The serve. Arguably the most important shot in the game of tennis. Every point will start with one, whether you or your opponent is hitting it. It can make or break your game. Have a soft serve, and your opponent will be able to crush a return, putting you on the defensive for most of your service game and giving your opponent easy breaks that you can not afford to give up. Here are some easy ways to improve your serve.
Step 1: Toss
Now, this may sound like advice to a child, but the number one cause of missed serves is not aiming problems, speed problems, or mis-hits, it is the toss. Tosses become second nature to most tennis players, and tennis players tend to overlook them. However, a bad toss will throw your whole serve off, casing your serve to miss its target or worse. When the ball you toss the ball, make sure the ball is in front of you. (Unless you tend to serve with major spin.) The ball should land in front of your farthest foot in front of you, for righties, their left foot, and vice versa for lefties. Also make sure your toss is high enough. If your toss is too high, your ball will most likely go sailing out. If too low, then your toss will likely hit the net. Analyze your serve! If you are constantly hitting the serve too long, then try to extend your racquet more, or toss slightly lower. If too low, get that toss up!
Step 2: Feet Placement
Again, pretty basic, right? Wrong. Many tennis players feet are facing every which way, causing them to lose balance and hit bad serves. Yes, where players prefer to place their feet while serving varies greatly. However, if your serve is continually going out, your feet placement could be the problem. If you're a right-handed server, point the toes of your left foot towards the right tennis net pole. It is opposite for lefties. Now, this is one of the most basic foot positions, and the best way to find out what is best for you is to experiment. However, the time to experiment is not in an important match verse a good opponent.
Step 3: Momentum
Is your serve lacking power? Do you have great spin on the ball, but lack real speed? Momentum could be your problem. So many tennis players hit their serve and then stop. The main cause sudden stop is fear of foot faulting, which should not be a problem. Once you make contact with the ball you are allowed to cross the line! Many players are unsure of this rule and because of this they tend to stop moving after they hit their serve. After your serve you should be falling over from your momentum! One of the many great benefits of moving forward after a serve is it puts you in a great position to charge the net. If your serve was good, it could have likely made your opponent hit a bad return, allowing you to put the point away with an easy volley.
Step 4: Routine
This one may seem silly to some, but watch the pros! Most of them have routines before they serve the ball. It gets them focused on the point, and gets them ready to play. Ask any basketball player and 99% will say they have some routine before they shoot a free throw. It should be the same for your tennis serve! Bounce the ball a few times, spin your racquet, do whatever it takes to get you focused on the game at hand!
Step 5: Practice
This one is quite obvious, but few players actually do it. Yes, you do get some practice serving while in a match, but you get double or even triple the amount of ground strokes. Tennis players need to get this amount of practice with their serves, too. The best things about serves is you don't need someone to play with you! Grab a hopper of balls, or just a can and go serve for half an hour! You don't even need a court! It will surely improve your serving skills, improving your overall game.
No matter how hard you try, how long you practice, or how much effort you put in, you will miss serves. You will double-fault. Realization of this fact is key. Pros do it, and so will you. Don't get upset with yourself when this happens, just analyze your mistake, and change it the next time you serve!