Flat, slice or kick serve?

During our tennis lessons we see many clients getting really confused about what serve is right to do and when. Flat, kick or slice? For the clarity of this article we assume that the serving player is right handed.

1st & 2nd serve

There are two serving options available in tennis. If you make a first serve mistake you can serve again. With this in mind we should first focus on our second serve to make it as consistent as possible. If you serve at least 9 out of 10 balls in the field you can say you have a consistent serve (even though 10 out of 10 would be better).  If you have a consistent 2nd serve you can take a bit more risk and try to get some direct points on your 1st serve.

2nd serve

Because we said 2nd serve needs to be extremly consistent we need to take the least possible risk in the most effective manner to get the ball in play and start the point. For this we use the top spin or also called the kick serve. Because we put top spin on the ball (racket makes contact with the ball on the top left side of the ball), after the culmination point the ball declines on a much steeper curve and therefore we can aim to hit the ball higher over the net (taking less risk of hitting the ball in the net). Because of the top spin effect the ball usually bounces higher and to the right side (backhand side of a right handed player). The kick serve is the first and for 90% of players the right option to use for a 2nd serve. Also, don’t try to score points on your 2nd serve, instead try to bring the ball in play and usually aim at the opponent’s backhand. 

1st serve

Because we said the first serve is meant to score direct points we can use a bit more risk on it. There are 3 options we can choose from – serving flat, slice or kick. 

Flat serve

Flat serve is meant to be a bomb. Try to hit the ball without any spin and as hard you can and aim for an ace. A right handed player aims to hit a flat serve either down the T (serving  from the right side) or out wide (serving from the left side). Also if serving from the left side we can use flat serve to aim at the body of an opponent.  

Slice serve

Slice means making a contact with the ball on the top right side of the ball giving the ball a counter clockwise rotation. This makes the ball bounce more to the left and stay a bit closer to the ground. We use slice to serve out wide (if serving from the right side) or down the T (if serving from the left side). Slice serve is also used to hit at the body of an opponent if serving from the right side. 

Kick  serve


Kick is usually used as a second serve (because it cannot be hit very hard and the ball bounces quite high). Although there exists one option when you can use kick as a first serve – while serving from the left side and aiming to hit the ball very out wide (taking the opponent far out of the court).  This serving option is especially effective on clay and to execute it effectively the serving player needs to move his serving position at least 1.5m to the left of his standard first serve position.   

Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Me (Tuesday, 02 July 2019 19:47)

    Your kick serve example isn't really the best example. Contact is made with the racket closer to Vertical then horizontal and the tosses barely to the left enough. Batas further to the left would fix everything and make it a better kick serve


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