The Importance of the Second Serve

We recently did an article on why the first serve is crucial in tennis and it just wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t do a similar article for the second serve.

So, why is the second serve so important?

At the end of the day, a lot of its importance relates to the fact that it’s a safety net, and it’s one that you don’t get with any other shot.

Asides from the second serve, there are no do-overs in tennis, which means you’ve really got to make the most of the one time you do get a second chance.

To help make sure you’re getting the most out of your second serve, our super coach, Dave Ireland has put together some tips and tricks to help you out, but in this article, we will put some bonus ideas out there too.

Why is the Second Serve so Vital?

It Frees You Up on the First Serve

A good first serve is probably the biggest weapon you have on a tennis court. Even if it’s not picking you up free points, it’s normally going to put you on the front foot in the point.

However, if you’re lacking confidence on your second serve, this is going to severely limit your first serve.

Nobody wants to face an important point with their second serve when they’re lacking confidence, which means you have to dial down the first serve to give you a better chance of getting it in.

Before you’ve even hit a ball, your lack of confidence on the second serve has had a big impact on how you approach the point, and this can be the difference between winning and losing the match.

On the flip side, if you’re really confident in your second serve, then you feel much freer to be aggressive with the first serve.

You’re in Control 

Even though you’ve missed the first serve, you’re still in complete control of what happens next.

You’ve got the ball in your hand, can take your time (think Djokovic’s 50 bounces before the second serve), make sure your ball toss is pefect and you can still make a good start to the point.

You don’t have this opportunity with any shot other than the serve, so you’ve got to make the most of it.

By practicing your second serve, you can put in place the systems that allow you to maximize its effectiveness and making it into a solid foundation for your game.

It’s One of the Most Attackable Shots

If you’re not confident in your second serve and you’re dropping it short, then it’s going to be one of the most attackable shots your opponent faces.

If your opponent is alert, then they can use this opportunity to really get on top in the point, and from there, it’s difficult to claw things back.

The best players all manage to win over 50% of their points on second serve, which means they’re starting the point at least at 50/50.

There’s nothing stopping you from doing the same thing, because although the pros are better servers than you, they’re also up against much better returners, so it’s all comparative.

How Can You Win More Second Serve Points?

Shift the Focus 

We’re often obsessive about our own performance on the tennis court.

When you miss a second serve this obsession gets ramped up even more and you start thinking about what went wrong, and why.

However, the more you obsess, then more things tend to go wrong as you try and fix imaginary things that you think have gone wrong.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just clear your mind and hit the ball, and a great way to do this is by shifting the focus to your opponent.

Remind yourself that if you’re nervous because it’s a big point, so is your opponent.

Put yourself in their mind and ask what it is they don’t want to see. If that’s you putting in a nice kick serve to their backhand, and trying to get play on your forehand, then you’ve got your plan.

By focusing your attention on your opponent, you take the pressure off yourself and allow yourself just to play. You know you’ve got the skill and technique to get your second serve in the court, you’ve just got to allow yourself to do it.

Work On Your Spin Serves

The flat serve is nice and uncomplicated, but it gives you problems on the second serve for two main reasons.

The first is the fact that you can get the ball to go up and down so easily with the flat serve, which makes it harder to give yourself good net clearance.

This means it’s really difficult to add pace to your second serve while still keeping good margin for error.

The second reason is that flat serves are predictable. When you hit them at 120mph, then they’re going to be difficult to return, but on your second serve, they tend to sit there and ask to be attacked.

When you’ve perfected the slice or topspin serves, you’ve got the ability to make the ball move in the air and off the court to give your opponent a lot more to think about.

With the slice, the ball keeps low off the court and the kick serve will bounce up high, giving your opponent a different look.

If you can master both serves, then you can keep your opponent guessing, and make it much more difficult to settle into a rhythm of attacking your second serve.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As we recently wrote in our article about the best ways to get better at tennis, there’s no substitute for practice. It’s not just about how much you practice it’s about the quality of the time you spend on the court.

We all spend the vast majority of our time practicing our groundstrokes, but we tend not to dedicate as much of our practices to serving.

Being able to practice your second serve, and in particular, trying to recreate the pressure of a match situation can make a huge difference though.

Find ways of increasing the stakes when you’re practicing your second serve so there are repercussions when you make or miss one.

If you just go out and hit second serves without thinking about it too much it will help, but it won’t have nearly the same effect as if you’re mentally focused.

Explore more