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The Service - The Opening Gun Of Tennis

Apr 23, 2008
From its beginnings in France in the 17th century to its development as lawn tennis in England in the 19th century, tennis has come a long way from its beginnings. An integral part of the game of lawn tennis is the opening serve. What used to be a simple game requisite to be able to put the ball in play has evolved into a skill that needs to be mastered by every player in order to win a point, at once! In today's tennis games, the serve is not simply to get the ball in play - it has become a sort of artillery barrage that the receiver either survives (makes a return) or not - an ace and a point for the server!

From a plain and simple part of the game to get the ball into play, the service gained utmost importance as a quick point winner and as a way to establish domination of a match in what was formerly known as a gentleman's game. Cannon-ball serves became the norm and the goal of most tennis players as exemplified by Maurice E. M'Loughlin, aka California Comet, until the arrival of R. N. Williams on the scene who was able to neutralized booming serves as he perfected his style of standing in on the delivery and taking the ball on the rising bound for an effective return of serve.

For a player's serve to be effective as a weapon, it must be fast, dead-on target, reliable, and can be directed at any area inside the service box. Also, a booming serve must always be used judiciously and intelligently in order not to be predictable to your opponents.

Although taller players (6 feet or more) have a decided advantage over shorter players when it comes to serving in tennis, it is not an outright guarantee of triumph over a shorter competitor. Height alone does not guarantee that a tall player can win with a booming serve because granted that height gives the tall player the advantage of delivering a serve over the net if it is flat and without any twist it would theoretically just clear the net! This makes it clearer that for a booming serve to be effective it has to have twist, spin and direction aside from speed! This is where a tall person who possesses a booming flat serve is at a disadvantage because a receiver can quite easily anticipate where the ball will land and prepare early on to make a return of serve complete with topspin or underspin!

The aim of the server is to force the receiver to commit an error in the return just as it is the intention of the receiver to get the ball back into the server's court and force the server out of position!

For a serve to be effective, it should be hit at the highest point that the server can reach without exerting too much effort. Unnecessary stretches and jumping up to hit the ball on its way down will cause the server to spend too much energy that is more importantly need during the progress of the game. Varied pace, varied speed and varied placement are the most important ingredients of a good service. Aside of course from avoiding that all too often mistake of players - foot faulting!
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