The tennis serve stance is one of the key components associated with hitting a great serve because it sets the foundation for the entire service motion.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- The importance of using the correct serve stance
- Where to stand for your serve
- How to position your feet for a great serve
- The different types of tennis serve stances
- The advantages and disadvantages of each stance type
- Which serve stance is the best
- ATP & WTA tennis player serve stances
The Importance of Using the Correct Serve Stance
As you can imagine, your ability to hit an effective serve is heavily tied to the way you position your feet, otherwise referred to as the stance that you use for your serve.
If we take a step back, the are three main reasons an effective stance is important:
- Foundation: your stance quite literally forms the foundation for your entire service motion. As one of the most complex strokes in tennis, it’s crucial that you’re building your entire service motion on a solid foundation.
- Stability: with many moving parts to the serve, it’s important that your stance provides you with the necessary stability and control that will help you maintain balance throughout your service motion, which is key for consistency.
- Weight transfer: your stance helps set you up for effective weight transfer throughout the service motion, which is ultimately one of the primary ways you generate power.
Where to Stand for Your Serve
Before we jump into the specifics of the tennis serve stance, let’s take a moment to cover where you should stand on the court for your serve.
If you’re playing singles, you’re going to want to stand within a reasonable distance from the service mark at the baseline of the court, i.e. typically about 2-3 feet.
I’ve specified “reasonable” distance because there’s really no exact or perfect answer for how close to the service mark you should stand.
However, when making the decision to determine where you’d like to position yourself along the baseline there are two important considerations that I’d keep in mind:
- Angle: the closer you are to the service mark the easier it is for you to hit a serve straight up the middle of the court, while the further you stand away from the service mark the easier it is for you to serve out wide. Of course, the further out wide you stand the harder it is for you to hit straight down the middle and the closer to the service mark you stand the harder it is for you to hit out wide.
- Court coverage: when playing singles you need to make sure you can cover the entire court immediately following your serve. If you stand too far out wide in the deuce or ad court then you may be leaving the court wide open. This creates an opportunity for your opponent to control or dictate the point immediately following your serve. On the other hand, if you stand closer to the service mark your position is rather neutral, which puts you in a better position to set up the point.
In doubles, you’ll typically want to stand further out wide because you have your partner to cover half of the court, and you’ll also be able to take advantage of an extreme angle out wide when hitting your serve.
How to Position Your Feet for a Great Serve
Now that you know where to stand along the baseline when hitting your serve, I’m going to recommend that you start off learning how to position your feet in the ad court if you are right handed and in the deuce court if your left handed.
The reason for this is that there is less of a difference between the swing path for your service motion and the flight of the ball, which helps simplify things when you’re first getting started with your serve.
Helpful tip: the deuce court is simply the half of the tennis court that is to the right of the service mark when facing the net. The ad court is the the half of the court that is to the left of the service mark when facing the net. They get their names because you’ll always stand to the right of the service mark if the score is deuce and to the left of the service mark if the score is ad-in or ad-out.
If you’re a righty, you’re going to want to approach the baseline with your left foot forward and your feet roughly shoulder width apart.
The front of your left shoe should be positioned behind the baseline about 1-2 inches and your toes should point towards the right net post at roughly 1-2 o’clock. You’ll then want to position your right foot so that it’s parallel with the baseline.
If you were to draw a straight line from the heel of your front foot to your back foot it would hit roughly at the ball of your back foot.
For lefties, you’ll simply want to flip the instructions from the ad court.
The front of your right shoe should be positioned behind the baseline about 1-2 inches and your toes should point towards the left net post at roughly 10-11 o’clock. You’ll then want to position your left foot so that it is parallel with the baseline.
Again, if you were to draw a straight line from the heel of your front foot to your back foot it would hit roughly the ball of your back foot.
At first, this position might not feel incredibly natural, but you should at least feel stable. Remember, your serve stance sets the foundation for your entire service motion, so it’s important that you have the stability required to control your body and effectively transfer your weight forward through your service motion.
The Ready Position
Now that you know how to position your feet for a great serve let’s talk quickly about what to do with your hands.
To complete the serve stance, you’ll want to hold the racquet out comfortably in front of you. Your dominant hand should be holding the continental serve grip, your opposite hand should be holding the ball, and you’ll simply bring the two together in front of you. Some people will place the ball against the strings others will bring the ball to the throat of the racquet, but do what feels comfortable to you.
This is often referred to as the ready position for your serve.
The Different Types of Tennis Serve Stances
When it comes to the serve stance there are two primary types – the platform serve stance and the pinpoint serve stance.
With the platform stance, your feet stay spread apart throughout the entire service motion. Similarly, with the pinpoint stance you’ll start with your feet spread apart, but instead of keeping them apart you’ll bring your feet together as you form your trophy pose.
Here’s a short video showcasing the platform stance:
And here’s another video showcasing the pinpoint stance:
As you can imagine, each stance comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s walk through those quickly for each stance.
Platform Stance Advantages
- Better Balance: with the platform stance you set your feet and their position remains relatively unchanged throughout the service motion, so many players (particularly beginners) will find it easier to balance with this stance.
