Serving To Perfection With John Lloyd

Posted on: 01 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Former professional tennis player John Lloyd gives 50connect readers an exclusive insight into his top tennis secrets.

The 53-year-old reached one Grand Slam singles final during his career and won three mixed doubles titles whilst also earning the title of Britain’s number one player during the 1980s.

Lloyd, who now commentates for BBC Sport and captains Great Britain’s Davis Cup team, lifts the lid on all things tennis - starting with the serve.

Raise Your Game

The serve is one of the most important shots in tennis. John Lloyd talks you through the perfect serve:

There are three things on a tennis court where your opponent can have no effect on you, in other words, when the ball is not coming towards you.

  • The physical side of the game.
    It’s your job to be fitter than your opponent. Your fitness and condition is mostly in your hands and you can influence how physically ready you are to take to the court.
  • The mental side of the game.
    Again it’s up to you to be ready mentally for a match of tennis. If you prepare yourself in the right way, focus on the game and what you want to do, you’ll already be a step ahead of the game.
  • The serve.
    The serve is the only stroke where you set up the point. You’re totally in command and a good serve can make life easier when it comes to winning tennis matches.


The first thing to do is something which is simply not done enough; practice!

People don’t practice the serve enough, but if you do practice and literally hit targets as much as you can in training you’ll eventually hit your own perfect serve.

If you’ve been watching Wimbledon, you would have seen someone like Chris Eaton, who doesn’t have the biggest serve out there, hit incredibly accurate serves.

Like Chris, if you’re hitting lines and targets at 100mph the ball’s not going to come back at you and if it does come back, it’ll come back in a way that allows you to take charge on the next shot because they’ll barely be able to return your serve.

For me, it’s not all about the 140mph serves from the likes of Andy Roddick, it’s about hitting the right lines. Accuracy is more important than power.

Practising isn’t as glamorous as a simple knock-about or game with friends; you’re not running about as much and you’re not getting a sweat up.

But if you want to improve and go up your tennis ladder, whatever age or level you’re at, the serve is the weapon that can help you do that and that comes down to practice.

Get a bucket of balls out every time you visit the court and put down some targets. Hit the targets over and over again and do this as often as you can because it’ll pay off big time in the future.


Rhythm is very important.

The easiest way to teach yourself this is if you can try and have a pendulum serve when your two arms work and synchronise together.

When one arm is going up with the ball toss, the other is coming back down to start the swing, so they reach at the same time in a rhythmical fashion.

However there are various abbreviations to the pendulum serve with Andy Roddick probably the most obvious.

Andy Roddick's serveHe moves his racquet straight to the side when serving and for many it’s been a very successful abbreviation.

I believe in the serve being a very natural stroke; literally throwing the ball up and swinging in whichever way you feel most comfortable.

Ball toss is key and it’s a part of the serve that’s not focussed on enough.

How you release the ball from your hands can have a huge effect on the serve.

In a lot of cases the tennis ball is gripped far too firmly and when the ball is released it comes out at a spin or an uneven flight path.

I think of the tennis ball as an egg. When you’re hitting the ball, you extend your racquet arm as high as it can get and you imagine that there is a ledge, right at that optimum period. Then when you’re tossing the ball up, you’re trying to place the ball, in this case imagined as an egg, on top of the ledge without it breaking.

So in other words you’re not chucking it up, you’re literally just releasing the ball at the last minute, very delicately so the ball doesn’t rotate too much and the egg doesn’t splatter and hit the ledge.

If you’re a right-hander try and throw the ball at 1 o’clock on the imaginary clock. If you’re a left-hander try and throw the ball at about 11 o’clock, so it’s slightly to the side and neither straight nor too far to the right or left.

You’ve always got to think of hitting up on the serve and hitting up on the ball, not letting the ball come down too much. You should be reaching up to hit the ball.

The serve is a very physical stroke, you’ve got to pull from your stomach muscles, reach up and really snap at the ball when it’s up high, and the hands need to be not too tight around the grip.

It’s more of a loose wrist motion so you should not be choking the racquet handle; it’s got to be more delicate. It needs to be just loose enough so you can get a nice grip on it.

If you follow these simple steps and combine the technique with practice you’ll start to pick up a number of aces.

Learn With John Lloyd

John LloydJohn Lloyd and three of his top coaches are currently offering a limited number of people the opportunity to spend a week learning under their expert tuition.

The tennis clinic is part of a luxury tennis experience bookable through Different Tracks, one of the UK’s leading luxury tour operators.

The seven night trip will be based at the home of the 2008 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California with accommodation at the 5* Hyatt Grand Champions Resort.

The £7,500 package, which is strictly limited to eight people includes: five days of tennis clinics with John Lloyd and his team - offering 2:1 coaching sessions, a round robin tournament on the last day, return flights in Club World with British Airways, three dinners hosted by John Lloyd, two rounds of golf on the world class course and all transfers and taxis.

For more information, visit the Different Tracks website or call 0845 3707008.

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