First Serve Percentage

Here are some thoughts for Team St Ann’s and all our competitive tennis community. Remember – it’s just for fun! – Conrad Brunner

Winter is the time for practicing your serve. Cold, hard balls on cold, hard courts…it’s not ideal, but the tennis gods gave us these months to focus on this key element of competitive tennis. Your summer is going to be a whole lot more fun if you drill down on this one aspect of your game now.

Essentially, we don’t practice this enough, do we? A few warm up serves, and then straight into the game. Some of you will have wisely invested in tennis lessons. An hour here, an hour there. But do you then take those learnings, and practice, practice, practice?

And what is a good way to practice? Well, a decent target might be 60-100 practice serves a week. Don’t over do it, but you could do more if you feel strong. So at least two full sessions of 30mins a week. This is where you need a good tennis buddy, or someone who loves you, to run around gathering balls and feeding them back. Take videos if necessary, and put out a couple of cones and see if you can hit them. Check each other for foot faults. One key element to save you time – and you don’t even need to be on court – is simply practicing your toss. You can’t really do that enough.

So what is your target, as a team player? You want to be able to serve reliably under pressure in a match situation. That means having decent technique, eliminating doubles faults and maintaining a high rate of first serves in.

Let me be specific: Zero double faults. And 65-70 per cent first serves in play. Those are your targets. Forget about boom boom aces. Great when they go in, but points gained in aces are invariably given back in double faults. You know it’s true. Instead, focus on consistency.

I asked Scott Tawse what level we should be aspiring to for serious team players: “One double fault per set. Because if you are serving one double fault per game, that is losing tennis. A total no-no. So one double fault per set is the target our players should be aiming for. And, importantly, they should be aiming for 70% first serves in.”

Scott cites Andy Roddick (former World #1 and US Open champ), maybe the best server of his era. It’s dangerous, sometimes, to take examples from the very best, and Roddick was always singles focused, not a doubles player (although he did win an ATP 1000 doubles title, with Mardy Fish). But the principles of what he says here should work for all of us:

“When I am serving well, it makes the whole day feel easier and a lot less stressful. One way [I have achieved that] is by upping my percentages of first serves in play. It used to be about 60 percent, and I hit it really big. Then I started serving maybe 5mph slower, raising my first serve percentage to around 70 per cent. That stat – first serve percentage – is the important number I look for after a match.”

Go practice your serve! See you on court 🙂