When I started playing tennis again just over a year ago, all I could manage was a flat serve.
Like most beginners, I would hit a flat first serve as hard as I could and watch it sail out of the court..
…or slide into the net 🙂
But occasionally I would hit a screamer into the service box, and win the point comfortably.
However, I think my first serve percentage was around 10%!
This left me with a lot of pressure on my second serve, which I would just try and get in the court.
Usually it would be returned back with interest and I would lose the point.
So I started researching other options for mixing up my first serve, and coming up with a more reliable second serve, which had a bit more zip on it.
Voila! I came across the kick serve.
Although I haven’t mastered it yet, I am getting some results with it, and I use it regularly for my second serve, and occasionally on my first serve for some variety.
I also use the slice serve but this also needs a lot of work. I need to master how to serve out wide on the deuce side.
For this article, I thought would compare the flat and kick serves and the pros and cons of both.
Click here if you want some useful tips on developing a good serve.
What is a flat serve?
This serve is by far the most common serve in tennis, used from beginners to club and pro players.
It has very little spin compared to the kick and slice serves, which means it can travel through the air faster. As the aim is for placement and power, this makes it a suitable choice for the first serve.
Many coaches consider the serve to be the most important shot in tennis, and if you can master the flat serve, with power and good placement, you can win a lot of points!
Most players use the continental grip for this serve, although you can move your base knuckle to the right slightly towards an eastern forehand grip.
The flat serve has by far the most power of all the serve types.
If you can use it as a weapon, your opponent has very little time to react and unless they are an amazing returner, you can often put the ball away with ease if they can get a racket on it, and hit it back over the net.
It’s also the easiest serve to learn in terms of technique.
As tennis players tend to use the flat serve with more power, the main disadvantage is it has a low margin for error.
It’s hard to get it in the service box consistently.
Consequently, it is rarely used as second serve, which means it can be come predictable.
If your opponent is always expecting a flat first serve, and you don’t hit it with enough power or good placement, they can return it back with ease and hit a winner.
Kick serve overview
While a good flat serve is about power and placement, the kick serve is about spin and placement.
The ball is hit with both side and top spin, dipping as it moves through the air and then ‘kicking’ to the side after it’s landed.
A good kick serve can bounce high, and force your opponent out of position, especially when you’re serving on the ad side (for a righty).
You use the continental grip with this serve, or even a bit more towards an eastern backhand (this helps to generate more spin).
Unlike the flat serve, the kick serve has a much higher margin for error.
This is because it has some top spin on the ball, which makes the ball dip down into the court.
It means the server can aim higher over the net and the ball can still comfortably land in the service box. When used correctly, you should avoid double faults more often.
This makes it a great option for a second serve, as it forces your opponent to stay back because of the sideways and forward ‘kick’ after it’s landed in the service box.
This makes it’s harder for them to hit a winner, and they can make some more mistakes my misreading the spin.
Of all the types of serve, the kick is the hardest to learn. It’s very hard to generate enough spin and hit it with confidence.
You have to really commit to this serve to make it an effective weapon.
Also, if you don’t get enough depth on the kick serve, the ball can sometimes bounce up nicely into the hitting zone of your opponent…
..and to your dismay you see the ball fly past you for a winner!
I’m still learning this serve, and it’s hard.
I generally get more topspin than kick, which is ok against weaker opponents, but it gets smashed back against better players.
Getting the ball to kick is a real challenge!
Conclusion – Flat serve vs kick serve
So there you have it.
Ideally, you want both serve types in your arsenal, as well as the slice serve.
This will keep your opponent on their toes as they won’t know what to expect.
A general strategy of a flat or slice first serve, and kick or slice second serve should ensure you win a lot more points.
The serve is the most important shot in tennis, so get out on the court and start practicing!