What Is A Flat Serve In A Tennis Match?

What is the flat serve? How does it compare to other serves in tennis? When is a flat serve most effective? Get ready to learn about the flat serve in tennis.

Tennis Flat Serve

Serving in tennis is the first shot by the server to start a point. The serve must successfully clear the net and must land on the opposing side's front box diagonal to the serving player in order to count. Players in tennis will use various types of serves to catch their opponent off guard.

The flat serve gets its name from the minimal amount of spin applied to the ball on contact, making its path appear "flat". A flat serve is one of the most powerful serves in tennis and also one of the most common serves at the professional level. This serving technique utilizes a minimal amount of spin while maximizing power and placement.


When using the flat serve, it is important to focus on the smaller details in order to ensure your serve is as effective and powerful as possible. This serve is one of the first serves that new players learn. We will break down the flat serve technique into a few parts.

Grip: First, it is vital to make sure you are using the correct grip. When utilizing the flat serve, you should use the continental grip, which involves holding the racquet like a hammer (to find out more about the different grips used in tennis click here).

Stance: Your stance should remain almost the same for most serves, as changing your stance based on each serve would telegraph your next move to your opponent. For right-handed players, the left foot should be close to the baseline and pointing to the right net post, while your right foot should be back and perpendicular to the baseline. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart.

Toss: When setting up for the flat serve, your toss should be in front of you and slightly to the right. The tossing arm should rise at the same time as the racquet goes into your backswing. Your backswing may be either circular or abbreviated, depending on preference. While your arms go through the tossing motion, bend your legs and load up the power on to your back foot. The shoulder of the racquet arm should be slightly below the shoulder of the tossing arm.

Contact: Considering the name of the flat serve, it is obvious that you are aiming to hit the ball as flat as possible or without spin. This means you'll want to strike the ball directly behind it, avoiding contact with the sides of the ball. It is best to aim for the middle of the net because it is the lowest part of the net and the easiest way to execute the flat serve. As the ball reaches its apex, your legs should be bent and ready to push your power into the serve. At this point, the racquet should be behind you and pointed downwards as your wrist is being cocked back in preparation. Now launch yourself towards the ball through the power of your legs and begin your swing. Straighten your elbow and rotate the wrist inward. The shoulder of the racquet arm should now be above the other shoulder. Make sure you hit the ball cleanly and directly from behind.

Recovery: The final part of the flat serve is your landing and recovery. After following through on your serve, it is important for the player to bring the racquet back to a ready position and split step in anticipation of a return. The player could also choose to serve and volley, but this is more common for serves that utilize spin.


The flat serve is one of the most popular and most useful serves in tennis. Its strength lies in its speed and difficulty to return. The flat serve uses a minimal amount of spin which allows the ball to travel faster and bounce lower. It is said to be the fastest shot in tennis. If well placed, the flat serve can be extremely challenging to return, making it a great way to easily win points.


The flat serve can be one of the most formidable serves in tennis, but it also comes with its disadvantages. The main disadvantage to the flat serve is its high margin of error. It can be difficult for a player to keep the ball in bounds and place it properly with such a powerful serve, so the player must be extremely careful when attempting a flat serve. For this reason, it is uncommon that a player would use a flat serve for their second serve. Additionally, the same power that gives the flat serve its strength can also drastically lower the amount of reaction time for the server to properly prepare for their next return. The flat serve can also become predictable, so it is important to not overuse the technique.

When to Use It

Each serve in tennis is a bit different and can be applied in various situations for maximum effectiveness. The flat serve comes in handy to give you a quick edge on your opponent.

First, it is important to note the high margin of error associated with the flat serve. This means that it can be risky to use in high-pressure situations, or when the game is on the line. It is best to use the flat serve when you have a comfortable lead on your opponent so that if there is an error in your serve, the pressure still remains on your opponent to respond. It is important not to overuse the flat serve but mixing the technique in on occasion can catch your opponent off guard and result in an easy point. For those who are new to this serving technique, we recommend you avoid using the flat serve in close game situations like when you are losing by a large margin, or on your second serve.