Perhaps the most effective way of playing against a dominant returner is simply to prevent her from hitting many second serve returns! This means the server needs to get a high percentage of first serves into court—usually around 60 to 65 percent. However, this percentage may need to be higher if the second serve is being punished. Even if some pace or accuracy is sacrificed, the returner usually brings a less aggres­sive returning mentality to the court when facing a first serve compared to a second serve. As a result, her returning position will usually be more defensive (i.e., she will stand slightly farther back), and this may just be enough to allow the server the chance to hold serve more easily.

The effectiveness of the serve can be measured in a number of ways, and these statistics can provide very valuable feedback. Coaches, par­ents, and players should experiment by charting the percentage of first and second serves in, as well as the points won on the first and second serves; the points won when serving to the forehand, backhand, and
body; and the number of aces, double faults, and unreturned serves. In doing this, players can begin to build a picture of their own serving strengths and weaknesses, which, in turn, will lead them to establish their own individual game style. It will also encourage them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents in terms of which tactics proved most successful, enhancing their tactical awareness overall. For more on developing an individual game style, see chapter 6.

Figure 1.16 is a serving summary. To calculate the various percentage statistics that help indicate a player’s serving performance, divide the first number in the sequence by the second number and multiply by 100.

Serving Summary

, percentage of first serves in

, percentage of second serves in

, percentage of first serve points won

_ (number of second serve points won) / _


, percentage of second serve points won

_ (number of points won to forehand, backhand, body) / _

of points to forehand, backhand, body)

=________ percentage of points won to forehand, backhand, body

, percentage of unreturned serve points

Number of aces Number of double faults

FIGURE 1.16 Serving summary.



  • With its continual increase in accuracy and power, the first serve is now recognised as being the first point of attack for many female players. It provides a chance to immediately impose a specific game style on an opponent, and should be developed as the first shot in a winning pattern of play.
  • the most common first serve tactic is the serve and groundstroke attack. this requires a powerful and well-placed first serve to be followed up by an aggressive second shot, usually hit early and from inside the baseline. the server can choose to hit this second shot as either a forehand or backhand, depending on her court position and the direction of the return. In doubles, this second shot is often hit down the line—straight at the returner’s partner at the net.
  • Sometimes the server wants to maintain control over her opponent but does not have a planned shot to hit after a strong first serve. In this scenario, the server will use the serve and baseline con­trol tactic, in which she dominates by hitting a number of quality groundstrokes that eventually open up a space, force a short ball, or pressure the opponent into an error. Similarly in doubles, the server will look to control a crosscourt baseline rally so her partner can try to win the point with an intercept volley at the net.
  • the serve and drive volley, and the serve and sneak tactic both involve the server making an instinctive decision to play a volley after an aggressive serve. the drive volley will usually be hit against the high, defensive return, whereas the sneak volley will be hit against the lower one. Both of these tactics apply equally to singles and doubles play.
  • the serve and volley tactic is an excellent way of mixing up the play and can be used, in particular, when the serve forces a defensive, blocked return, which is easy to volley against. It could also be used against an opponent whose slice backhand return tends to float too much.
  • In doubles, the majority of serve and volley tactics are based around the serve down the middle of the court. the I formation and Aus­tralian formation are positional options that allow the players on the serving team the chance to play to their strengths, as well as to exploit their opponents’ weaknesses.
  • Second serve tactics are usually based on the need to neutralise the threat posed by the returner. By achieving this, the server gives herself a chance to dominate the point instead.
  • Most top female players do not defend with extremely powerful second serves, but use accuracy and variety as weapons instead. this includes using the serve into the body, using the wide serve, and deliberately serving to an opponent’s stronger side to expose her weaker side with the second shot. When executing these tac­tics, female players use the slice serve far more than the topspin serve.
  • In doubles, the serving team faces the same challenges as the singles player does in terms of neutralising the threat of the return. the key lies in preventing the returning team from finding a consis­tent returning rhythm. Using the middle and body serve will prove effective, as will encouraging the server’s partner to intercept as much as possible—even against a second serve return (because the returning team will not expect this). paying close attention to opponents’ returning habits will also help when planning these movement patterns.
  • the left-handed server holds an advantage over her right-handed opponent because her serve is less familiar. A good left-handed server should have the ability to hit the serve down the middle from the advantage court, in particular. this will prevent the returner from anticipating the wide serve too often.
  • Hitting a high percentage of first serves in is another way of pre­venting the returner from dominating with her second serve return. players should generally aim for getting between 60 and 65 percent of their first serves in.



To practice the movement patterns needed to hit the attacking forehand after the first serve.


Intermediate to advanced


The player positions herself on the baseline as if she were about to serve (she should alternate between deuce court and advantage court serving positions).

The coach stands facing the player inside the baseline on the same side of the court. The coach hand-feeds a short ball for the player to move to and hit as an attack­ing forehand. The player then returns to her serving position ready for the next ball, while facing the court at all times (copying the movement she would make in a match). The player completes the drill after moving to, and hitting, six forehands (three from each serving position). The coach should mix up the direction of the hand-feeds so the player can practice her movement straight to the ball as well as around the ball.


the coach increases the variety and amount of hand-feeds to include short, deep, and middle balls as the player progresses. the player then shadow- swings a serve before moving to hit each ball. In time, the coach moves to the opposite end of the court and feeds from the actual returning position. practice progresses finally to the server hitting real serves before moving to hit her coach’s feed.


the coach should encourage the player to move straight to the ball when hitting forehands from her forehand side and to move around the ball when hitting forehands from her backhand side. Again, playing the shot from inside the baseline is vital. the player should have enough time to recover to the middle before the coach feeds the next ball (because she will be moving from this central position after serving).



To practice the serve and groundstroke attack; to make the server select the best serve and second shot option; to make the server dominate the point.


Intermediate to advanced


Two players play first to seven points with the same player serving until completion. the server has to win the point within three shots (including the first serve). If the server hasn’t won the point after three shots, then the point stops immediately, and the returner wins the point. the server should try to hit her favourite second shot, and choose the serve that creates the best chance for this to happen. the players switch roles when finished.


If the server hasn’t won the point after three shots, the point is allowed to finish. If the server wins the point after three shots, the server does not score, but does prevent the returner from scoring. If the returner wins the point after three shots, the returner scores a point as normal.


three shots from the server is quite a long rally in tennis (five or six shots in total, depending on whether the returner hits the final shot), so the coach should encourage the server to construct the point rather than rush to try to hit a winner. Some players find this drill uncomfortable. When the point ends after the server’s third shot, the coach should note what type of position she is in. Is she dominating, or has the returner forced the upper hand? Her posi­tion at this moment in the rally will show how effective she is at using this tactic. It will highlight the serving sides or targets that she favours, as well as how dominant she is with her second shot.


Updated: 30 августа, 2022 — 00:30

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