t just always hit a flat serve on your first then a kicker for your second. Mix it up by hicking a kick or slice serve as a first serve every now and then.

This will keep your opponent guessing and will avoid the risk of them getting comfortable with your serves.

3. Mix where you hit your Serves

Mix up your targets as well and avoid hitting the same locations each time.

Your favorite serve might be hitting it to your opponent’s backhand but you should mix it up every now and then by serving to their body or forehand.

This can be quite effective even against players with good forehands as they are expecting you to hit to their backhand so they can be caught unaware if you hit a good serve to their forehand.

4. Go for Control rather than Power on your Serves

Don’t always try and blast your first serve. You should consider the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent as sometimes a slower serve to the player’s backhand will result in a weak return.

5. Master the Flat Serve First

It is important to master your flat serve first as if you learn a slice or kick serve first then often recreational players will find it hard to hit a purely flat serve afterward.

I hope you enjoyed our article on the 4 types of serve in tennis that you can use.

You may also be interested in our articles on the top 10 fastest serves and the average serve speeds in tennis.

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