Here is something I pay attention to at the beginning of every match I play. When someone wins the spin of the racket, do they choose to serve first or receive first? If they choose to serve, I'm happy because I almost always want to receive first. If they choose to receive, I think I have to be a little more on my toes because they have obviously read “Winning Ugly” by Brad Gilbert.
I know you've read “Winning Ugly” at least once. I've read it a few times (as one of my kids pointed out to me recently) and find something new in it every time I pick it up. This book is full of the most basic information on how to play ordinary, fun tennis. My first read was, I hate to admit, very eye-opening. I had been playing tennis for a few months but had never thought much about mental preparation before a match, warming up properly and what I should and shouldn't have in my bag (which I now have thought about quite a bit).
And this one little rule of Brad's – Never Serve First – really stuck with me.
Brad Gilbert spends several pages discussing this seemingly trivial issue. I mean who cares who serves first? Let's just get the match started already! The match will be determined by who's the better player, right?
But Brad convinces you to take advantage of every opportunity you get in a match, no matter how small. So I thought about this rule a lot, applied it, and have come to not only agree with Brad Gilbert's rule, but to think that anyone who ISN'T choosing to receive first must have lost their marbles. Because here's what it comes down to for me – as Brad points out, I'm not warmed up at the beginning of a match and my serve is certainly not warmed up. So if I get to serve second or maybe even fourth (if my partner takes our first turn serving), my serve seems a lot better than if I serve first.
And if, for some unknown reason, my partner and I lose the first game, no big deal. We're on serve. That's the way its supposed to happen. We're not behind in the match at all. (In fact, when this happens as it does occasionally, I say this very thing to almost every one of my partners on the changeover and I'm sure they get tired of hearing it. Sorry.).
If we win that first game and break the other team, that's great! We're already up a break and we haven't even served yet! Its a small psychological advantage but it means a lot to me so I'm guessing it can be disheartening to my opponents.
So here's your takeaway point for today: 1. Never Serve First! And, if you haven't read “Winning Ugly” yet, go ahead and serve first.
© Kim Selzman 2009
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