How Is Tennis Serve Speed Measured?

How Is Tennis Serve Speed Measured

The ball speed of service is important data to keep track of when playing tennis. But it is quite hard to detect the speed through naked eyes. But there are now various technical methods that you can use to get a better idea. A player can use this information to make adjustments in their strategy, by either, for instance, serving slower balls that are more difficult to return or faster balls that are easier. 

Two Common Serve Speed Testing Methods

Research has shown that two common methods used by professional players, the radar method and the stopwatch method, provide different ball speed measurements. The radar method provides a better estimate of overall serve speed as it considers the initial velocity and its deceleration time.

In contrast, the stopwatch is quick and easy but has been seen as less accurate as it only reflects the initial velocity without accounting for deceleration time. Detailed information about each of them is shared down to each of them.

  • Radar Method To Measure Tennis Serve Speed

Tennis players commonly use the radar method as relatively cheap, simple, and easy to use. This method is used to measure the speed at which a tennis ball leaves its racquet using Radar Energy Transfer (RET). RET refers to a technology where a small window is placed at either end of a tennis racquet, and an electronic device detects balls made contact with this area. 

The main advantage of using this method is that no calculations are required, hence no need for an actual calculation nor extensive calculations-assistance software. Additionally, it is possible to record data on a serve (or any other tennis shot) at a specific time and date through the use of a computer.

This process is done mainly during practice sessions by having the players stand behind the baseline diagonally adjacent to their service line. The net is then lowered until it touches their feet. 

The player then hits a serve while an assistant tries to detect when the ball passes the window in the racquet using the RET method. This system allows measuring ball speed at close distances (1m) from both sides of baselines. Yet, some disadvantages include: being relatively expensive and requiring complex calculations on speed and accuracy from any data collected.

  • Stopwatch Method And Its Working

A stopwatch is a simple, straightforward instrument that can be used to time the time taken for an object to travel a known distance. This method is called the stopwatch method or Timing Method. It works by simply timing the amount of time (in seconds) it takes between receiving serve and the moment of ball contact. It has been seen as accurate and reliable. 

Still, its relatively slow pace might render it less capable of measuring ball speed than radar methods that can record faster serves than a stopwatch could measure up to. Furthermore, this method is hard to employ as one will have to stand behind every player at every baseline to get an accurate output from any data collected. 

Furthermore, the person who is timing the game will also have to go over it afterward and compare the data against a stopwatch. Some players use both methods in their practices but only the radar method when playing an official match-up. 

StopWatch Vs. Radar – Comparison

As mentioned earlier, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages depending on their use and purpose. Players might differ in which method they prefer while practicing or playing nine or ten of a kind. Some pointers showing a comparison between both are shared here.

  • Most players prefer to use the stopwatch method as it is quite accurate, simple, and easy to use compared with more complex radar methods.
  • The stopwatch method could be considered superior as it considers the deceleration time of the service, giving a more accurate picture of the overall speed. It allows more accuracy and precision in your results.
  • In contrast, the radar method accurately measures both initial and final speed. The only downside is that it is considerably more expensive than using a stopwatch to measure overall serve speed. 
  • Using radar at close range is relatively easy to use compared with how hard it would be to use a stopwatch for optimal results. 
  • While the stopwatch method may be considered more accurate in measuring overall serve speed, it only measures the initial speed without including deceleration time.  
  • Another disadvantage of using this method is that its accuracy will be affected by factors such as weather conditions and changes in humidity/dew (which could affect ball speeds).

Furthermore, this method is hard to employ as one will have to stand behind every player at every baseline to get an accurate output from any data collected.

Some Alternative Methods for Serve Speed Measurement 

  • Smart Watches for Tracking Server Speeds

Smartwatches have become increasingly popular in sports, especially for tennis players who are always on the go. Smartwatches, such as the Apple watch, allow tennis players to track serve speeds without much physical interaction.

Some of the features offered by smartwatches include the ability to record data points and analyze, view other match advances and results, and transmit data straight from the watch to a smartphone or computer. This has allowed tennis players to experience a more accurate breakdown of data while practicing with their teammates or watching matches on television at home. 

  • Android Or IOS Base Applications

The android and IOS developers in the market have come up with some innovative ideas by providing an application that can be used to measure serve speed. You can simply download palliation on your mobile and use its features to test your speed. It works by using video footage, slow motion angels, frame refresh rate, etc., to process the speed.

