The Tennis Flat Serve – Learning the Flat Serve in Tennis

The tennis flat serve is the most commonly hit serve in both professional and club level tennis. The tennis flat serve is often the hardest hit serve when compared to the other spin variations on the tennis serve.

tennis-flat-serveThe tennis flat serve the most popular type of serve in tennis, because it is often the hardest hit shot in tennis, besides the overhead.
The tennis flat serve comes with it’s own misconceptions, because while the serve is technically defined as a “flat serve,” in reality players are still hitting in an upwards angle, but on a much lesser degree than on a kick serve. The tennis serve technique is one of the most important areas to focus on when discussing the flat serve. In the flat serve in tennis, there is often a minimal use of spin, and the focus is on placement and power, rather than net clearance.

Tennis Flat Serve in the Professional Level

The serve is the most important shot in tennis because it is the shot that you have total control over. It is the shot that begins the point. If you can make it your weapon, it can also be the way for you to end the point. Commentators frequently say how some player is so formidable because he or she can get a lot of “free points.” They really mean to say that the player has a big serve and uses it as one of his or her main weapons.

Every shot in tennis has a little bit of spin but the less spin the ball has the faster it travels through the air. The fastest shot in tennis is the flat serve. It is also probably the most intimidating and fearsome weapon a player can have. When placed well, it is usually untouchable.

At the very least, it cannot be returned back or it leads to a ball that the server can easily put away. At the professional level, the fastest serve ever recorded was 156 miles per hour. It was hit by Ivo Karlovic, the 6’10″ Croatian ace machine. The previous record was 155 mph by American Andy Roddick. Among the women, Brenda Schultz-McCarthy hit the fastest serve at 130 mph. Venus Williams holds the record among active players with 129 mph.

Disadvantage of the Tennis Flat Serve

The main disadvantage of the tennis flat serve is that it has a low margin for error. It is almost never used as a second serve because of this. Also, the flat serve can become predictable. If not placed well or fast enough, the returner will simply feed off the pace of the serve and create a pretty good return for himself. It is always important to mix up hitting flat, sliced and topspin serves.

Tennis Flat Serve: The Grip

The tennis flat serve can be hit using an eastern forehand grip or a continental grip. The latter is preferred because it provides a slight advantage in reach. Therefore, you can hit the ball from higher up and spike it downward more (via pronation). The ball will then have more speed because it is being helped by gravity while at the same time providing a little more margin for error. Look at the list of fastest servers.

They are all some of the tallest players on tour, except for Roddick, who compensates by having the fastest and most whip-like motion. Perhaps the only advantage of the eastern grip on the flat serve is that it creates a shot that bounces lower. This is useful on a grass court. Boris Becker used this grip on his flat serve. It helped him win Wimbledon three times.

How does one prepare to hit the tennis flat serve?

sharapova-tennis-serve-flat (1)

There really are no differences in stance and preparation compared to any other kind of serve. If there were, then you’d be telegraphing to your opponent what serve you plan to hit. The regular service stance is to stand sideways with feet body width apart.

For right handed players, the left foot is near the baseline pointing to the right net post and the right foot is the back foot, parallel to the baseline. For left handers, just reverse these instructions.

Tennis Flat Serve Technique

tennis-serve-flatThe hand holds the racket in the proper grip while remaining loose and relaxed. The other hand holds the ball in the tips of the fingers. It is not recommended to hold the ball in the palm. The first part of the swing is the toss. Here, the whole body should already be moving as one.

The tossing arm goes up at the same time that the racket goes into the backswing. As ball goes up, the head goes up also to track the ball.

The ball toss for the tennis flat serve is forward and a slightly to the right of the body. In contrast, the toss for the topspin serve is directly above the head while the slice serve toss is a little further to the right.

It is possible to hit a flat serve and a slice serve off the same toss but it is more difficult to hit a flat serve from a toss directly above the head.

Tennis Flat Serve: Backswing

The backswing may either be circular – where the racket goes down first then back up to the “trophy pose” position or abbreviated – where the racket head is taken straight up into the “trophy pose” position.

This position has the racket head pointing upward and the elbow bent and pointing to the back fence. There are different degrees of abbreviating this take back. Some players still have a little bit of a circular motion retained. Roddick takes the ball up to almost directly. Pete Sampras used a full circular motion. Choosing one over the other depends on which one you are more comfortable with.

While the arms are doing their thing, the legs begin to bend and the weight gets loaded onto the back foot. The trunk begins to coil and the shoulder of the racket arm drops below the level of the other shoulder. The feet may or may not stay in their position. Many players begin to slide or step their back foot closer to the front foot but Roger Federer doesn’t. Again, this depends on your preference.

Tennis Flat Serve: Swing Up to Contact Point

Swing-Up-to-Contact-Point

The next phase in the tennis flat serve stroke is the swing and hit. As the ball reaches its apex, the legs are bent and ready for the feet to push off the ground and propel the body upward into the ball. The racket then goes into the “back scratch” position where the racket head points downward due to the wrist being cocked back.

The legs launch the body up into the ball as the trunk begins to uncoil the upper body. The shoulder of the racket arm starts to go up and over the other shoulder. The elbows straighten and the wrist starts to pronate or rotate inward. At point of contact, the arm and wrist are fully extended. The ball is hit squarely from behind as much as possible.

There should be only minimal movement of the strings across the ball. You are not aiming to brush the ball and create spin after all. All throughout this motion, the head remains up.

After the ball leaves the racket face, the racket continues its forward motion. The wrist continues pronating, bringing the racket head downward. The elbow and shoulder extend the arm out in front of the body while continuing on its path to finish on the opposite side. The body continues rotating while the front foot eventually lands before the other.

Tennis Flat Serve: Landing & Recovery Position

tennis-flat-serve-sharapovaThe last part of the tennis flat serve is the recovery. This is when the player performs a quick split step while bringing the racket back to the ready position.

Alternatively, the player may choose to rush the net after his flat serve, although many serve and volley points begin with some type of a spin serve because it gives the player more time to close in to the net.

If he or she chooses to rush the net, then the landing of the front foot is actually the first step of his or her sprint to the net. The split step is only performed when already in the desired position inside the court.

The tennis flat serve is the most basic serve. Beginners all hit flat serves by just tapping the ball into the service box. As a player develops, he or she will need to develop the different spin serves.

As for the flat serve, the player will need to learn to hit it with speed and proper placement. If this isn’t done, the serve will be a very easy ball for the opponent to attack. Practice is the only way to perfect this so if you want to have a cannonball in your arsenal, work on your flat serve.


mental-game-of-tennis-federerImprove Your Tennis Technique Now!

If you want to play like the PROS, then you need to have the game. Check out our Tennis Ebooks and be on the way to improving all of your tennis strokes without the trial and error. Click Here to Improve Your Tennis


Back from Tennis Flat Serve to Tennis Instruction