6 Steps to a Powerful Serve

6 Steps to a Powerful Serve

In the modern game of tennis power is everything! You watch any professional tennis match and you will see two players hitting serves up to speeds of 150mph.

But just how do these men and woman hit a tennis ball so hard? Here are 6 Steps you can take for a powerful serve.


1. Swing Faster

People ask me how they can improve their serve speed and the simplest way to SWING FASTER. Most club tennis players forget that the faster you swing your racket, the faster the ball will travel. If we think about the more technical aspects of gaining speed on our serve, we need to think about where the power comes from. 70% of your power comes from the SHOULDER and 30% is generated from the LEGS. This means that without any leg bend or driving force through the ground, we as tennis players can still hit big powerful serves.


2. Stay Relaxed

So let’s begin with the power generated by the Shoulder! One of the most important aspects of the serve is to make sure you stay RELAXED. You’ll be amazed at how much faster you can generate racket speed by just relaxing your arm and not muscling the ball.


3. Serving Arm At 90°

In terms of angles, you watch any pro and at the point before they throw their racket at the ball, their serving arm will be as close to 90°(elbow to hip & hand to shoulder).


4. Shoulder Over Shoulder

Picture 1.

The final movement with the shoulder to generate as much power as possible is called Shoulder over Shoulder. This essentially means from our throwing position (Picture 1 above), we want to move our shoulder like we are doing a cartwheel up and over rather than around. This allows us to get maximum power from our shoulder without the effort of muscling each ball and causing an injury.



5. Legs Drive Into The Ground

Although your legs only account for 30% of the power on your serve we mustn’t leave them by the way side. That 30% can be the difference between having a good serve and a great serve, or a great serve and a world class serve. One other job the legs do, apart from helping us hit bigger, is allow us to take pressure off our arm.

When club players watch their favourite pro’s, or any pro with a decent serve for that matter, you will notice that each time they make contact with the ball they will be off the ground as though they jump in the air to strike the ball. Now if we take this jumping action and instead of thinking of it as a jump, we look at it as the player driving through the ground to allow an explosive motion upwards to gain the greatest power from our legs.


6. 80% Back Leg To 20% Front Leg

Once we start thinking about pushing the ground rather than jumping this will help us develop the most explosive drive we as individuals can. As we enter our GFR (ground force reaction) phase the last point we want to think about is how much force we apply through each leg. Studies show for most tennis players the ratio is 80% back leg to 20% front leg. This does not mean that you can not put more or less force on either leg, this is just an average for most players on the ATP tour as you can see from the picture below.

The server's force is now fully pressing into the ground ready to explode off the floor to generate as much GFR as possible.

A final thing to remember: even if you do not come off of the ground very high this does not mean you are not using your legs effectively. I personally only come off the ground a few inches yet can hit a serve at a top speed of 130mph.

  • Roger Federer leaves the ground by quite a distance and hits an top serve speed of around 130mph.

  • Andy Murray on the other hand barley leaves the ground yet has a top serve speed of around 135mph.

Two different servers with similar speed. Same Fundamentals!


6 Things we need to remember to have an effective powerful serve: 

  • ​Legs drive into the ground to allow an explosive upward motion

  • On average force applied by each leg is 80% back 20% front

  • 90° elbow to hip & hand to shoulder (picture 1)

  • Shoulder over Shoulder (cartwheel)

  • 70% Shoulder 30% Legs

  • Most important stay RELAXED!

 Happy Serving!


Conor Macdonald, Senior Performance Tennis Coach

Want to get into tennis? Book in a lesson with Conor or another member of the team at www.finchleymanor.com

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