In a recent match with teaching pro Eric Uthgenannt (son of Ernie), he double faulted to me and said, “I’d rather go for my second serve and miss, than have you tee off and hit a big forehand winner.”
Hitting big forehand returns is exactly what I had been doing; so is Eric right? I think so.
If he goes for something extra on the second serve, he will sometimes make it – and send a message to me, “Watch out, I am playing aggressively!” And even if he misses, he sends that same message. And I am somewhat psychologically neutral.
While if he just spins in a slow serve and I cream it… he feels bad at his “whimpiness” and I feel good about MY aggressive play. So it is a double-whammy loser.
From the returner’s point of view, he has the same passive-aggressive choice … on the big-point second serve, do you just put the ball back in play and “make the opponent play the ball,” or do you step around and take a chance on missing a big return?
I think the answer is the same… being aggressive sends a message, wins some points, and sets the tone you want for the match: you are in control.