Fix My Serve Series – Is Your Tennis Serve A Weapon? Should It Be?

I know you’ve heard it before – your serve should be a weapon.  But why?  As long as you’re not planning on joining the pro circuit, why bother spending the time and effort to acquire a serve that your opponents will have problems with?  Can’t the serve just be something that you use to get the point going ?

This “just get the point going” idea has been my serve philosophy for quite a while.  And, as long as I’ve played in lower level leagues or divisions, I’ve been able to get away with it.  But, over time, as I’ve moved up onto more competitive teams, I’ve realized that I can’t just use my serve to start the point.  When I do that, I often get beat up on by my opponents.

So here’s the reality – if your serve is not a weapon, it should be.  One of my favorite tennis writers, Brian Moran, puts it like this in his book Tennis Beyond Big Shots: The New Power Game:

The serve is the most important shot in the game of tennis because it is the first shot hit and often sets the tone for the entire point.  If you can make your serve a weapon, you’ll be able to compete with any player at the club.

I think the important point he’s making is that the serve sets the “tone” for the point.  If my opponent has an intimidating serve, I’m nervous before I even hit my return, opening the door to a sloppy and/or ill-timed return.

But, that doesn’t mean your serve has to be fast, hard or even powerful.  Another of my favorites, Arthur Ashe, has this to say in his book Arthur Ashe on Tennis: Strokes, Strategies, Traditions, Players, Psychology, and Wisdom:

Your serve does not have to be the biggest weapon in your arsenal to work effectively . . . .  A weak serve also can induce a return error.  The receiver, knowing he’s not going to be overpowered by the serve, thinks he can really tee off on the ball.  What often happens next is that he hits it out or into the net.  So don’t sell your serving advantage short just because you cannot blast the ball at 100 miles per hour.

Thank you Arthur!  There is some hope for us average, less-than-muscular players.

Greg Moran expands on Arthur Ashe’s very thought:

A better approach is to view your serve as a tool to gain control of the point.  You do this by first getting it in on a consistent basis while also keeping your opponent guessing as to where you’re going to hit it.

My conclusion?  You (and I) must accept that if we want to succeed at higher levels, the serve is an important offensive tool and needs to be something more than just a way to get the point going.  It’s time to put aside the dink-it-in philosophy and get the work on building up our serves.

Now, you know I’ve been doing this (supposedly) and in my next Fix My Serve Series post, I’m going to update you on just how my service work is going.  Stay tuned to see if things are getting better or if I have no idea what I’m doing out there.

 

PS – If you’re interested in either of the books I’ve quoted from in this post, here are Amazon links to those books:

 

Please note that these are affiliate links and Tennis Fixation makes a very small percentage of the sale should you buy one of these books through the link.

 

Don’t miss a single post in Tennis Fixation’s “Fix My Serve” Series! Click on any of these titles to read previous posts:

1. Fix My Serve Series – Introduction

2. Fix My Serve Series – Here’s The Plan

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© Kim Selzman 2012 All Rights Reserved

Comments

  1. says

    It’s really a neglected part of many club players’ games, but you only need to look at guys like Isner and Raonic to see how useful a good serve can be!

    Great point about power not being as important as people might think. Federer has never had a monster serve, but the accuracy and spin makes it extremely potent and he gets a lot of free points.

    • says

      I think most players would get more out of their serve if they concentrated on accuracy and spin rather than “power” as in hitting hard. That’s what I’m going to try for.

  2. says

    It’s always fun to read your stuff Kim – I’ll answer your question with a question – don’t you hate that? – How tall are you? Or rather, how tall is the server in question? I feel that anyone over 5’10” should have a service weapon. It gets so much tougher to hit is hard if you are 5’4″ for example, but IT CAN BE DONE. Think Kohlshreiber – but who else can we come up with?

    • says

      I’m just under 5’4″ and have accepted that my serve will never be hard. The physics are just too difficult to overcome. But I am hoping to make my serve more of a weapon by working on accuracy and spin. I personally would much rather have someone hit a hard, flat serve at me than one that spins off after the bounce so that’s where I hope I’m headed. The pro I always tried to be inspired by who was on the short side was Justine Henin who I think was right at 5’4″.

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