Who should serve first for your doubles team? How do you decide? In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, I'll give you several factors to think about in making this decision. And maybe one of these factors could help you make a decision that will have a positive impact on the outcome of that first service game of the match! You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
Today we're talking about serving. But I'm not going to give you one of my Simple Serve Tips. I am going to go back and do some more episodes in that series. But today I'm talking about serving in doubles. Specifically, I'm talking about who should serve first for your doubles team. How do you make that decision?
So I'm going to give you some things I think you should think about. I know a lot of teams go into their match, and after the racket is spun, when you decide which of the two teams is going to serve first and which team is going to take which side of the court first, then it's up to you and your partner to figure out which of you will serve first. Whether your team is doing the initial serving to kick off the match or the initial receiving, at some point, you or your partner is going to have to take on that job of doing the first service game for your team. So how do you decide who's going to do that?
Deciding Who Serves First May Give You an Advantage
A lot of players don't think about this. They just randomly decide who will be the first partner to serve almost like being polite. Asking each other, “Do you want to serve first?” “I don't mind, I'll serve first!” It doesn't seem to be a very thought-out decision.
And I think that, as with many things in tennis and with many of the things that we talk about on Tennis Quick Tips, there should be some thought going into this because if there is any opportunity for you to get a little bit of an advantage in your match, you need to take that opportunity. And this is an area where you could, maybe, increase your chances of winning at least that first service game by a tiny bit just by making the right choice as to which of the two partners should serve first.
So, what are the things that you can think about when making that decision? Here is the list of things that I think about, any one of which may help determine the decision on who should serve first for your doubles team.
Who is the Stronger Server on Your Doubles Team?
First, you need to decide, between the two partners, who is the strong server? Which of you has the better serve? And, we have previously talked about what makes a good serve. That was in Tennis Quick Tips Episode 110, Simple Serve Tips: What Makes a Good Serve? And there are a lot of things that could go into making a good serve and you can go over those in that episode.
But that would be my initial thought – to decide who, between two partners, is the strong server. And once that decision is made, when I am trying with my partner which of us should serve first, I think you should defer to the strong server. What does the strong server want to do? Do they want to serve first or do they want the other partner to serve first? And I'll tell you, with me, I do not have a very strong serve in my opinion. I can put spin on the ball. I can target my serve and usually get it in the right spot. But I usually do not think of myself as having a strong serve and so, when I think about this, a lot of times I find myself deferring to my partner and saying, “You've got a stronger serve. What do you want to do?”
Now, once you've made that decision, that's not the end of it. Because as I just said, I defer to my partner and a lot of times my partners will say to me, “Well, thanks for thinking I have a strong serve but, I don't know. What do you want to do? Do you think I should serve first? What do you think we should do?” So, once you've made that decision about who you think is the strong server, here are some other things you can think about.
Defer to the Stronger Server and Let Them Serve First
First, once you decide who's the strong server, and if you're going to defer to the strong server and they don't really care, you might have the strong server serve first. So that you win that first serve, the weaker server has more time to warm up and you don't start the match being broken right out of the box. That's one way you could go. The strong server serves first.
Defer to the Stronger Serve and Let Them Serve Second
Another way you might play it, is the strong server serves second. This gives the strong server more time to warm up. So that's a good way to play it. The strong server serves second, hopefully it's early in the match and that weaker server gets to win their game because nobody has warmed up that much. And by the time the strong server gets to their turn, they're warmed up and ready to go and you easily win that game.
Put the Sun at the Stronger Server's Back
Here's a third option you might think about. Depending on which end of the court you end up on, and during the spin you know that one team will get to choose whether they want to serve or return and the other team will get to choose which side of the court they want to be on. So, you may, if all of these decisions are made, you may decide who's going to serve based on which side of the court you start on. In other words, if the strong server serves on one end of the court and that end is going to have them have the sun in their eyes, you might want the strong server to serve with the sun at their back, so that their serve is even better. So once that spin of the racket has happened, it might not be so much whether the strong server is necessarily going to serve first for your team or second for your team, it may be that you want to put the strong server in the better position based on where the sun is.
Or Put the Sun at The Weaker Server's Back
Now, here's a fourth way you could look at this to make your decision. You might want the strong server to have the sun in their eyes so that the weaker server has a better chance with the sun at their back. I'm not saying which one of these you should do – should the strong server have the sun in their eyes or at their back – but it's something to think about. Since I wear a hat and sunglasses, almost all the time no matter how sunny it is or not, I don't mind serving with my face in the sun. So a lot of times I'll give my partner the side of the court where the sun will be at their back, especially if I think they're a stronger server. In that situation, it's not so much who's going to serve first for your team and who's going to serve second. It's who's going to be set up to have a better serve without the sun bothering them.
Or, With Your Leftie Partner, Put the Sun at Both of Your Backs
If you have a partner who is a leftie, then you may want to set up so that both of you have the sun at your back, if you're a rightie and you're partner's a leftie. Or vice versa, you're a leftie and your partners' a rightie. Then you may want to set up to serve in an order that, no matter what side you end up on in the order of your service, the sun's at your back when you serve. So that's something you need to figure out when deciding who's going to serve first for your team.
Let the Strong Poacher Be Up at the Net First
Finally, you may want to base your decision as to who is going to serve first on who's the stronger net player. If you have someone who is a very good net player, a great poacher, you might that person to be up at the net first, with the other partner serving so that, right from the get-go, as soon as you start that match, you're making clear that you're an aggressive net player that poaches a lot. Hopefully, you'll strike some fear into your opponents.
These are all things you can think about in those few minutes, maybe less than a minute, when you're deciding who's going to take which side of the court for the service. Who's going to serve first on one side of the court and who's going to serve second on the other side of the court for your doubles team? There's no right or wrong decision that you can make here, but do think about it, because it is possible, as I said up front, that you can give your doubles team just a little bit of an advantage by making the correct choices on who's going to serve first for your team and who's going to serve second.
I hope that helps you make some decisions when you're out on court, about to start a match. Let me know your thoughts on this by leaving a comment in the box below.
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