What’s the correct balance between the first and second serves … In other words, how hard should the first one be and how soft should the second one be?
We all have warmed up for a match with a new opponent and are thoroughly impressed by his serve power; only to find out in the match, that he misses more than he makes and his second serve (which you didn’t see in the warm-up) is just a puff ball that you can really attack.
So, what is the correct “balance”? As explained in the posting on “Serving PPPriorities,” getting that first serve in consistently is the most important factor for me. I think you should hit your first serve as hard as you can – AND STILL get much more than half of them in play.
Maybe the percentage in play is 55, 60, or 70% … that depends both on the quality of your second serve + the style of your opponent. If he is a baseliner who just puts your second serve back in play, then you can be more aggressive on your first serve; and not worry about your second serve. But if he is really attacking your softer second serve, then you need to get as many firsts in as possible.
Too many recreational players will serve 100% power on their first and then something down to 50-60% on their second serves. If they took 10-15% off their firsts, and added it to their seconds, they would be more balanced and much better off.
And you shouldn’t swing softly on your second serve, no matter what strategy you are using. A Florida teaching pro friend advised me: “You want to swing just as hard on your second serve as you do on your first. The only difference is that you are putting that energy into adding spin to the second serve.”