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Tennis Tips - Serves

Get Your First Serve In

While watching the men’s final of the Australian Open, it became apparent that Roger Federer was not having a good enough serving day. Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, was doing an efficient job of hitting nearly every serve to Federer’s backhand. The statistics at the end of the match showed Roger’s first-serve percentage was only 52 percent, which is not up to par for him, and we felt that probably cost him the match. In the interview, he confirmed that he hadn’t served very well.

Serve and return are the two strokes that must be practiced every day and practiced with great purpose. One way to track your serving percentage is to divide the serving box into sections. Instead of serving balls randomly for practice, take 10 balls for each section and see how many slices you can hit out wide on the deuce side before hitting 10 fl at balls down the tee. Then move to the ad side and hit 10 kick serves wide and 10 more fl at down the tee. If you can hit 7 or 8 out of 10 exactly to the spot where you are aiming at, you’ll know you are serving with a high percentage. Repeat this daily, and you will gain a lot of confidence in your serve.

When you go on court for a tournament match, you should start out with mostly spin and slice serves, hitting them with a lot of racket head speed. As your arm loosens up and your confidence grows, you can then throw in some flat bombs. Like a good baseball pitcher, your fast ball is more effective when mixed in with other serves to keep your opponent guessing. Find out what your opponent prefers. Rafael Nadal absolutely kept going to Roger’s backhand knowing his forehand is much more dangerous. Roger rarely was able to run around it, and he didn’t often slice back the return. His answer to Rafa’s serve wasn’t strong enough to break enough. If you could find a particular serve is more effective against your opponent, keep giving them what they don’t like. Remember, like Dennis always says, “tactics is making your opponent miserable!”


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