Serve Tips from Pros

Hank Irvine Serving (Crootof photo)

Most of us go the same spot on the baseline and serve the same serve, frequently to the same location.  But according to two well-known teaching pros, that is dramatically wrong.

Changing Serve Characteristics

Phil Landauer and Mark Vines run a popular boot camp called Senior Excellence Tennis (SET), which I have not yet attended, but learned of these serving tips…

  • Change the tactical characteristics as much as you can, especially at the beginning of the match. That way the returner doesn’t get a groove on your serve. Stay within yourself when trying these additions…

  • Location of serve: Don’t just serve to their backhand; and remember the “BODY” serve is great for serve and volley tactic.

  • Hardness of serve: Vary the pace you put on the ball; and sometimes serve 2nd serves as your 1st serve.

  • Spin of the ball: Not always a flat or slight spin on the serve; and remember, high bouncing “kick” serves are harder to return.

  • Movement after serving: Sometimes stay back after you serve; and sometimes charge the net.  And ”serve & volley” at different speeds.

  • Angle of Attack: Don’t always stand in the same spot; but mix up your location from where you stand to serve

And the “Serving Law” states that when you miss your first serve twice in a row, you MUST serve a second serve as your 1st serve on the very next point. Once you get your first serve in, you can go back to your harder first serve!

How about YOU, how do you vary your serve?

Medical Updates:

Mas Kimball: “Those first three days of Chemo were not too bad because I spend most of them sleeping. Thursday and Friday were a different story.  My daughter, Keiko, was able to come down on Friday evening, and that’s when I became a ‘pothead’ in addition to being a ‘druggie’. I must say that the medicinal properties of cannabis are as good as people have told me and what I have read. So, on Saturday, I felt the best I felt all week. But Sunday through yesterday were up and down days, sometimes feeling OK and sometimes being very uncomfortable.

The many emails and texts you have all been sending me carried me through … THANK YOU!!!! So, I’m hoping to continue to feel better as this week goes on and be prepared for chemo #2 on Monday, December 21.”

Evert Jonsson: 53 days after his double bypass surgery, I had the pleasure of being Evert’s partner for his first tennis “match” on Tuesday.  He really moved well (like he always does) and hit the ball well.

George Wachtel: I have my heart MRI on Tuesday, looking for a suspected aortic aneurysm; and then the heart catheterization is scheduled for January 8th (after the holidays and doctor vacations) to see what’s inside those arteries.

Whitey Joslin: “All went well with the catheterization and I now have a pacemaker…sore shoulder but no pain in my right groin. Amazingly the catheterization showed everything perfect. The doc doesn’t know when he’ll do the valve replacement yet.”

Chuck Kinyon: Due to an enlarged prostate, that was totally blocking his urethra, he yesterday had a piece of it “shaved off” and is now home, recovering “and doing well.”

WOW.  Enough?

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

13 thoughts on “Serve Tips from Pros

  1. Wishing everyone a happy holiday. Hope to see you on the tournament circuit in the new year.

    Tom, me too! george

  2. Thanks George, for all your tips and updates throughout the year. As I recover from my rotator cuff tear, I realize that my problem is not as serious as many others and although we can’t be playing tournaments right now, we still have a lot to be thankful for. Especially the gift of tennis !
    Happy New Year to All!

    Dave, i knew when i wrote them that these Medical Updates were only the tip of the senior rehab iceberg! be well and see you back on the courts soon. george

  3. Those SET Camps that Phil, Mark, and Myke run are really great….and fun!….I’ve done 3 of them…and yes, they do emphasize changing your serve patterns….and no, I don’t do it all that well. Stay safe everyone. Scoot

  4. Those were some of the best tennis tips I have ever gotten. I’m guilty of every infraction, just love to pound that serve hard to the backhand. My one consolation when I realized how much I hated getting served to my body and made look spastic, I have added many of them and giggle when they try to run around it and always miss. It occurred to me that the culprit is the ego to try to smash every serve in there at a million miles an hour. When I recuperate I plan to leave my ego in my Condo when I go to the court. I may have to lock it up haha.

