The purpose of this study was to quantify ranges and speeds of movement, from shoulder external rotation to ball impact, in the tennis service actions of world class players. Two electronically synchronised 200 Hz video cameras were used to record 20 tennis players during singles competition at the Sydney 2000 Olympic games. Three‐dimensional motion of 20 landmarks on each player and racquet were manually digitised. Based upon the mean values for this group, the elbow flexed to 104° and the upper arm rotated into 172° of shoulder external rotation as the front knee extended. From this cocked position, there was a rapid sequence of segment rotations. The order of maximum angular velocities was trunk tilt (280°/s), upper torso rotation (870°/s), pelvis rotation (440°/s), elbow extension (1510°/s), wrist flexion (1950°/s), and shoulder internal rotation. Shoulder internal rotation was greater for males (2420°/s) than females (1370°/s), which may be related to the faster ball velocity produced by the males (50.8 m/s) than the females (41.5 m/s). Although both genders produced segment rotations in the same order, maximum upper torso velocity occurred earlier for females (0.075 s before impact) than for males (0.058 s). At impact, the trunk was tilted 48° above horizontal, the arm was abducted 101° and the elbow, wrist, and lead knee were slightly flexed. Male and female players should be trained to develop the kinematics measured in this study in order to produce effective high‐velocity serves. © 2003 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.