Mastering the game of tennis requires learning a variety of different shots and then using them in different sequences to execute strategies in order to win points. It’s a fun learning process that takes you through increasing stages of expertise, and it’s a journey that offers a lifetime of fun and fitness.
In PART 1 of this article, we address two important shots that you will need to play tennis.
They are the Serve and the Return of Serve
These are two most important shots to learn because these are the shots that start the points in tennis.
THE SERVE & BASIC SERVING TECHNIQUE
The serve is unique in that it is the only shot you hit that is not controlled or influenced by your opponent. By this I mean that you are not having to react to a ball hit to you. Instead, you are hitting it yourself, and the technique used, the spin and speed of the ball, and the placement of the shot are completely in your control.
The basic footwork for the serve (if you are right handed and holding the racquet in your right hand) is to place your left foot on the baseline so that it is facing the net post. Your right foot should be facing the side fence and your feet should be shoulder width apart. Hold the ball in your non-serving hand and hold the racket with a “ handshake” grip, facing towards the net. Pretend that you are “ shaking hands” with the racket. Bring your arms together and then separate them in opposite directions with your racket going behind you and the tossing arm with the ball going forward and up simultaneously. As your arm with the ball goes forward, release the ball into the air and with your other arm swing your racquet up to the ball and try to make contact with the ball above your head.
Here are some images that show the basic steps of THE SERVE:
There are 3 types of serves, a flat serve, a slice serve and a spin or kick serve. Hitting the different serves will take some practice, but it will be very important to learn them as you advance to higher levels of play. At the beginning, just focus on getting the serve in and starting the point.
THE RETURN OF SERVE
The next shot is the return of serve. This shot is hit when you are on the receiving side of your opponent’s serve. The technique is similar to that of a forehand or a backhand groundstroke. (The term groundstroke refers to shots hit after that the ball hits the ground before we hit it, or simply a ball you hit after it bounces).
Watch these videos to learn about the RETURN OF SERVE
The forehand return of serve is normally hit with one hand on the grip using the “handshake“ grip. Typically, the forehand is played by lifting the hands in front of the body in a catch position, taking the racket back slightly in what we call the backswing and then going forward to strike the ball as it comes towards you (watch https://sportsedtv.com/sport/tennis/forehand-overview to see the technique).
The backhand is for when the ball comes to the opposite side of your body (not the side of your playing hand, or the hand with which you are holding the racquet). On this shot, you can either hit it with one hand or with two hands. If you want to hit it with two hands just place your other hand on top of the hand that you used to hit the forehand. As the ball comes to you, take your racket up and back and then move the racquet head towards the ball, rotating your shoulders and hips as you hit the ball. (watch https://sportsedtv.com/sport/tennis/1-handed-backhand-overview to see the technique). Pay attention to how far back to take the racket in order to still make contact with the ball and keep the ball in play.
In PART 2 of this article, we will cover more of the basic shots you’ll need to play tennis.
by Ellis Ferreira
- 2-Time Australian Open Doubles Champion,
- Former World #2 in Doubles
- Member, South African Olympic & Davis Cup Team