Do You Have To Serve Diagonally In Tennis? (Rules Explained)

4 June 2023

The tennis serve is a challenging and intricate stroke that requires not only technical skill but also a thorough understanding of the rules. Hence, being familiar with these regulations before playing tennis is crucial. One such rule is determining the direction of the serve - should it be straight ahead or diagonally?

A tennis serve must always be hit diagonally into the service box on the opposite side of the court. This applies to both singles and doubles. If a serve lands in the service box directly opposite the serving player, that serve will be given out.

Undoubtedly, the serve is a hard and important shot that entails several rules. Hence, I suggest reading this article attentively as it will aid in determining the exact placement of your serve.

Where to Serve in Tennis?

Having a good grasp of the rules is crucial to play a tennis match appropriately, and this includes serving regulations. If you are unsure about what a serve in tennis is, I recommend reading this article beforehand.

In tennis, players serve every alternate game, known as their service game. Each service game commences with a serve from the right side of the court, followed by a serve from the opposite side.

In tennis, a player must serve diagonally. The ball must be hit diagonally across the court into the service box on the opposite side of the court without the ball hitting the net.

But where is the service box in tennis?

Knowing the location of the service box on a tennis court is crucial in determining the placement of the serve. The four inner boxes closest to the net are the four service boxes, with two on each side of the court, as illustrated below.

Service boxes on tennis court

As previously stated, a tennis serve must be hit diagonally into the service box on the other side of the net. To provide better clarity, an image has been included below.

Tennis court showing where to serve

In tennis, a serve should never be hit in the service box directly opposite the serving player. Even though the ball lands in the service box, it is counted as out because the serve did not land in the diagonal service box.

Thus, a scenario similar to the one depicted below is prohibited in tennis.

Serving straight forward in tennis

Do You Always Have to Serve Diagonally?

Tennis encompasses various disciplines, including men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles, mixed doubles, and wheelchair tennis.

Hence, one might question whether the serve should be hit diagonally in all these match formats.

The only correct answer to this is yes; in any tennis format, a serve must be hit diagonally into the opponent's service box. The ball is out if the serve does not land in this box.

Nevertheless, there are other tennis sports, such as beach tennis and table tennis (in singles matches), where serving straight ahead is permissible.


This article has hopefully enhanced your understanding of tennis, particularly regarding the serve.

Always remember to hit the serve diagonally into the service box on the opposite side of the court. Failure to do so and hitting the serve in the service box directly across from you will result in it being out.

Written by

Neil Taylor

Tennis is my passion

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