The Various Serve Stances
In the serve fundamentals section of FuzzyYellowBalls, we suggested you use the party stance when you were first learning the serve because it’s a very simple stance and lets you execute all of the fundamentals of the serve. Not only is it simple, but it is also effective. Many pros, including Roger Federer, use the party stance. To quickly review, the party stance is where your feet are about shoulder width apart, and your front foot is angled into the court at about a 45 degree angle. Your back foot is located about a foot behind your front foot and is angled parallel with the baseline.
The party stance is part of a larger group of stances called platform stances.” A platform stance is where you have your feet about shoulder width apart, and the angles of your feet are variable. During the service motion, your feet stay the same width apart. They do not “move” until you jump up off the ground.
A second type of stance is called the pinpoint stance. Pinpoint stances are where your feet are only a few inches apart or are basically almost touching. The pinpoint stance has been popularized lately by guys like Andy Roddick and Gael Monfils. There are some variations to the pinpoint stance. The main pinpoint variation, called a hybrid pinpoint, involves starting in a platform stance with your feet wider apart, and then on the way to your trophy pose during your motion your back foot comes up next to your front foot into a pinpoint stance.
There are several advantages and disadvantages that coaches typically associate with these various stances. With the party stance, which again is a platform stance, the weight transfer forward during your motion is supposed to be pretty easy. The wider your feet are apart, the easier it is to get all of your weight onto your back foot, and then move it all to your front foot as you hit your racket drop position. With a pinpoint stance, where your feet are closer together, now it’s easier to explode up and into the tennis ball. You’ll get a little bit higher, and thus you’ll get a little bit more power because your feet are closer together and that makes it easier to use both legs to push off at the same time. With the hybrid pinpoint stance, again where you start in a party stance but achieve the trophy pose in a pinpoint stance, some coaches think you can get the best of both worlds. The difficulty with this stance is that there are more moving parts, it is harder to time, and it is more difficult to control your toss and balance throughout the motion. With all this said, in my opinion the so-called advantages and disadvantages of these stances are more in a coach’s mind than they are actually in reality. I’ve never seen any study done which proved that one stance was better than another, and the most important thing is that you choose a stance that you are comfortable with and that lets you execute all of the fundamental mechanics correctly.
The final point we want to make about stances is that you will need to tweak your stance slightly depending on whether you are serving to the ad court or to the deuce court. You will still use the same stance, but the angle at which you position your entire body will need to change. If you are in the party stance and serving to the deuce court, your feet will be angled a certain way. If you then take that exact same body position and angle and try to serve to the ad court, your ball will likely go wildly out. You need to alter your body position slightly so that you are facing the proper direction to serve to each side of the court. Lets take a look at some pros’ stances starting at 3:50 in the video above. First up is Tim Henman, and just like we had said in the fundamentals section, Tim uses the party stance. He’s got his feet maybe shoulder width apart or slightly wider, and one of the reasons he might use this stance is because Henman serves-and-volleys frequently. Because this stance makes transferring his weight into the court (and not up) easier, it allows him to get his weight moving towards the net before he even strikes the tennis ball. We can compare Henman’s serve stance with Andy Roddick’s (at 4:17), and we can see that Roddick is using a pinpoint stance. His feet are only a few inches apart. Roddick obviously has a hugely powerful serve, and he really gets up into the air behind his serve. The pinpoint stance is helping him get higher off the ground and generate that extra power because he can jump up off of both legs instead of just one (or one-and-a-half [back toe]). Let’s finally look at John Isner’s serve, which is also a monster. John uses that hybrid pinpoint stance where he starts in a party stance but gets to a pinpoint stance in his trophy pose. In the first picture of John at 3:35, he’s in his party stance, but at 4:41 when he gets to his trophy pose he’s now clearly in a pinpoint stance with his feet practically touching. This allows John Isner to transfer his weight forward but at the same time jump very high off the ground and use that height to bomb his serve down at his opponents. Let’s finally go back to Tim Henman and split screen his stance on the deuce court and the ad court at 5:00 in the video above. If we draw a line through his back foot, we can see that it is basically parallel to the baseline when he serves to deuce and it is angled further back when he is serving to the ad court. So what he has done is to change his body position so that he can serve effectively in a different direction.