Some companies have gone to the next level by providing chips to get a more accurate output. These microchips are adjusted inside the ball, and the computer processes the serve speed by collecting data through it. However, this can be a bit expensive, but you can surely try it if you are after accuracy.

Using KM/H And MP/H To

Mainly in the UK and US, due to them not using the metric system, speed is measured with miles. However, to have a universal speed measurement system in tennis, KM/H could be considered useful. This is because it helps to easily compare players from different parts of the world by converting serve speeds into miles per hour.

Australia has already implemented this method in their systems, making it easier for them to monitor players’ progress across the globe. All you need to do is just convert it into MPH using either an online calculator or your phone.

A mile is around 1.6 kilometers, so a 100 mile/hour serve counts for a 160 km/h serve.

Why Serving Speed Matters

When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, it becomes apparent that serve speed is important. If you have a faster serve in tennis, this gives your opponent less time to react and place the ball where they want it to go. This can put a lot of pressure on your opponent if they are not prepared for your serve.

If they are not ready, you can do a lot of damage by hitting your serve at a high speed. In addition, the faster you hit your serve, the better it is for your opponent to return it with their backhand or forehand. Therefore, if one gets into the habit of serving fast from an early age, then they will have an advantage against their opponents in crucial points of the game.

Why Serving Speed Doesn’t Always Matter

If you have a good approach to the net and your opponent is not that mobile, then this gives you an advantage even if they have a faster serve. This is due to the fact that it makes it hard for them to place their shots where they want it to go as fast as they can. In addition, being able to vary serves equally and their placement can give you an advantage.

This is because other players could find it difficult to predict where your next shot will land and this leaves them vulnerable to making mistakes. Another factor that can contribute to why serve speed doesn’t always matter is if your opponent has a better first or second serve than you, then their overall speed would be faster than yours. This would mean that their serves are difficult to return, so you will need to get creative with your return or try and get a better approach which can help you win the point.

How To Improve Your Serve Speed

If you are not happy with your serve speed in tennis, then all you need to do is practice. Working on your speed by practicing drills can be a great way to improve it. However, this needs to be done at the right time so that the muscles are not injured in the process. This means warming up before any strenuous activity or exercising. At the same time, you can also look at how to use your whole body in your serve so that it is not only focused on the arms when hitting the ball. Doing this would mean less strain on your arm and help to produce a faster serve speed if done perfectly.

Break down the movement to several parts, and acknowledge that the serve is not about power or a strong grip!

#1 The first thing you need to do is stand in the right spot. This needs to be close enough so that you can serve normally without worrying about running too much..

#2 Next, pick your serve type. This means if it’s a flat serve, then hit the ball right at the top of its bounce because this gives you the best chance to send it out efficiently.

#3 Once you have done this, move your feet back slightly so that they are in the right position for the next step..

#4 The serve drop is a great way to improve serve speed. What this does is it allows the momentum from moving your feet backwards to be transferred into a powerful hit of the ball. It is important to practice this perfectly before moving on.

#5 When you think that your feet are in the right position, then you can bring them forward slightly so it’s time for another step..

#6 If you have done everything correctly up until now, then there should be less strain on your arm when serving. Therefore, you can now swing your racket back to send the ball flying.

#7 The final step is all about hitting through the ball which allows it to travel at a faster speed than normal. It also ensures that it will go in the right direction too depending on where you want it to be. However, it is vital that you check that your feet are still in the right position if you want to do this perfectly.

#8 Loose your grip!  In the end, remember that a good get up is vital. This means if you have done everything right, then your get up should be efficient and make it easier for you to serve in certain conditions.

You may not be able to learn how to serve faster overnight, but if you practice these steps enough times then it will become second nature and it will certainly help make a good impression when playing tennis matches. In addition, it can also help with winning important points and could even win you a game if executed correctly.


Serve speed is a very important aspect of tennis, and it can also be a great way to intimidate your opponent if you serve faster than them.

If you are a beginner or intermediate player struggling with your serve, then maybe taking some help from watches, apps or other methods will help you out.

If you are an advanced player, then maybe trying to hit slightly faster on your serve is something that can help you get more points in your game.

Serve speed also plays a big role in how the game progresses during the course of the match. This is why it should be harnessed properly by all tennis players at some point in their career.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top