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Serve heads-up like Serena Williams


Originally published on: 15/09/10 09:55

‘Serve heads-up like Serena Williams’ featured in the June 2010 issue of tennishead magazine. For more details on how to subscribe, click here.

Grip it and rip it: Choppers for whoppers. If you’ve been playing tennis for a while you should be using the chopper grip to serve, so-called as you hold the racket as you’d hold an axe in one hand to chop some wood. The chopper grip will help you hit with power and naturally adds spin on the ball as you serve for some extra control. It also means that serve-volleyers are automatically holding the racket with the right grip for their first volley.

Objectives: Decide and stick to it. Your first serve should be more agressive than your second. Decide where you are aiming your serve and stick to it, but at what point in the process you do this is up to you. Most players have made their mind up by the time they reach the baseline, but some – Pete Sampras and Roger Federer among them – have trained themselves to leave the decision until the ball is in the air. This takes immense skill, but gives their serve perfect disguise – if they don’t know where the ball is going, how can their opponent?

Serena is relaxed as she eases the racket down and rocks onto her right leg. Notice how her feet are shoulder-width apart to provide a solid base and, like all good servers, her shoulders set side-on to the target box.

Key point: Her weight rocks back to help her rhythm as she starts the process of pushing down into the ground for power

As her left arm pushes rather than throws the ball into the air, Serena’s bodyweight starts to shift forward and her legs begin to bend. Note that she places the ball toss just in front and slightly to her right.

By bending her knees and raising her heels Serena loads up her legs to push up towards the ball. All the while her left arm stays fully extended as she takes the racket back into the throwing position.

Golden rule: Chin up! Serena keeps her eye on the ball as long as she possibly can during her service action – and not just so she can track the flight of the ball. Keeping her head up prevents her weight falling forward during the service action and dragging the ball into the net, and keeps her balanced during the follow-through.

Serena pushes off the ground and up towards the contact point by straightening her legs. Take note of how disciplined she is in keeping her head up and how her eyes are focused on the target.

Serena makes contact at full extension, hitting across the back of the ball (right-to-left from our view) to give the serve some controlling slice. Her racket head speed pulls her body into the court.

Key point: She is in the air at the point of contact. Her strong core muscles (abdominals and rhomboids) help prevent her upper body shape from collapsing.

She lands on her left foot inside the left baseline as her racket follows through across her body. Notice her perfect head position, which has not dropped throughout the whole service action – she’s always looking forward.


Key point: Serena’s back leg has shot backwards and her back is straight – this keeps her in perfect balance and stabilises her for her next shot


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.