“You kind of live and die by the serve.”

– Pete Sampras

Far be it from me to disagree with Pete; his serve played a major role in winning 14 Grand Slams!

The serve is where it all begins. It’s the opening shot of the point, and a smart serve can put you in the lead and keep you there.

Whether social or competitive tennis, a smart serve doesn’t mean serving an ace every time.

While that would be nice, I can’t always do that, can you?

However, what you can do is serve to the opponent’s weak side. Also, try mixing your serves up a bit to keep opponents off balance.

Practicing your serve is time well spent and can give great results rather quickly.

All you need is a basket of tennis balls, an open court, and you’re in business.

The most common service is an overhead serve.

It is initiated by tossing the ball into the air over the server’s head and hitting it when the arm is fully stretched out (usually near the apex of its trajectory) into the diagonally opposite service box without touching the net.

Although not used as often, it’s perfectly allowable to serve “underhand” (hit similar to a forehand).

Michael Chang used this tactic to help defeat Ivan Lendl in the fourth round of the ’89 French Open, which he went on to win.

The server might employ different types of serves: a flat, topspin, an American twist (or kick), or a slice serve.

Learning how to use spin and placement on your serves will help you win more points.

A severely sliced serve is sometimes called a side spin.

It can be very tricky to return, especially when not used regularly on an opponent (almost like a change-up pitch in baseball).

Some players are content to use the serve simply to initiate the point.

Players with more serving skill often try to hit a winning shot with their serve.

A winning serve that is not touched by the opponent is called an ace.

I think that it’s a good idea to spend some time practicing your serve, and a lesson with your favorite coach might be very beneficial.

Like Pete implied, it’s better to live by the serve than die by the serve.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio & Youth Tennis Coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area.