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Photo Lesson: How to Hit the Basic Serve


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Grip, Stance, and Toss Hold
Basic Serve Grip, Stance, and Toss Hold
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to About.com, Inc.
The basic serve shown here is a complete tennis serve with all of the same elements that a top pro would use, except for intentional spin. Some players naturally hit spin if they learn the basic serve with a Continental grip, but many players find it easier to learn with an Eastern forehand grip, in which case they're more likely to hit the ball flat (without spin). At any given speed, flat serves don't have as much clearance over the net as do serves hit with some topspin, and a Continental grip encourages important habits like full extension and natural pronation; therefore, it's worth trying hard to use the Continental grip first. If you take to it well, you'll be hitting a mixture of topspin and sidespin (slice) pretty soon, and you'll be well on your way to an advanced serve. If you find the Continental grip unbearably awkward, though, it's okay to start with the Eastern grip and then shift to Continental once you've gotten the other elements of the serve working well. In learning how to serve, Continental versus Eastern is less important than many other factors we're about to discuss.

These are the most important points to observe in this photo:

  • Left foot points more or less toward the right net post.
  • Right foot parallel to the baseline.
  • Ball held in fingertips.
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