Coin Toss Choices

coinsIt is strange to me that TV tennis announcers rarely comment on what players choose for the coin toss (they do not always choose “I will serve”), but it would be interesting from a strategic point of view.

The Choices

1) I/we will serve
2) I/we will receive
3) I/we will take that side of the court
4) I/we will defer and have you choose first

Why One Over Another?

According to Brad Gilbert in “Winning Ugly,” he liked to choose in singles to receive. This put more pressure on the server at the start bradof the match and more possible to get an early break. And he argues, even if you don’t, you are still on serve. I tend to follow this train of thought in my matches.

Newk camper friend Joel Drucker argues just the opposite… he says you should choose to serve first; because you will then be serving on the even game scores, like 4-4, but your opponent will have to serve the 4-5 game.

Frequent doubles partner Tom McCune thinks you should take “the bad side” (e.g. sun in your eyes) first, because you will be there for only one game at the start of the match, then your opponent has two games there.

Some Factors

Sun/wind – If either are a real factor at match time, think about where you want to start – especially if you are playing with or against a lefty, consider where they do (or don’t) want to serve from.

Strength of server vs returner – Are you a better server or returner? If you have a powerful and reliable serve, go first. If you have much more confidence in your return, receive first. If you opponents have a strong or weak serve, act accordingly.

Doubles vs. singles – In higher level doubles, the team serving SHOULD hold serve more often than not, so all other factors being equal, I would think you should serve first. Singles (at my level) can frequently feature several breaks of serve, so it is not as important – except for all the factors above.

What do you think?

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9 thoughts on “Coin Toss Choices

  1. If my partner is a lefty, and it’s a sunny day, I like to defer. That way I can be sure me and my partner are not looking in the sun on serves.

    Steve – that is one i forgot to add… but always do myself! thanks. george

  2. As a rule I would like to serve first as my serve was my main weapon. Not always in recent years as time has diminished those skills. I f the sun is really tough I choose accordingly.

    Ron – we would be good singles opponents, because my return is stronger than my serve! tks, george

  3. yesterday in a 4.5 usta match my partner and I chose to receive. We had been returning well in practice and wanted to get off to a break start. We did! We broke their big server 4 of 5 of his service games.
    Also I tied a one set service record with 8 of 8 first serves and won all 8 points. 6-2, 6-3 win.

    Rambo, and it all started with the correct choice on the coin toss!! 🙂 george

  4. I play a lot of senior doubles, and inevitably my partner or I has a stronger serve. By deferring every time we win the toss, we assure that our stronger server will precede the weaker, and from his preferred side!

    Pete – that logic works! george

  5. I am left handed and most of the time will serve first. Because of sun and choosing appropriate side I always defer. In singles if I feel I am not as ready as I need to be or more often if I feel my opponent isn’t as warmed up as he needs to be I will choose to receive going for the early break.

    Randy – having a lefty on the dubs team makes the choice all the more important. george

  6. i think in singles it is much tougher serving the even games.
    2-2,3-3,4-4,5-5. especially if you’re
    a serve and volleyer and you have a real long, difficult odd game before it
    s your turn to serve. i.e. the score is 3-4 with your opponent serving. you
    play the game with several ad ins and ad outs. eventually if your opponent
    wins, and it becomes 4-4, now you have to serve when your tired, and your
    opponent is pumped up to break.
    it’s always easier serving after the changeover. just my opinion.

    Joe – another good perspective on the score/serve choice! thanks, george

  7. I have very consistent logic to “the choice” – in singles I want to warm up on the “bad” side (sun etc) – will choose side if win toss and take that side if opponent wins toss and chooses anything else. Many tournaments do not have warm-up courts and I want to practice overheads and serves with the bad sun in the warm ups. If indoors, cloudy and/or no wind, will normally choose to receive as beginning of match timing errors better spent losing against serve than on your 1st service game.
    If doubles, I determine my partner’s preference for serving 1st or 2nd and with/without sun and then choose to make that happen (if win toss defer, if lose toss choose side or serve/receive to enable our team service order and side as chosen.

    Winder – But on your desire to warm up on the bad side, the coin toss should take place BEFORE practice, so the first server is on the side he warmed up on. thanks, george

  8. It always amuses me when opponent(s) walk to the “bad” side to warm up perhaps trying to gain advantage (when official is not there doing the toss before warm up starts).
    I always do the toss and choose first and choose to have the “bad” side in all cases except where the opponent gets choice and chooses side. Serving or receiving first is secondary to me versus warming up on the “bad” side.

  9. Yes, George, you captured my thinking accurately. This is my view because being lefthanded I feel my serve will help me win a few free points early. Secondly, as George noted, I want the other guy serving at 3-4, 4-5, etc. There will likely be ample service breaks in those first few games, so why not be the one in front?

    Joel – Welcome back from Paris!! Have you ever seen a display of backhand winners like Stan’s??!! george

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