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How to Fix the "Waiter" Serve in Tennis

Updated on May 15, 2016

A very common error that most of the beginning (even intermediate) level players do is to open the racquet face before swinging up to meet the ball during the serve swing - called the Waiter's Serve.

This error limits the power on the Serve due to the lack of pronation (inward forearm rotation).

During the "waiter" service motion the arm, before the contact, is extended (or not) upward with the butt cap pointing to the net and the strings are facing to the sky. The correct way would be an extended arm (before contact) and racquet on edge (the side of the racquet facing the sky) - see picture below.

How to Correct It:

This process will involve two parts:

- the initial backswing (the way the player takes the racquet back)

- the upswing to contact (the way the player swings up before contact with the ball).

The Initial Racquet Backswing

Often players make the mistake to take the racquet back and supinating the dominant forearm (turning or rotating the hand so that the palm faces up or forward).
That results in an open racquet face from the beginning. (see picture below)

The quick fix for this problem is to take the racquet back (separate it from the ball) while having the hand knuckles facing up and dominant palm pointing down. (see picture below)

The Upswing to Contact

The racquet's upward path to the ball should be done leading with it's edge so that just before contact it should be turned from the forearm and hand (pronation).
This twisting motion will add more power and/or spin to the serve.
In order to achieve this result a player should practice the following exercise while standing close to a fence (preferably one that has a windscreen for racquet's protection):

1. The player stands about a foot from a fence (see figure below), sideways as in the serve ready position.

2. He takes the racquet back having the hand knuckles facing up, slowly, then bring the racquet up to tap the fence (as high as he can) with the edge of the racquet pointing up (butt cap forward, racquet edge up) - see pictures below. The player should contact the fence with the racquet edge. Repeat this exercise about 10 times.

3. Next sequence follows the previous drill adding to it turning inward (pronating) the forearm right after the contact between the racquet edge and fence. (see picture below)

So the whole sequence is:

- take the racquet back with the knuckles up
- swing up on edge
- contact the fence with racquet edge
- turn the wrist inward (pronate) to put the strings flat against the fence.

Repeat in slow motion until it feels comfortable.
Then go to the service line and practice it (slowly) followed by tossing balls and tapping them gently focusing on the steps above.

Note: As with every new skill (of fix) we have to consciously train the muscles which will become automatic movement after many repetitions.

Watch "Tennis Serve (Technique) through Progression Drills" - the easiest way to learn how to Serve in Tennis


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