- Fewer moving parts: as a whole, the serve is easily the most complex stroke in tennis with many nuances. Since you keep your feet planted with the platform stance you limit your overall movement, so it can be argued less can wrong when hitting your serve. Another positive side effect is that you may be less likely to foot fault because you’re feet aren’t moving.
- Consistency: better balance and greater body control achieved through fewer moving parts may lead to a more consistent and accurate serve.
Platform Stance Disadvantages
- Weight transfer: as you rock slightly back and forth through your service motion it can be challenging to take full advantage of your body weight moving forward with your legs shoulder width apart. This may reduce the added power that can be achieved through the forward momentum of your body.
- Fully engaged legs: similar to weight transfer, it can be difficult for players to take full advantage of the power generated when pushing off through their legs due to the fact that your legs are shoulder width apart. Try jumping with your legs shoulder width apart and then with your legs together and you’ll see what I mean.
- Less power: since it may be harder to move your body weight forward and fully engage your legs through the platform stance, it can be argued that it’s harder to generate power on your serve.
Pinpoint Stance Advantages
- Weight transfer: when you hit your serve, part of how you generate power is through the forward weight transfer of your body that happens during your service motion. With the pinpoint stance, this weight transfer is made more easy simply by the fact that you step your back foot forward during your service motion.
- Fully engage both legs: since you step forward and bring both legs together in the pinpoint stance, you can take full advantage of both legs as you push off the ground to hit your serve, which may result in more power.
- More power: easier forward weight transfer and your ability to fully engage your legs may make it easier to generate power and hit a fast serve through the pinpoint stance.
Pinpoint Stance Disadvantages
- Balance: balance is key when hitting a serve or for that matter any stroke in tennis. Since you step your back foot forward with the pinpoint stance it can be more challenging to maintain balance through the service motion, particularly for beginners.
- More moving parts: with the pinpoint stance there is more overall motion than with the platform stance. As a result, there is more to think about, more things to time well and ultimately more that can go wrong. Also, since you step forward with the pinpoint stance, some players may find they’re more likely to foot fault.
- Consistency: if you can’t balance as easily or control your body through the service motion, you may suffer from lack of consistency and accuracy.
It’s important to note that these are general advantages and disadvantages to each type of stance. For example, it is absolutely possible to have a powerful and consistent serve using both stances.
On that note, let’s talk through which tennis stance is the best.
Which Tennis Stance is the Best
While many players and coaches may argue that one stance is better than the other it mostly boils down to personal preference and feel.
I personally have yet to see a study or concrete proof that one type of stance is better than the other, and the use of both the platform and pinpoint stance is prevalent throughout top players on tour.
What’s more is that many players develop slight variations on these two stances based on their body type, preference and simply what feels good when hitting a serve.
At the end of the day, your ability to achieve rhythm and consistency regardless of how you approach your stance is key, so while I certainly wouldn’t stray too far from either of these stances you should ultimately do what feels best when hitting your serve.
ATP & WTA Tennis Player Serve Stances
Curious which serve stance top players use? Here’s a breakdown of players on the ATP and WTA tour by the type of stance they use.
On the men’s side, the pinpoint stance gains more popularity as you go deeper into the rankings – especially if you remove Sampras and Agassi who I included because of their popularity.
However, the fact that Federer and Djokovic use the platform stance certainly make a strong argument that either stance is a viable option for players.
- Roger Federer
- Novak Djokovic
- Pete Sampras
- Andre Agassi
- Milos Raonic
- Marin Cilic
- Dominic Thiem
- Richard Gasquet
- Roberto Bautista Agut
- Rafael Nadal
- Andy Murray
- Stanislas Wawrinka
- Kei Nishikori
- Gael Monfils
- Tomas Berdych
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
- David Goffin
- Nick Kyrgios
- Ivo Karlovic
- Samuel Groth
- Andy Roddick
On the women’s side, there’s a stark contrast between the usage of the platform stance vs the pinpoint stance where only one of the current top 20 players are using the platform stance.
While I don’t have talked with the coaches for any of these players, my assumption is that this is a direct result of them looking to generate more power on their serve.
- Madison Keys
- Serena Williams
- Venus Williams
- Angelique Kerber
- Garbiñe Muguruza
- Agnieszka Radwanska
- Simona Halep
- Carla Suarez Navarro
- Svetlana Kuznetsova
- Victoria Azarenka
- Dominika Cibulkova
- Johanna Konta
- Timea Bacsinszky
- Roberta Vinci
- Petra Kvitova
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
- Sam Stosur
- Elena Vesnina
- Elina Svitolina
Which Stance Do You Use?
Which stance do you use and why does it work for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Have questions? Feel free to share those in the comments too.
Serve EssentialsA step-by-step course to develop and improve your serve
- Part 1: Technique
A step-by-step guide to building your serve from the ground up.
- Part 2: Fundamentals
Learn the core principles that are common among all great servers.
- Part 3: Drills
Practice essential drills to help bring your serve to life with ease.