Miss More Serves!

einsteinIs it great to have high first serve percentage go in and almost never double fault? I think not.

One of my prime tennis attributes is consistency… on return of serve, groundstrokes, and serving. I get a good percentage of first serves in and almost never double fault more than two times a match. That is not good.

Because for most of us, those two “good things” mean that we are not going for enough on our serve.

First Serve Goals

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe we should play like the hacker who crushes his first serve (and misses more than he makes) and then hits in a powder puff second serve. But we should push ourselves to serve as hard (and as well placed as possible) and still get at least 60% of our first serves in.

Second Serve Goals

And especially in doubles, I need to put more on the second serve and accept some double faults. Which is better, just putting a weak second serve in play and having your opponent crush a winner at you – or in doubles, at your partner? Or “going for” the second serve and double faulting?

I think the second choice is a better way to lose a point. It sends a message to your opponent that you are willing to be on the offense.

What do you think?

Fred’s Balls

The prime difference between Gold Ball winning Fred Drilling and me is NOT the number of Gold, Silver and Bronze balls he has won; but the fact that he does know how many he has won!

Playing a practice doubles match against him yesterday, I congratulated him and asked that question. His answer was, “I don’t know… 30-something.” Me? I would have recounted every one in every color!!

P.S. Paul Veltman and I played above our level and were able to beat Fred and solid lefty Ed Jablonski 7-5, 7-5.

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4 thoughts on “Miss More Serves!

  1. I agree with your point, but what I always want at the top of my mind, whether poaching, aggressive play, sevice, retirns, etc is the score. Tempered with unpredictability…

    Jeff – Sure, it is easy to put more on your second serve at 40-0; but the challenge is to be able to do at at 30-40! thanks, george

  2. George — what a liberating thing to read! I’m vindicated at last — my wild misses of first serve, my insanely high number of double faults, my low percentage. With this thoughtful piece you’ve inspired me to miss even MORE! Thank you!


    Marc – Go for it! george

  3. George, congrats on your victory over Fred. On serving I go for first serves in doubles and hard second serves as well most of the time. If I throw in a double, then on the next point I may put more spin on the second to get it in. On big points down, mostly put more spin on second. The point is if you are getting hurt on the return you better come up with something different or you’ll be showering earlier.

    Larry – Yes, aggressive spin can do the trick too. thanks, george

  4. I agree 100%, George. To paraphrase the old Jean-Pierre WWI flying ace joke — If you are going to go down, at least go down in flames! Throwing in cream puff serves and waiting for your opponent/s to hit return winners is not going win many matches.

    Also, I recommend occasionally reversing your serving sequence — but only if you have a “cushion” point, such as when serving at 40-0 or 40-15. That is, go for an aggressive spin on a first serve, instead of a hard flat serve, and go for the hard flat serve instead of spin on the second serve (but, again, only if the score gives you a cushion point to play around with).

    On a first serve, I find this to be an especially good tactic if your opponent likes to stand way back on your “usual” hard and flat first serve, as he will not be expecting the spin. When I have an opponent who receives like that, the spin that I like to use is slice instead of a kicker, as the slice will cause the ball to land shorter in the service court and to break away from the receiver, and a lot of receivers have trouble running forward to an unexpectedly short serve. A variation on this theme is to slice the ball so it comes in right at the receiver’s body — which doubly adds to the difficulty for the receiver to move forward and return a ball that he was expecting to be hard, flat and deep.

    If you fault on the first serve, and again only if you are up a cushion point so you can safely afford the possibility of losing the point, then I sometimes like to go for the hard, flat one as my second serve. I won’t serve it at 95 – 100%, mind you, because I don’t just want to throw away the point. But a moderately paced 80 – 85% speed first serve, that is well placed, is an excellent surprise tactic on a second serve where you can afford to experiment on the point. Many receivers like to move in closer to the service box on second serves, and nothing messes up their timing better than a hard and fast second serve that, again, they would never guess you to hit.

    Marty – great tactic! thanks, george

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