    Dave, i have the same ego problem with trying hard passing shots down the alley. thanks, george

  5. First, wishing all our fellow players a happy and HEALTHIER 2021!!
    I feel serving is just like pitching, you never want the batter getting too comfortable at the plate. Always change eye level, speed, spin. inside and outside. Same for serving, unless you’ve found a weakness, then exploit it until it doesn’t work anymore.
    [A quick teaching story. One of my ladies doubles teams was playing in a match against an opponent playing on the AD court who missed every backhand return of serve (where they served exclusively) the entire match! They go to a 3rd set match TB and at a crucial point in the TB, they serve to the ladies FH where she hit a winning return and lost the TB and match. I asked why she served to her FH and her response was “I wanted to mix it up.” I said said “why, winning 100% of those points wasn’t good enough?” You can’t make this stuff up!!]

    Steve, Bill Tilden (?): “Never change a winning game.” thanks, george

  6. We have a player at our club who frequently catches us out with an underarm serve – really effective when you are standing way back for a first serve blaster!

    Andy, that is becoming more and more common. thanks, george

  7. I liked Diamond’s story about the 3.5 ladies. I’ve done that myself, losing a big point just to mix it up. Too much thinking! But as I sit here in my warm 14th floor Denver condo watching a snow storm slowly descend towards me from the mountains, I’m grateful for all the past good times at the Naples and St. Petersburg tournaments. Looking forward to some good tennis down there this January/February, even if there are no tournaments.

    Mike, let’s hope we have some events to entertain you! george

  8. Was just added to list by George. Gonna spend winter time in FL (keep boat in Ft Myers) and hoping to reconnect with my tennis game. Everything I read on this blog is great and sure seems like you guys have wonderful and supporting friendships on and off the court.
    Happy Holidays to all!


    Marco, as one of the game show hosts used to say, “Marco, come on down!” george

  9. A close friend of mine who was a major league baseball player for 16 years told me that serving should be like a major league pitcher. Don’t give them the same look twice in a row. Always keep them off balance. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hopefully the new year brings some closure to the Covid pandemic.

    Billy, thanks and same back to you. george

  10. All excellent pieces of advice about serving, George. And kudos to those who point out that serving is very much like pitching in baseball…. The more variety you can give them, the less they can get in a groove and beat you. Always keep them guessing.

    On another note, my best wishes for a speedy recovery to everybody who is ailing at the moment. Being sick or ill is no fun and I sincerely pray for all of you to be restored to full health and to be out playing tennis again ASAP.

    On a final note, now that the worst year in memory is drawing to a close and things like vaccines are giving us all a little more hope and cheer than we have had for a long time, I also wish everyone my favorite verse in my favorite holiday song (by John Lennon):

    A very Merry Christmas*, and a Happy New Year, let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.

    * Substitute Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Festivus, etc. as you like.

    Marty, thanks! George

  11. Who is this clown foot faulting in the picture??

    I was wondering who would notice! So, it was the “clown” himself! Thanks. George

  12. When serving, I want to place a high percentage of first serves with placement and spin over speed, giving my partner the confidence to poach successfully. Developing a consistent second serve, grooved in depth, placement, and consistency should always be a player’s goal. Practice it regularly and it automatically develops more power. Pancho Gonzales always said: “swing as hard on the second serve as you do on the first, but put more spin on it”. Pick your spots: In doubles, I like down the T, at the body, and out wide. Try to vary the types of serves, whether they be flat, slice, or kick. My favorite, the slice, tends to stay low after it bounces, and can open up your opponent’s side of the court. The T serves limits the angles at which your opponent can return serve. The body serve will jam your opponent and create opportunities for your partner to volley. Holding serve should be a team’s #1 priority, but there are times when a team’s service game is in danger of being broken. There is a surprise tactic I like in order to save it and turn things around. You and your partner take up your usual court positions, but just before you serve call out “Ready”. Then your partner quickly moves over into the Australian Formation-as you’re about to serve. With the change of tactics being so sudden, it causes uncertainty and pressure, hopefully forcing an error from the receiver. Never underestimate the value of keeping your opponent’s guessing, confused and off balance.

    Glenn, a bunch of great pointers! thanks, george

  13. Thanks for the advice on the heart work. My heart doctor gave me the name of a nationwide service. It’s called Lifeline Screening. Google it and find out if it is offered in your area. He said that they do a great job . Price for all of the screening given is around $150. It is worth the look.

    Jim, thanks! george

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