The serve is arguably the most important shot in tennis. It gets each point started, and sets the tone for the point. You’re supposed to “hold” your serve every time you toe the baseline, so with that kind of pressure, don’t you want to give yourself the best chance possible to hold serve every time? Of course you do. If you are like most recreational players, chances are you have a plan with every first serve, and then when you miss, you simply try to get your second serve in. Does that sound like a winning strategy? Maybe it does if you make 95% of your first serves, but even the best players in the world can’t do that. A strong second serve is imperative for any successful tennis player. In fact, a players serve is truly only as good as their second serve, and should be practiced as much, if not more, than the first. As Spring approaches in all corners of the country, now is the perfect time to improve your second serve before tennis season is in full swing. Here are 3 simple ways to improve your second serve:
1. Have a plan– pick a target!
Just because you missed your first serve doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan for your second serve. If your attitude is simply to get the ball in play, you may as well concede the point. Sure, you may get lucky and win some second serve points, especially against a weaker player, but this mindset is going to hurt you more than it will help. Perhaps your gameplan is to hit to your opponents backhand during the match. Well, that can be used on your second serve as well. Pick a spot, and serve to it. Sure, you may miss sometimes, but keep going for it! You can still execute on your gameplan even with a do-or-die second serve. Remember, you are still supposed to win your service points, even if they come down to a second serve.
If you keep going for your spots, and mixing up your serve with different placement, pace and spin variations, you will be able to keep your opponent guessing, even if the serve is coming in significantly slower than your first serve. While you are picking your spots, you can play larger margins with your second serve, ensuring that even if you miss your spot, there is still a strong likelihood that the serve will be in. If you miss your spot by three feet, you are still only three feet away from your intended target, and not far off from where you wanted your opponent to hit their return. If you dink a second serve short in the box and right down the middle, even a weaker player will be able to return it with interest. Have a plan, pick your targets, and confidently hit your second serves, and you will be winning more second serve points, and holding serve more regularly in no time.
2. Increase your racket head speed
The biggest cause of double faults, at all levels, is not over-hitting the second serve, but under-hitting it. More specifically, decelerating with your racket on the second serve is the biggest double-fault culprit. You see, in an ideal world, you will be playing a heavy topspin second serve, giving you more margin for error, and also forcing your opponent deeper into the court despite the fact that the serve isn’t hit as hard as the first serve. However, the most common problem with this is that in order to execute an effective topspin, or “kick,” serve, you need to swing almost as hard as if you were trying to hit a flat serve as hard as you can.
By hitting “up” on the ball, you will be able to generate the spin required, but if you decelerate while hitting up on the ball, you will not properly generate the spin, causing the ball to sail well long. Long story short, you need to increase your confidence, which will allow you to increase your racket head speed on second serves to be able to neutralize your opponent’s return with added margin and spin. It all stems from your confidence. Step to the line on your second serve with the same killer instinct that you have on your first!
3. Think positively
Have you ever stepped up to the baseline for a second serve and thought, “Don’t double fault” just as you were about to make contact? Don’t lie, we all have! You probably don’t need us to tell you that that is exactly the opposite of the mindset that you should have for your second serve! Just like clockwork, you have probably double faulted countless times after thinking that way. So much of your success on the tennis court, as in life, is derived from your attitude, so stop thinking negatively! Unlike in life, it is just a tennis match. If you double fault, you lose a point, or at worst a game or a match.
Nothing terrible can happen from double faulting, so get the negative thoughts out of your head! If you are prepared for your match, you have a gameplan and are prepared to keep your racket speed up on your second serve, then you have done all you can to be ready for every second serve you hit. Think positively! View every second serve as an opportunity to set the tone of the point and be the aggressor. When you remove the negative thinking from your second serve routine, not only will you double fault less, but you will hit better second serves!
Take these three tips to the court for your next match, and you will be pleasantly surprised with just how quickly your second serve (and in turn all of your service games) will improve. Let us know how it goes in the comments section!