Serve the ball over the net into the box. Sounds simple, doesn’t it. But players fault all the time, which means they’re violating the principle. Let’s break this down.
First, send the ball over the net. That means the ball must be traveling upwards as it leaves your racket face. You are behind your baseline, the net is three feet high or more, and the ball has quite a ways to travel. All this means is that you absolutely must have an open racket face when you contact the ball. Even your fastest, straightest bullet must be send upward to some degree, never downward!
Next, into the box. You could hit a “gravity serve” which is a very slow rainbow over the net. Not good enough? Then serve lower and faster and you eventually find the net. Fault. So how does a good server get the fast serves in? Spin. Maybe not a lot but some. The preferred spin is slice, or sidespin. Better yet is topspin, but that slows the balls too much. So, good servers use a little of both and this bends the trajectory of the ball’s path nicely. This allows for some clearance and a dip once the ball clears the net.
Use a little spin on the first serve and a lot on the second.
Gary Sherby is tennis director at Racquets and Togs Tennis Center, 115 Bradford St., just off the downtown square. His tennis tips appear Sundays.