Most local matches start with someone flipping their racquet and tournament matches start with the referee tossing a coin. But what do you decide to do? There are many more factors than the casual observer sees (or cares to see???).
When to Toss? All tournament matches should start with the coin toss and serving choice BEFORE you take sides for the warm-up; and really, so should local matches. If you don’t, you could take your warm-up serves with the sun to your back; and then be forced to serve the first point of the match with the sun in your eyes.
One of my tennis buddies (you know who you are) does this intentionally – he invariably starts the warm-up facing the sun and then makes you switch sides and serve into the sun.
What are the choices? If you win the toss, you have three choices:
1) To Serve or Receive (and your opponent then chooses Side),
2) To take a side (and your opponent then chooses to serve or receive),
3) Or to Defer – and force your opponent to make one of those first two choices (and then you get the second choice options in parentheses).
Why choose something other than “I serve!”?
• Brad Gilbert, in his book, “Winning Ugly,” points out that he usually chose to receive at the start of a singles match. He said it put the pressure on his serving opponent to start the match strong; and he was more relaxed having to just return serve. If he broke, the momentum was suddenly on his side; and if his opponent held serve, he was “supposed to.”
• If you choose to receive, you will be serving the odd number games. So if it is hot out, you will be serving FIRST after each rest break/changeover.
• If you are playing doubles with or against a lefty, then “deferring” makes the other team choose something; which allows you to position your lefty server when you want; or to manipulate the other team into a serving side/rotation they didn’t want.
The coin/racquet toss is quick and simple; but sometimes the choice isn’t.