The serve is comprised of 4 main parts:
1 - The toss.
Actually the term "toss" is a misnomer. You don't really want to TOSS anything, What you want to do is "place" the ball at a certain place, at a certain time, so that the racquet can connect with it when the headspeed is at its greatest, and while the angle is sufficient to get it over the net. IMNSHO the most important part of the serve. Where you toss it varies a little on serving style. For the most power, toss it so that at its contact point, it's a little ahead of you, and slightly to your right (assuming you're right handed.) At the same time, once your left hand is up in the air, KEEP IT THERE. Track the movement of the ball with your left hand. (KEEP LOOKING AT THE BALL!)
2 - Racquet up.
Bring the racquet up over your head, and slightly behind you. This occurs at the same time as the toss. Your arm should be in the shape of a reversed "L." To create impressive power, at the same time, bend your legs a little, and slightly push your left hip (if you're right handed) forward, towards the net. (KEEP LOOKING AT THE BALL!)
3 - The Backscratch.
This is the second most important part. Keeping your wrist firm, bring your elbow forward, while dropping the racquet head behind your back. MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS: Make sure the head drops down, below your shoulder, and that is it not parallel to the court. You can serve drinks with a racquet that is parallel, but not a ball. At the same time, start to push up with your legs, a little forward on onto the court. You will be in the air when you hit the ball, so don't worry about faulting. (KEEP LOOKING AT THE BALL!)
4 - The Strike.
So your elbow is forward, the racquet head is down and behind you, and you're in the air. Now bring your right arm up, again, keeping a slightly firm wrist (again, assuming a right-hander) drop your left arm down INTO THE BODY so that your left hand is covering your navel. Don't let it drift out in front of you, else you'll screw up your balance. Your racquet should contact the ball either at the very top of the toss, or after it has dropped some, depending on your style. (Mine drops about 18 inches.) After you hit the ball, let your wrist follow the racquet head over and to the left. This is called "pronation." Make sure the racquet path follows through to the left of your left leg. Step into the court with your LEFT foot, and the ball should be flying at a great pace. (KEEP LOOKING AT THE BALL!)
That's the fundamentals of a killer serve. I use a ProStaff 6.0, which is not a powerful racquet by any means, and I serve around 100-105 miles an hour. (My serve is the best part of my game. I'm only a 3.5 serve and volleyer, but I have a strong 4.5 serve.) Not bad for a short, old fart, eh? And the reason I CAN serve and volley is bacause of that serve.
Get yourself a ball hopper, and stock it with about 50-75 balls. Go out to the court and just continually practice this. I say this to myself when serving: "Toss, track, (the ball) drop, (the racquet head) HIT!" Don't worry about placement for a while. Concentrate on making the motion as fluid and second nature as you can. Once you're banging screamers with confidence, placement becomes rather easy. The reason the service motion is so pretty is because it HAS to be. That fluidity is what makes for a good serve.
I still practice my serve more than anything else. I hit 300 serves 3 times a week. (75 Deuce-75 Ad-75 Deuce-75 Ad.) My coach doesn't even bother with my serve. I've aced him enough times, that he looks at it about once a month to make sure I'm not picking up any bad habits, and then lets it go.
Hope that helps.
Last edited by joegerardi; Dec 23rd, 2002 at 08:47 PM.