We all know the first serve is a pretty important shot, but sometimes we underestimate just how important it is.
It’s no coincidence that some players have made entire careers based largely on their serve because the first serve is absolutely crucial to everything you do.
Of course, there are lots of areas you should be working on in your tennis, but one of the most important is your first serve, and here are five reasons why.
If you’re looking to take your first serve to the next level, then check this out!
Everything’s in Your Control
When you step up to the line with the ball in your hand, you’re in complete control.
With every other shot you hit apart from the serve, your opponent has some say in it, but that’s not the case for your first serve.
You can take your time, have as many attempts at the ball toss as you like, and give yourself the best shot at getting the ball in the court.
Sure, you can’t control the wind or the fact that the sun might be in your eyes, but you can control your ball toss and the type of serve you choose to mitigate these factors.
The fact is, you’re not going to have a better chance to get everything right than you do on the first serve.
Too many players fail to make the most of this opportunity, and this puts extra pressure on their service games.
You have the opportunity to go into every first serve with a clear mind, and a clear game plan for how you want the point to unfold, so you need to take advantage of it.
You Can Afford to be Aggressive
Imagine if you got a second chance at every shot! You’d be able to go for ambitious shots all the time because you’d know you always had a do-over available.
Unfortunately, you don’t get this chance on any other shot, but you do get it on the first serve.
This means you can really zero in on your target and make sure your first serve puts you in a dominant position.
If you notice your opponent has a bad backhand, then you can target that side, or if the slice serve out wide is working well for you, then you can focus on dragging you opponent out of the court.
The main thing is that you can hit with a little bit more attacking intent because you know you’ve got a second serve to back you up.
No matter your level, a well placed first serve will put you in command of the point against someone of a similar standard, so you’ve really got to focus on developing it as a weapon.
The other thing to remember is that your first serve is only a valuable weapon if it’s going in. You want to be aiming for at least 60% first serves in court, so balance your aggression with consistency.
It’s a Chance to Inflict the First Blow
Momentum is a huge thing in a point of tennis, and once you have it, it’s very difficult for your opponent to wrestle it back.
Having the opportunity to hit the first shot in the point means you’ve got the perfect opportunity to swing the momentum in your favor.
Once you’ve got momentum on your side, then the odds of you winning the point start to go up exponentially.
This is one of the reasons people hold serve so much in tennis; because a good first serve gives you momentum.
If you’ve got an especially good serve this results in lots of free points, but even if your serve isn’t as strong, it can still mean a short ball and a good opportunity to attack.
One way you can maximise this advantage is by focussing on the serve and the first shot after the serve as a package – the serve plus one.
If you can use your first serve to set up the shot you want to play (normally a forehand) then it gives you even more control over what happens in the point.
Let’s take a look at some statistics from the world’s top players.
When Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic got their first serves in court in 2019, they won the point 72%, 71%, and 72% of the time respectively.
When they were forced to rely on their second serves, those numbers dropped to 61%, 62%, and 60%.
This means that when they don’t make their first serve the chance of them winning the point goes down by over 10%.
You might think that’s all well and good for them, they’ve got 120mph serves they can land on a dime, but it’s all relative.
Their second serves are much better than your second serve too, and they’re also playing against far better returners.
If you were playing the lottery and you could guarantee yourself a 10% better chance of winning the main prize, you can bet you’d take it, and it should be the same in tennis.
You’ve got to do everything you can to maximise your first serve because it is crucial.
It Frees You Up for Your Return Games
When you know you’ve got a reliable first serve that’s going to help you win a high percentage of service games, you don’t have that same pressure on yourself that you’ve got to break serve at every opportunity.
Think about when Ivo Karlovic plays, all it takes is one break and he’s pretty much got the set in the bag.
Unfortunately, the break doesn’t always materialise for him but look how far he’s got off the back of his serve.
When you know you’re going to hold serve, it means you can afford to relax and take a few more risks on the return if need be because you know you’ve got the serve to back you up.
This is a great situation to find yourself in and can make all the difference, helping you to return better just because there is less pressure on you.
Article by: Will