For as long as I’ve been a league player, I’ve also been a spectator, always watching and supporting my teammates as they play their matches. One thing I’ve noticed is that players underutilize the most effective serve that can win them their serve both in doubles and singles tennis: the serve into the body.
Serving into the body is optimal because A) you force the returner into panic mode by giving them little-to-no time to get out of the way of the ball and recover quickly enough to hit it back, B) you take away the returner’s ability to step into the ball and take it on the rise, and C) you greatly reduce the ability for the returner to hit a good angle or get good placement.
Other than an ace, this is exactly what you want when serving to your opponent.
The more popular serve choices can also be effective, but you need to be careful when using them. Serving out wide works pretty well against slow-moving opponents and those with weak backhands, though others can take advantage of the angle for a sharp crosscourt return or a down-the-line-winner. Serving down the T is also a good service choice as it cuts down angles and forces a more difficult inside-out return in order to avoid the net player in doubles. But the body serve is still better, AND since the serve to the body lands more towards the middle of the service box, you have a lesser chance of hitting it wide and faulting.
I took a poll and found that league players generally avoid hitting serves to the body for the following main reasons:
- They want that ace.
- They think serving to the returner’s weaker side is more effective.
- They subconsciously (consciously..?) feel that aiming for the body is poor gamesmanship.
The first three are valid reasons, I guess, but poor gamesmanship? Really?! Naaaahh!
What those players are failing to acknowledge is the superiority of the body serve. Getting into position to hit a return when the ball is coming right at you is extremely difficult for players of ALL levels. Even if they do manage to get it back, the server’s partner at net has a much greater chance at hitting a volley off the return for a winner or at least set up an advantage in the point.
I hope you use this tip the next time you get on the court. Hit more serves into the body and add some wicked spin for good measure, and you and your doubles partner will rack up points and win more matches!