Who has a better serve, Andy Roddick or Roger Federer?
No one would argue that Andy has a harder serve; but overall, Rogerâ€™s is much more effective. This difference came to mind when I was making some suggestions to a â€˜young friendâ€™ of mine (when youâ€™re a senior tennis player, â€˜youngâ€™ has a very loose definition).
My observation was that there are three elements to an effective serve; but that they come in this priority order (especially in doubles):
1) Percentage: get a high number of first serves in play
2) Placement: put your serve in a good spot, to your opponents weakness; plus, be sure to move it around
3) Power: only after mastering the first two, add power to the serve
So even if a player has a hard first serve, but only gets it in less than 50% of the time, his opponent will be attacking mostly weaker second serves.
Or even if he gets it in more frequently, but puts it in the same spot most of the time, the better players will eventually get the timing and be able to effectively return it.
What do you think?
(James Blake serving at the Nasdaq)