You have two chances to serve the ball and get it into play, and tennis experts agree: the second serve is more important than the first serve. Obviously, you need that second serve to start the point if you make an error on your first serve; and if you have a good second serve, you can afford to be more aggressive on the first serve. Unfortunately, however, not everyone has a good second serve (even at the professional level), and though that is a pretty major weakness, all is not lost!
Commit to the following tips to win more second serve points:
Have a plan.
Many recreational players hit their second serves with no goal in mind other than to just get it in. Rather than be surprised with what comes off your racket and then react to it, you should create the point to your advantage.
Since the second serve is usually weaker than the first serve, placement is key. Formulate a second-serve strategy based on your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Serving down the T, whether it’s the forehand or backhand is always a good idea on your second serve. That way, even if your opponent does get a piece of it, you know that it’s probably coming back up the middle as you’ve taken away their angles.
A slice second serve into the body is effective as well, especially if your opponent is somewhat lead-footed. Most club players have no split step and literally plant themselves at the baseline, making it harder for them to move out of the way of the ball. More than likely, their return will be short, if it makes it over the net at all.
Use more spin.
Generally, players have trouble handling heavy spin, so use the slice and kick serve often. The great thing about this serve is that it’s pretty effective no matter where the ball ends up landing. The spin not only causes the ball to move sideways as it travels through the air but it also gives the ball a wicked sideways bounce making it more difficult to return. Just make sure and hit the ball hard…at least as hard as you hit your first serve, if not harder. Don’t worry about it going into the net or out, as the speed will make sure it gets over the net, and the spin will bring it down into the service box.
Mix it up.
Don’t be predictable. If you always serve your second serve to an opponent’s backhand, you are literally giving them a lesson on how to return backhand serves, and before long, they will be crushing them.
Throw in some body serves and serves down the T to their forehand. And if you’ve noticed that they don’t move well, surprise them with a serve out wide. Keep them wondering where you’ll serve next, and you will keep them from properly preparing for their return.
Always be ready for a return.
Speaking of returns…don’t assume that because it’s your second serve that it won’t go in, or that your opponent is going to crush it. Decide where you will place the ball and as soon as you hit that second serve, get ready for the return. Use your serve to anticipate where your opponent may hit the return before he/she makes contact with the ball. For example…Did you serve down the T? Then be prepared for the ball to come back in the same direction. Was it a serve to the body? Be prepared to move in because chances are it will be short.
Put in the effort.
Neither your second nor first serves will get better from playing a league match once or even twice a week…you have to really work on them. Rent a bucket from your club or save the balls from your practice and league matches, and spend some time every weekend just serving (make sure and practice BOTH serves, not just your first serve.) Work on increasing speed, adding spin, and improving placement, and before long you’ll have a second (and first) serve to be proud of. You will gain consistency with landing them, which will make you more confident when it’s your turn to serve. Not only that, but the frequent service repetition will also increase your muscle memory which will help you find your rhythm much faster when warming up for your league matches.