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Summer School: How To Serve A Tennis Ball

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Ric Cengeri / VPR
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Shaun Zemanek, head staff professional at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, demonstrates the ideal tennis serve.

This week on Vermont Edition marks the beginning of the sixth annual Summer School series. Each week throughout the season we find knowledgeable tutors to teach you a new skill, or help refine one you already possess.

We start the series today by learning how to properly serve a tennis ball from Shaun Zemanek, head staff professional at Topnotch Resort in Stowe. His instruction is tailored for right-handed players, so left-handed players should anticipate a few differences when showing their stuff on the courts this summer.

“Serving’s a great thing because it’s something you can go and practice on your own," says Zemanek. "You don’t need to have a partner [and] you can go to any local court, anywhere you can find."

Zemanek walked Vermont Edition through a solo serving practice routine that will help improve your overall technique.

1. Step up to the baseline, planting your foot at a 45-degree angle pointed in toward the court and out toward the net post. Your back foot should be almost parallel to the baseline. “At a nice comfortable position – you don’t want to be too far, you don’t want to be too close," says Zemanek.

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Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR
Zemanek demonstrates the proper footing for approaching a serve.

2. Start with your arms out. When holding the ball for your toss, make sure your thumb is on top and you have two fingers underneath. “Keep that arm out at a 45-degree angle. You don't want to start that arm facing down the court, you don’t want to start that arm facing in,” says Zemanek.

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Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR
When holding the ball for your toss, make sure your thumb is on top and you have two fingers underneath.

3. Now, for the tossing motion. Bring the racket up, slide your hands down. Take the racket back, keeping your palm open and down. "You almost come back to a ‘T’ position,” says Zemanek.

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Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR
Zemanek breaks down the tennis serve to show technique for each step.

4. As that left arm – the tossing arm – continues on the way up, you want to release the ball at about eye level. “If you release the toss too early, what you're going to find is that the ball is going to land in the court. If you release the toss too late, the ball's going to end up behind you over your head. So about eye level,” says Zemanek.

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Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR
Zemanek serves the tennis ball.

5. The butt of the racket now is reversed; it's facing toward the sky, the tip of the racket toward the court. Move your elbow around to follow through the motion. Reach your racket above your head and snap it forward in the direction of the box you're aiming for.

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Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR
Zemanek demonstrates the follow through of a good tennis serve.

6. Make sure you're finishing into a backhand position. “You don't want to finish on the same side as when you're serving. You want to finish across into the backhand position,” says Zemanek.

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