When it comes to professional tennis, a good serve is very important and is commonly considered a “game changer.” It is so crucial that, usually, the player serving the game is expected to win the game. When this doesn’t happen it’s called “breaking serve” and can prove decisive in winning the set and, therefore, the match. As the first shot of the game, here’s how serving works:

  1. To start off any game, one player serves from the deuce (right) side of the court behind the baseline with the hopes to hit the ball crosscourt into the service box on the other side of the net.
  2. This same player (the server) then serves the entire game (not match) alternating from the deuce side to the advantage side of the court point to point.
  3. After each player has served an entire game from their respective sides, it’s time to switch ends of the court.
  4. Hit the net? Good news. You get two chances! If your first serve hits the net, bounces out of bounds, or lands in bounds but on your side of the court (it happens!) this is called a “fault” and you get another try. If you do the same thing on your second attempt (this happens often, too) this is called a “double fault” and your opponent is awarded a point.
  5. If your ball happens to graze the top of the net, but still lands in-bounds crosscourt this is called a “let”. This is not considered a fault, nor a valid serve and is perhaps best described as a, “let’s just pretend it never happened”.

Here is a quick lesson from Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic on three tips to help improve your serve: