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Raul_SJ
12-15-2012, 02:35 AM
Let's assume Player A and Player B have identical second serves, but Player A has a higher serve percentage/points won on the first serve, it would then seem that Player A is the better overall server.

How does the "You're only as good as your second serve" adage apply in this case?

PhrygianDominant
12-15-2012, 02:58 AM
Let's assume Player A and Player B have identical second serves, but Player A has a higher serve percentage/points won on the first serve, it would then seem that Player A is the better overall server.

How does the "You're only as good as your second serve" adage apply in this case?

This quote is a misgnomer, it should be: "You are only as good as your weakest shot."

TomT
12-15-2012, 06:09 AM
Yeah, "you're only as good as your weakest shot" makes more sense to me. I heard "you're only as good as your second serve" from a guy at the local courts a few months ago. Never really thought about it. He's a much better player than me, but he says a lot of stuff, and anyway my first and seconds serves are pretty much the same ... flat or slightly sliced.

slowfox
12-15-2012, 05:53 PM
I don't know about the "weakest shot" perspective. What about the player whose overhead is weakest, but plays matches mostly from the baseline? How would an opponent exploit that?

"Second serve" makes more sense to me as it is a shot completely dependent on the server alone. If you can't get the 2nd serve in, well you're just giving away free points. Weaknesses such as volleys or backhand can be de-emphasized in match play, or helped by your strengths. But what can make up for excessive double faulting? Relying on breaking back your opponents' serves over and over...?

slowfox
12-15-2012, 06:02 PM
Let's assume Player A and Player B have identical second serves, but Player A has a higher serve percentage/points won on the first serve, it would then seem that Player A is the better overall server.

How does the "You're only as good as your second serve" adage apply in this case?

Using the ol' adage, A and B are equally good. But "good" doesn't necessarily equal winning. I dunno, this seems like one for the philosophers, not a tennis jock...

TomT
12-15-2012, 06:02 PM
I don't know about the "weakest shot" perspective. What about the player whose overhead is weakest, but plays matches mostly from the baseline? How would an opponent exploit that?Lots of dropshots ... and lobs ... and selective net rushing? Oh OK, your point seems to be a good one. :)

"Second serve" makes more sense to me as it is a shot completely dependent on the server alone. If you can't get the 2nd serve in, well you're just giving away free points. Weaknesses such as volleys or backhand can be de-emphasized in match play, or helped by your strengths. But what can make up for excessive double faulting? Relying on breaking back your opponents' serves over and over...?Points taken. There's also a pretty good argument for hitting out on the second serve. In other words, two first serves. Then we could change the adage to "you're only as good as your serve".

I've come to the tentative conclusion, following your line slowfox, that variations on the theme of the adage under consideration are doomed to endless interpretation and adjustment.

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 06:10 PM
I agree with the traditional quote of 'you're only as good as your second serve'.

TomT
12-15-2012, 06:19 PM
I agree with the traditional quote of 'you're only as good as your second serve'.What do you think about the idea of using two first serves?

Also, how would the traditional form of the adage relate to somebody like, say, Ken Rosewall who had, arguably, one of the feeblest serves (first and second) in pro tennis and yet was, again arguably, one of the, say, 10 greatest players of all time? That is, Rosewall's record would seem to contradict the traditional quote insofar as he was much much better than his second serve.

EDIT: I think we're back to it being an unresolvable philosophical consideration.

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 06:41 PM
What do you think about the idea of using two first serves?

Also, how would the traditional form of the adage relate to somebody like, say, Ken Rosewall who had, arguably, one of the feeblest serves (first and second) in pro tennis and yet was, again arguably, one of the, say, 10 greatest players of all time? That is, Rosewall's record would seem to contradict the traditional quote insofar as he was much much better than his second serve.

EDIT: I think we're back to it being an unresolvable philosophical consideration.

i don't like the idea of 2 first serves. How many people can do that? The only one I can think of at pro level is Roddick. It's not the best way to play. You are supposed to miss your first serve occasionally. If you don't then you aren't going for enough. If you have a good second serve then you can go for more on your first serve. If your second serve is weak you are going to take a lot off of your first serve. A weak second serve means you won't be hitting your best first serve on average. A weak second serve means you now you are under pressure to get it in and if it manages to go in most likely it won't be dangerous and the opponent can attack it. If you have a weak second serve you no longer have the server's advantage.

Maybe you can get by at the 4.0 and under levels w/ a weak 2nd but once you reach a level where players can hold their serves then having a weak second serve is a huge disadvantage.

i don't know rosewall's serves. Maybe the saying doesn't apply to world class players because they posses numerous other world class shots or exceptional speed and anticipation and strategy and footwork and consistency to make up for it.

TRVX1912
12-15-2012, 06:59 PM
There is no such thing as in two first serves

Avles
12-15-2012, 07:22 PM
Maybe the saying doesn't apply to world class players because they posses numerous other world class shots or exceptional speed and anticipation and strategy and footwork and consistency to make up for it.


Andy Murray's second serve is not one of the best on tour and he's managed to become a fixture in the top 5. I'd say that Connors and Nadal are two other players whose overall game far outclasses their second serve quality. So yes, I don't think it really holds true for world-class players.

But actually I don't see how it holds true at any level. A weak second serve is definitely a problem. Is it a bigger problem than a weak first serve, a weak return, or a weak forehand? I doubt it. So the adage seems kind of meaningless, since it seems like you could apply it with equal accuracy to any number of shots.

For me, second serve is a very important shot, just like the first serve, rally groundstrokes, return. But none of those shots determines a player's level.

I think "you're only as good as your second serve" makes more sense as an exhortation to practice an unglamorous shot than it does as a literal statement of fact.

mikeler
12-15-2012, 07:28 PM
My doubles partner today who I also play quite a bit in singles is a great case to discuss here. He will lose confidence in his 2nd serve after just 1 double fault. Then he hits "bunny" or "puff" serves which go out half the time. I think I'm finally making inroads into his brain. I tell him to clip the ears off the bunny and go for it. He double faults less when he hits his 2nd serve almost like a first serve and wins more points. Food for thought.

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 07:31 PM
But actually I don't see how it holds true at any level. A weak second serve is definitely a problem. Is it a bigger problem than a weak first serve, a weak return, or a weak forehand? I doubt it. So the adage seems kind of meaningless, since it seems like you could apply it with equal accuracy to any number of shots.

You can protect a weak groundstroke. How do you protect a weak 2nd serve?

Also, what do you consider the most important shot in tennis?

Avles
12-15-2012, 07:50 PM
You can protect a weak groundstroke. How do you protect a weak 2nd serve?

Get your first serve in?

I'm not saying the 2nd serve isn't important, just that "YOAGAYSS" seems like a catchy phrase which may be an effective teaching tool without actually being true.

If every other part of your game is 4.0 or better, will a 3.5-level second serve knock you back down to the 3.5 level? It just seems doubtful to me (though my opinion is based more on intuition and guesswork than actual experience).

I think "you're only as good as the aggregate of your various strengths and weaknesses" would be more accurate-- doesn't really have the same ring to it though...

BTW I think I was incorrect about Nadal's second serve-- he wins a remarkable number of points on 2nd serve, enough that I think the quality of the serve itself must play a role. Murray on the other hand really does seem to struggle a bit on the second serve (though his numbers improved this past year).

Kalin
12-15-2012, 08:16 PM
If one insists on hitting two identical serves then how about two 1.2 serves? Meaning, of course, 2 fast and heavy serves that are hit at around 80% of your all-out first serve

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 08:19 PM
Get your first serve in?

I'm not saying the 2nd serve isn't important, just that "YOAGAYSS" seems like a catchy phrase which may be an effective teaching tool without actually being true.

If every other part of your game is 4.0 or better, will a 3.5-level second serve knock you back down to the 3.5 level? It just seems doubtful to me (though my opinion is based more on intuition and guesswork than actual experience).

I think "you're only as good as the aggregate of your various strengths and weaknesses" would be more accurate-- doesn't really have the same ring to it though...

BTW I think I was incorrect about Nadal's second serve-- he wins a remarkable number of points on 2nd serve, enough that I think the quality of the serve itself must play a role. Murray on the other hand really does seem to struggle a bit on the second serve (though his numbers improved this past year).

You have to admit that almost every instructor, online tennis site/coach, books etc say the most important shot in tennis is the serve. Most of those further qualify it to say it's the 2nd serve.

Yes, i would agree with your 'aggregate' statement. But we are discussing 'shots'. Also I am qualifying it with measurable success meaning a tournament for example,.. not rec tennis where points don't count or you don't have to win to advance. If you are in a tournament and you are 4.0 then you are going to beat the 3.5 regardless of your serve. So you win the first or 2nd round. Eventually you will meet another 4.0 who can attack weak serves and can hold his serve most of the time and doesn't have a weak / inconsisten / attackable 2nd serve.

Most games in tennis are won by the person serving. It's the only shot they can take their time and place it where they want to and it's the most powerful shot. The main methodology to getting a point in tennis is to gain the advantage.

You can't protect a 2nd serve by getting your first serve in because then your first serve isn't a first serve anymore. It becomes 'the serve you hit before the second serve'. You'll be spinning it in and hoping you don't miss. An opponent will pick this up during the first game. Bye bye advantage.

Andy's 2nd serve isn't the best but it's still much much better than any person's on this forum. He won't lose by double faulting. His second serve isn't inconsistent or easily attackable. His 2nd serve percentage is still high. His 2nd serve is reliable enough so that he can go full out on his 1st serve and not worry about having to cough up a weak 2nd if he faults on the 1st. He's not thinking "don't double fault!" when he's hitting his 2nd.

With a weak 2nd you are thinking 'pls don't double fault!' and the opponent is thinking 'yes! here comes another shot i can tee off on'.

TomT
12-15-2012, 08:26 PM
i don't like the idea of 2 first serves. How many people can do that? The only one I can think of at pro level is Roddick.Anyone can do it. The question is, does it make sense to do it. For some players it does. For example, statistics indicate that Isner would win more points if he hit two first serves instead of hitting his less powerful second serve after missing his first. At least that's what the numerical analysis of his game indicates. Of course, one wouldn't expect him to pay attention to that ... pro tennis players being a generally nonscientific and superstitious lot. :)

It's not the best way to play.How do you know? Have you tried it? Have you compiled sufficient data to back that claim. For example, the statistical data indicates that Isner would win more points if he served full out on both his first and second serves.

Of course, whether or not this would work for anyone else depends on their first serve percentage and the percentage of points won on the first serve vs their second serve percentage and the percentage of points won on the second serve. Some people might as well just serve two second serves. But some people would win more points by serving two first serves.

I don't know Rosewall's serves.It was more or less like a B club player's serve. Maybe not even as good as that. It barely got him into most points. But he played world class tennis for about a quarter of a century and won 23 pro slam and grand slam titles (more than Laver or Gonzalez or Federer, etc.) and was a professional top 10 player into his 40's.

Maybe the saying doesn't apply to world class players because they possess numerous other world class shots or exceptional speed and anticipation and strategy and footwork and consistency to make up for it.I agree. Thus rendering the traditional quote more or less meaningless.

TomT
12-15-2012, 08:29 PM
There is no such thing as in two first servesSure there is. Against stronger players I usually hit full out flat on both the first and second serve. The only thing that's varied is the placement. I'm convinced that, at least for me, it's more effective than hitting a much slower spin second serve.

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 08:43 PM
Anyone can do it. The question is, does it make sense to do it. For some players it does. For example, statistics indicate that Isner would win more points if he hit two first serves instead of hitting his less powerful second serve after missing his first. At least that's what the numerical analysis of his game indicates. Of course, one wouldn't expect him to pay attention to that ... pro tennis players being a generally nonscientific and superstitious lot. :)

tennis players are generally nonscientific. however they are supported by a team that takes a more scientific view. If isner or roddick had a weak 2nd serve do you think they would hit 2 first serves? Do you think their first serve would be as effective? i say no. Also if this was the case then every single pro would always go for 2 first serves because they all have a 1st serve percentage over 50. Yet, nobody ever hits 2 first serves. If it were statistically advantageous for isner to do so then he would be doing it. Yet he never does it.

How do you know? Have you tried it? Have you compiled sufficient data to back that claim. For example, the statistical data indicates that Isner would win more points if he served full out on both his first and second serves.

Show me one video of a pro match on youtube where the server went for 2 first serves. I say it would take you days before you can find one.
These guys are pros. They know much more about tennis than we do. If it were even slightly advantageous to hit 2 first serves they would doing it. Nobody does it. There must be a reason.

It was more or less like a B club player's serve. Maybe not even as good as that. It barely got him into most points. But he played world class tennis for about a quarter of a century and won 23 pro slam and grand slam titles (more than Laver or Gonzalez or Federer, etc.) and was a professional top 10 player into his 40's.

Rosewall's serve was soft. That doesn't mean his 2nd serve was 'weak'. We are not talking power here. We are talking consistency and placement which I'm sure rosewall's was at a high level.

TRVX1912
12-15-2012, 08:44 PM
Slower is relative your arm speed should not be slower for a second serve. And if you are saying you hit two flat serves that means you have no second serve. Hitting two flat serves leads to more double faults so you are giving away points.

TomT
12-15-2012, 09:03 PM
tennis players are generally nonscientific. however they are supported by a team that takes a more scientific view. If isner or roddick had a weak 2nd serve do you think they would hit 2 first serves? Do you think their first serve would be as effective? i say no. Also if this was the case then every single pro would always go for 2 first serves because they all have a 1st serve percentage over 50. Yet, nobody ever hits 2 first serves. If it were statistically advantageous for isner to do so then he would be doing it. Yet he never does it.The stats say that it would be advantageous for Isner to do it. The stats say that many pros should do it.

Show me one video of a pro match on youtube where the server went for 2 first serves. I say it would take you days before you can find one.
These guys are pros. They know much more about tennis than we do. If it were even slightly advantageous to hit 2 first serves they would doing it. Nobody does it. There must be a reason.Like I said, pro tennis players aren't a particularly educated or scientific lot. But they are quite superstitious in general and fond of tradition.

Rosewall's serve was soft. That doesn't mean his 2nd serve was 'weak'. We are not talking power here. We are talking consistency and placement which I'm sure rosewall's was at a high level.His serve was weak. Like club player level. But the rest of his game, his movement, his quickness, his thinking, his strokes, enabled him to handle pretty much anybody he faced.

TomT
12-15-2012, 09:12 PM
Slower is relative your arm speed should not be slower for a second serve. And if you are saying you hit two flat serves that means you have no second serve. Hitting two flat serves leads to more double faults so you are giving away points.If you impart enough spin to ensure that the ball will go in, then it follows that the ball speed will be significantly slower, giving the opponent more time, and time is, as they say, of the essence.

I don't have a good enough slice or kick serve that it poses any particular problems for stronger opponents. However, my hardest hit flat serves take away enough time, and bounce low enough that they do pose problems for stronger opponents. And I've found that if I hit out on both serves, ie., hard hit flat low skidding serves, and I'm placing the ball well, then I win more points than if I go the traditional route of hitting some sort of spin serve on the second serve.

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 09:13 PM
The stats say that it would be advantageous for Isner to do it. The stats say that many pros should do it.


Those stats are meaningless which are why there are no pros serving 2 first serves. Once you miss a first serve the whole mentality of the next stroke changes. If you miss a second serve you've just gifted the opponent a free point. You have to get it in. This is not factored into or reflected by stats.

So what you are saying is that atp players and pros since the 1800's are apparently unaware of this stat that says they should go for 2 first serves despite all the advances in technology and scientific approach to training and strokes and attention to technique and strategy and equipment and ped's etc etc in order to gain even the teeniest little bit of advantage in competition are ignored because all the players are superstitious and fond of tradition?

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 09:15 PM
His serve was weak. Like club player level. But the rest of his game, his movement, his quickness, his thinking, his strokes, enabled him to handle pretty much anybody he faced.

We are not talking power. From I just gathered on a quick search Rosewall's serve was very accurate and consistent.

bhupaes
12-15-2012, 09:56 PM
Well, it's easy enough to do a mathematical analysis. Let p be the probability of getting a first serve in. If two first serves are used, then the probability of getting one serve in would be p + (1-p)*p. If one is getting 70% of first serves in, then using two first serves, the probability of getting a serve in would be 0.7 + 0.3*0.7, which would be 0.91 - that is to say, one out of ten serves would be a double fault, on the average. This may be acceptable at the rec level, but I am not sure if pros can accept this. If the probability of getting a first serve in is 0.5, then the probability of not double faulting would be 0.75, which means one out of four serves would be a double fault - definitely unacceptable at any level.

So if you are having a good serving day, getting at least seven out of ten first serves in, it would make sense to hit two first serves. Otherwise (especially at the pro level) it would be better to hit a second serve if the first one is a fault.

Cheetah
12-15-2012, 10:25 PM
Well, it's easy enough to do a mathematical analysis. Let p be the probability of getting a first serve in. If two first serves are used, then the probability of getting one serve in would be p + (1-p)*p. If one is getting 70% of first serves in, then using two first serves, the probability of getting a serve in would be 0.7 + 0.3*0.7, which would be 0.91 - that is to say, one out of ten serves would be a double fault, on the average. This may be acceptable at the rec level, but I am not sure if pros can accept this. If the probability of getting a first serve in is 0.5, then the probability of not double faulting would be 0.75, which means one out of four serves would be a double fault - definitely unacceptable at any level.

So if you are having a good serving day, getting at least seven out of ten first serves in, it would make sense to hit two first serves. Otherwise (especially at the pro level) it would be better to hit a second serve if the first one is a fault.

Nice analysis. good job.

But it still doesn't translate into the real world. The mental approach to a first serve is different than a second serve. Let's say some pro decides to experiment during the first set with the 2 first serves approach. He misses a first serve eventually and attempts another 1st for his second. Let's say he misses that one for a double fault. How many more double faults would it take for a pro to give up on the experiment? 1 more? 2 more max?
Let's say the pro is having an 80% 1st serve day. Do you really think they are going to go for a first serve on the second serve at 6-7, 5-6 at love 30?

TomT
12-15-2012, 10:34 PM
Those stats are meaningless ... Well, if nobody applies them, then, yeah, they're pretty much meaningless. Stats can lie. They can be misinterpreted. But in this case the stats clearly indicate that certain players would do well to at least try the strategy of always serving first serves. Not all players, but some players. Like Isner, for example.

... which are why there are no pros serving 2 first serves.Some of them are aware that the stats indicate that they should be giving this a try. They just say that they don't want to do it because they want to be sure to get the second serve in. They don't understand that that argument has nothing to do with the argument for always using first serves.

Once you miss a first serve the whole mentality of the next stroke changes. If you miss a second serve you've just gifted the opponent a free point. You have to get it in. This is not factored into or reflected by stats.But that's just it. You don't have to get it in. The numbers say that Isner, for example, would win more points if he always served first serves.

So what you are saying is that atp players and pros since the 1800's are apparently unaware of this stat that says they should go for 2 first serves despite all the advances in technology and scientific approach to training and strokes and attention to technique and strategy and equipment and ped's etc etc in order to gain even the teeniest little bit of advantage in competition are ignored because all the players are superstitious and fond of tradition?Not exactly. This is a fairly recent discovery as far as I know. I'm saying that the refusal of players to try what the stats indicate would improve their results is a function of their ignorance, and that that ignorance results in a predilection for choices based on faith in traditional explanations and superstition. (I'm just using the word superstition here to refer to a belief that isn't based on the best available evidence.)

The best available evidence suggests that lots of other players would win more points if they always served their first serves. But they'd rather minimize their risk of double faulting, even though that entails that they're much more likely to lose the second serve point.

TomT
12-15-2012, 10:40 PM
Well, it's easy enough to do a mathematical analysis. Let p be the probability of getting a first serve in. If two first serves are used, then the probability of getting one serve in would be p + (1-p)*p. If one is getting 70% of first serves in, then using two first serves, the probability of getting a serve in would be 0.7 + 0.3*0.7, which would be 0.91 - that is to say, one out of ten serves would be a double fault, on the average. This may be acceptable at the rec level, but I am not sure if pros can accept this. If the probability of getting a first serve in is 0.5, then the probability of not double faulting would be 0.75, which means one out of four serves would be a double fault - definitely unacceptable at any level.

So if you are having a good serving day, getting at least seven out of ten first serves in, it would make sense to hit two first serves. Otherwise (especially at the pro level) it would be better to hit a second serve if the first one is a fault.Don't you need to consider your percentage of successful first serves, your winning percentage on successful first serves, your percentage of successful second serves, and your winning percentage on successful second serves to decide if it might be beneficial to hit two first serves ... or not?

Hitting two first serves isn't a good strategy for all players, but for some players it is.

ZMaster
12-15-2012, 10:41 PM
Back in the day a tall thin friend of mine who I mentioned in another thread had the fastest first serve I ever faced, I should also say heaviest as well, he also hit the best second serve I ever faced. It was a fast high bounding kick serve which he could make jump left or right. Here was a young kid 16 years old with a wood racket who owned a serve that was as good as or better than a lot of the pros on tour at the time. The rest of his game was decent but could not compare to his serve. He was very hard to break, but at the same time he did not have a good return game so he could be beat. Once he improved his volley and overhead it was even harder to beat him, as you had so much pressure on you to hold your own serve. I would say he averaged two or three aces or service winners per service game. Now picture a pro with the best first and second serve ever, along with a pro level rest of the game, as in Sampras. Most pros will play the percentage and hit the heavy kicker as a second serve, it is very reliable and they seldom double fault. Sampras took this same pro heavy kicker second serve and added more mph and pinpoint corner placement, yes he added more risk at doublefaulting but it was the gamble he made and he did not do it all the time, percentage tennis, but he seemed to be able to do it at will on the biggest points of the match. This is why many consider Sampras the best server ever, I can not speak about older legends of the game as I have only seen brief clips of them. It did not concern him at all when he could not break his opponent, he had such extreme confidence in his serve, he just knew his serve would carry him to victory in a tiebreaker. If a pro has a weak second serve the other pros will eat you alive on your service games, if you have a strong second serve you will hold more service games and in the end win more matches, therefore you are only as good as your second serve. It rings true as the serve is the only shot where you are in control or not at the start of a point.

bhupaes
12-15-2012, 10:51 PM
Nice analysis. good job.

But it still doesn't translate into the real world. The mental approach to a first serve is different than a second serve. Let's say some pro decides to experiment during the first set with the 2 first serves approach. He misses a first serve eventually and attempts another 1st for his second. Let's say he misses that one for a double fault. How many more double faults would it take for a pro to give up on the experiment? 1 more? 2 more max?
Let's say the pro is having an 80% 1st serve day. Do you really think they are going to go for a first serve on the second serve at 6-7, 5-6 at love 30?

You are right, there is a mental aspect that I completely ignored, which is a huge factor. As you said earlier, there is reason pros have a second serve that's distinct from the first serve!

bhupaes
12-15-2012, 11:04 PM
Don't you need to consider your percentage of successful first serves, your winning percentage on successful first serves, your percentage of successful second serves, and your winning percentage on successful second serves to decide if it might be beneficial to hit two first serves ... or not?

Hitting two first serves isn't a good strategy for all players, but for some players it is.

It's not hard to incorporate the probabilities of winning first and second serves, but I was trying to justify having a second serve simply on the basis of the probability of double faulting. I am sure there are cases where a player's second serve is inferior enough that two first serves may work better statistically - but I doubt that this would be the case at the pro level.

rkelley
12-15-2012, 11:35 PM
Interesting thread.

From personal experience, back in the day (like 25 years ago) when I was playing C level tournaments and players (3.5 or so I think) one of the big advantages I had over my peers is that I had a good second serve. I had a good first serve for my level too, but on my second I was not afraid to swing full speed and put topspin on the ball. A lot of the people I played couldn't or wouldn't do that. I got weak returns from my second serve, and no one ever crushed it.

On the pro level these players have to take smart chances. They can't play it safe all of the time and win. When I've done the math on first serve percentage, winning percentage on first serve, double faults, and winning percentage on second serve, for most pros it doesn't make sense to hit two first serves. Roddick is different though. He had both a crazy high first serve percentage and winning percentage on first serve. He was incredible in that aspect. Against the very top guys, where the rest of Roddick's game, IMO, just wasn't quite up to the same level, I think he really should have considered going for a flatish, hard first serve like shot on second serves. Maybe not all the time, but for Roddick I think it would have been a smart gamble. I think against a guy like Federer it would have given him an important edge. Agassi was right on when he said at the 07 USO QF that Roddick needed to drop 35 aces against Federer to have a hope of coming out on top. To get to that total in a 5 set match some of those needed to be second serve aces I think. Letting Federer get into the point, at all, put Roddick at a disadvantage.

Other players, like a Connors or a Nadal, that aren't quite so dependent on their serve, have a different calculus. So it depends on a lot of things, but I think there are times when it could make sense to go for two first serves.

Sampras, as an example, hit some incredible second serves to get out of jams at times. I don't know if he used his first serve motion, but he definitely was hitting hard and taking some chances. Sampras had a more complete game than Roddick. If Sampras took chances on his second serves at times, other players with effective, consistent first serves might consider doing it too.

Cheetah
12-16-2012, 12:04 AM
Well, if nobody applies them, then, yeah, they're pretty much meaningless. Stats can lie. They can be misinterpreted. But in this case the stats clearly indicate that certain players would do well to at least try the strategy of always serving first serves. Not all players, but some players. Like Isner, for example.

No. The stats do not say this at all. What the stats say only is that isner has a first serve percentage of xx%. That's all. They do not say or suggest he would do well serving 2 first serves. That's your interpretation. A second serve is a totally different situation than a second serve. The responsibilty of the 1st serve is completely different than that of the second serve.
Stats don't lie. It's only the interpretation of the stats that lie or are misleading.

Isner probably has the best second serve in the game right now which is one reason his first serve is so good and this also backs up my earlier statement that if you have a good second then you can go all out and / or have a better first.

Some of them are aware that the stats indicate that they should be giving this a try. They just say that they don't want to do it because they want to be sure to get the second serve in. They don't understand that that argument has nothing to do with the argument for always using first serves.

The stats don't indicate this. That is your interpretation only. They don't want to do it because they have a different interpretation of the numbers than you do. I think they understand the situation completely. This is why NONE of them serve two first serves EVER. (minus some extremely rare occastions i suppose and Becker).

But that's just it. You don't have to get it in. The numbers say that Isner, for example, would win more points if he always served first serves.

Again, the numbers don't say this.

Not exactly. This is a fairly recent discovery as far as I know. I'm saying that the refusal of players to try what the stats indicate would improve their results is a function of their ignorance, and that that ignorance results in a predilection for choices based on faith in traditional explanations and superstition.

I don't think the best players on the planet making a huge amount of money playing on tour, making $$$ with corporate sponsorship which is dependent on their winning %, receiving world class training and instruction since childhood, access to the latest technology and data, focusing their entire lives on tennis on and off the court, discussing / thinking / analyzing tennis and their competitors every day of their lives, constantly trying to improve and looking for any edge possible, and access to sports psychologists are ignorant of service stat numbers and what they mean.

The best available evidence suggests that lots of other players would win more points if they always served their first serves. But they'd rather minimize their risk of double faulting, even though that entails that they're much more likely to lose the second serve point.

There is no evidence at all. Have you seen any studies conducted on any players at any level playing matches serving two first serves? There aren't any. There is just data on first serve percentage. That is not 'evidence' of saying 2 first serves would win more points.

That's like saying "The stats show that Federer hits a winner on 60% of his winner attempts. That means the stats indicate that if he attempts to hit a winner on every single shot then he would win more points. He's either ignorant to these stats or he chooses not to attempt winners on every shot because of superstition or ignorance of his winner %' despite that fact that the 'evidence' says he should'.

mtommer
12-16-2012, 12:11 AM
The top juniors playing for a chance to play in the US Open say it best I think: "Man, at this level you've GOT to be able to hold serve." The better you get the less you can give opponents free points. If one's athleticism etc. can keep one in a game while having a weak second serve what happens then when those qualities start to go down with "age"? I don't think it's coincidental that players like Federer or Sampras were able to succeed so well while having arguably some of the best second serves in the game in terms of effectiveness.

dominikk1985
12-16-2012, 12:26 AM
It depends. If you serve 80% first serves a weak second won't hurt much.

but if you only serve 50% you will get broken a lot of times if your second serve sucks.

Raul_SJ
12-16-2012, 01:42 AM
Don't you need to consider your percentage of successful first serves, your winning percentage on successful first serves, your percentage of successful second serves, and your winning percentage on successful second serves to decide if it might be beneficial to hit two first serves ... or not?

Hitting two first serves isn't a good strategy for all players, but for some players it is.

If the strategy is to hit first serves on both serves, the winning percentage would be the same on the second serve.

Considering a player with an 80% first serve percentage that wins 70% of the points on his first serve. If he were to employ the same same serve for his second serve, he should also expect to win 70% of points on the second serve.

Out of 100 points:

Lose 4 points due to double fault. (probability of missing first and second serve = 0.2 X 0.2 = .04).

Win 67 points. (70% of the points from successful serves).

Lose 29 points.

dominikk1985
12-16-2012, 02:29 AM
Goran often went for the ace with the second. sometimes he produced like 3 DFs in a game with that but he also hit a lot of aces.

boramiNYC
12-16-2012, 04:15 AM
the two serve system dictates first serve more aggressive and risky while second one conservative error free. the saying only applies to players who can hit both of these serves. so for rec players it might not be as true. but for juniors and pros trying to compete that's the best rule for the win and the second serve winning percentage closely correlates with match winning percentage most of the times so it's more true in those cases.

TRVX1912
12-16-2012, 05:26 AM
Sampras and Roddick still put spin on there second serves even though they can hit it 120.

2ndServe
12-16-2012, 05:46 AM
it obviously depends on level. At 3.0 it doesn't matter much as long as you aren't hitting double faults. 3.0 won't punish you enough on a 2nd serve or often enough. 4.0 still lets you get away with it, 4.5 maybe a little less.

I buy into this saying. And a lot of great players from the best of the best have said it. At one point I thought I had an pretty decent 2nd serve. Then I played one of the top kids in the nation that eventually won a D1 national championship. Got hosed like 6-1 6-1 and only cause he was probably bored.

At the upper levels it will hold you back big time. It's not so much about hitting a good spinning kick serve with lots of spin and kick most guys at 4.5 to 5.5 hit this on the 2nd ball. The better players punish this because it does not penetrate the court.

sureshs
12-16-2012, 06:21 AM
I don't agree with this quote at all as it conveys no information.

A person with a good second serve also has a good first serve.

And frankly, any player who has a good first serve also has a good second serve. The only exceptions are those with hard flat first serves with no margin who dink their second serve, and such people are gone by the 4.5 level.

mikeler
12-16-2012, 06:48 AM
I don't agree with this quote at all as it conveys no information.

A person with a good second serve also has a good first serve.

And frankly, any player who has a good first serve also has a good second serve. The only exceptions are those with hard flat first serves with no margin who dink their second serve, and such people are gone by the 4.5 level.

Nope, there are still 4.5s with big first serves and dink second serves.

Raul_SJ
12-16-2012, 06:52 AM
I don't agree with this quote at all as it conveys no information.

A person with a good second serve also has a good first serve.



As a previous post noted, there is a close correlation between second serve winning percentage and the ultimate match outcome.

If that is indeed the case, the statement "You are only as good as your second serve" holds true.

sureshs
12-16-2012, 07:10 AM
Well, it's easy enough to do a mathematical analysis. Let p be the probability of getting a first serve in. If two first serves are used, then the probability of getting one serve in would be p + (1-p)*p. If one is getting 70% of first serves in, then using two first serves, the probability of getting a serve in would be 0.7 + 0.3*0.7, which would be 0.91 - that is to say, one out of ten serves would be a double fault, on the average. This may be acceptable at the rec level, but I am not sure if pros can accept this. If the probability of getting a first serve in is 0.5, then the probability of not double faulting would be 0.75, which means one out of four serves would be a double fault - definitely unacceptable at any level.

So if you are having a good serving day, getting at least seven out of ten first serves in, it would make sense to hit two first serves. Otherwise (especially at the pro level) it would be better to hit a second serve if the first one is a fault.

It is unlikely that the probability of getting the second serve in (as a first serve) is still p, because of the psychological pressure of failure.

sureshs
12-16-2012, 07:12 AM
As a previous post noted, there is a close correlation between second serve winning percentage and the ultimate match outcome.

If that is indeed the case, the statement "You are only as good as your second serve" holds true.

It may be true, but it seems to be useless as a piece of information, due to the reasons I mentioned. It is like saying that a player with a good forehand, a good backhand, and a great serve is likely to win.

sureshs
12-16-2012, 07:13 AM
Nope, there are still 4.5s with big first serves and dink second serves.

Such people should be locked up. How are they roaming free in society?

mikeler
12-16-2012, 07:25 AM
Such people should be locked up. How are they roaming free in society?

One is a teaching pro no less.

rkelley
12-16-2012, 07:49 AM
Sampras and Roddick still put spin on there second serves even though they can hit it 120.

They put spin on their first serves.

Avles
12-16-2012, 08:09 AM
Nope, there are still 4.5s with big first serves and dink second serves.

Seems like evidence that the quote isn't really true...

mikeler
12-16-2012, 08:14 AM
Seems like evidence that the quote isn't really true...

Double post.

mikeler
12-16-2012, 08:15 AM
Seems like evidence that the quote isn't really true...

I would agree. The guy I'm referring to beat me in 4 different tournaments. He had a huge forehand and was incredibly fast. His slice backhand was just good enough to get balls back. He ran around his backhand whenever he could. I did beat him once in a league match.

Avles
12-16-2012, 08:22 AM
You have to admit that almost every instructor, online tennis site/coach, books etc say the most important shot in tennis is the serve. Most of those further qualify it to say it's the 2nd serve.


Seems like this would depend on the player. If you're John Isner (or, increasingly, Federer) it may be quite accurate. If you're Andy Murray or David Ferrer the most important shot may be your return. If you're Radek Stepanek maybe it's your volleys, etc. Different players depend on their serves to different degrees so I don't know that you can really generalize. I feel like the "most important shot" thing usually is intended to encourage players not to neglect their serves.


Also I am qualifying it with measurable success meaning a tournament for example,.. not rec tennis where points don't count or you don't have to win to advance. If you are in a tournament and you are 4.0 then you are going to beat the 3.5 regardless of your serve. So you win the first or 2nd round. Eventually you will meet another 4.0 who can attack weak serves and can hold his serve most of the time and doesn't have a weak / inconsisten / attackable 2nd serve.


This is a good point-- maybe the quote applies more within skill tiers than across them. So a subpar second serve won't keep you out of 4.0 but it may keep you from beating the better 4.0s...


You can't protect a 2nd serve by getting your first serve in because then your first serve isn't a first serve anymore. It becomes 'the serve you hit before the second serve'. You'll be spinning it in and hoping you don't miss. An opponent will pick this up during the first game. Bye bye advantage.


I imagine protecting most weak shots will involve some sort of competitive sacrifice. If not, then I'd be interested in more info because I have a lot of shots that could use some protecting. :)



Andy's 2nd serve isn't the best but it's still much much better than any person's on this forum. He won't lose by double faulting. His second serve isn't inconsistent or easily attackable. His 2nd serve percentage is still high. His 2nd serve is reliable enough so that he can go full out on his 1st serve and not worry about having to cough up a weak 2nd if he faults on the 1st.


Agree with all of this except maybe the last point (I think I've seen Murray dial back his first serve a bit when his second is getting picked on). But bottom line is that Murray is still considerably "better than his second serve" so the quote seems false when applied to him. Maybe he's an exception in this regard.

rkelley
12-16-2012, 08:29 AM
A person with a good second serve also has a good first serve.

And frankly, any player who has a good first serve also has a good second serve. The only exceptions are those with hard flat first serves with no margin who dink their second serve, and such people are gone by the 4.5 level.

If by "good first serve" you mean a first serve with pace and spin (yes spin) hit with a continental-ish grip that lands in more often than not, I'd tend to agree. The basic motion to produce that serve will translate to a decent second serve.

People hitting a hard, flat first serve with no margin by definition can't have a good first serve because they're not going to get it in very often. That person is probably hitting an E. fh grip serve with totally different swing mechanics than a proper serve. That E. fh grip serve will not translate to a decent second serve, so they're left to dink it in.

Nope, there are still 4.5s with big first serves and dink second serves.

USTA 4.5s? Dinking second serves on a regular basis, not just when they're nervous and choking? I would not have expected that.

sureshs
12-16-2012, 08:54 AM
Well, it's easy enough to do a mathematical analysis. Let p be the probability of getting a first serve in. If two first serves are used, then the probability of getting one serve in would be p + (1-p)*p. If one is getting 70% of first serves in, then using two first serves, the probability of getting a serve in would be 0.7 + 0.3*0.7, which would be 0.91 - that is to say, one out of ten serves would be a double fault, on the average. This may be acceptable at the rec level, but I am not sure if pros can accept this. If the probability of getting a first serve in is 0.5, then the probability of not double faulting would be 0.75, which means one out of four serves would be a double fault - definitely unacceptable at any level.

So if you are having a good serving day, getting at least seven out of ten first serves in, it would make sense to hit two first serves. Otherwise (especially at the pro level) it would be better to hit a second serve if the first one is a fault.

I will be giving this as a problem to my son tonight. Let us see if he can come up with the same formula.

sureshs
12-16-2012, 09:00 AM
If by "good first serve" you mean a first serve with pace and spin (yes spin) hit with a continental-ish grip that lands in more often than not, I'd tend to agree. The basic motion to produce that serve will translate to a decent second serve.


Yeah that is what I meant.

Although I suppose we can make it applicable to pros by saying that the quotation means they should have a good second serve. But then anything less than that will be attacked, so sheer survival will ensure it.

For club players, preaching a good second serve is of no use if their first serve mechanics is bad. They are going to interpret it as "dink the second serve."

That is exactly the reason I was always puzzled by articles advising club players to have a solid safe topspin/kick second serve, as if they usually hit first serves at 130 mph and somehow forgot to cultivate a second serve.

mikeler
12-16-2012, 09:36 AM
If by "good first serve" you mean a first serve with pace and spin (yes spin) hit with a continental-ish grip that lands in more often than not, I'd tend to agree. The basic motion to produce that serve will translate to a decent second serve.

People hitting a hard, flat first serve with no margin by definition can't have a good first serve because they're not going to get it in very often. That person is probably hitting an E. fh grip serve with totally different swing mechanics than a proper serve. That E. fh grip serve will not translate to a decent second serve, so they're left to dink it in.



USTA 4.5s? Dinking second serves on a regular basis, not just when they're nervous and choking? I would not have expected that.

The guy claimed it was due to a bad shoulder but he could hit a 120 MPH first serve. Go figure.

Fuji
12-16-2012, 09:46 AM
The guy claimed it was due to a bad shoulder but he could hit a 120 MPH first serve. Go figure.

I've had a similar experience here. One of the top 4.0 range players (which means 4.0 and 4.5 combined) hits pancake serves on both first and seconds. Normally he trounces pretty much everyone tournaments because of his amazing placement and put away power on groundstrokes. His movement is suspect which is why he doesn't play 5.0 full time. He has played in 5.0 tournaments but he gets beat pretty handily by them.

It's amazing what an extremely high level ground game does, even when one doesn't have to move.

His serve is slower then my 2nd serve by a huge margin, barely any spin but he just picks his spots amazingly well with it. Just a solid player in general with questionable serve technique.

-Fuji

Cheetah
12-16-2012, 10:29 AM
Lots of good points made.

TomT
12-16-2012, 12:43 PM
No. The stats do not say this at all. What the stats say only is that isner has a first serve percentage of xx%. That's all. They do not say or suggest he would do well serving 2 first serves. That's your interpretation.Isner wins 68% of his serving points. If he served his normal first serve on his second serve he'd win (statistically) 69% of his serving points

Stats don't lie. It's only the interpretation of the stats that lie or are misleading.I agree. What I meant when I said stats can lie is that they can be used to tell lies.

But the statistical analysis we're considering here is pretty straightforward. It incorporates first serve in percentage, first serve win percentage, second serve in percentage, and second serve win percentage. On average, ATP players get 65% of their first serves in and win 75% of those. They get 90% of their second serves in and win 50% of those. So, in the normal way of serving they win 65% of their serving points. Given those stats, and serving two first serves, they'd, on average, win (statistically) 66% of their serving points. Of course that average can be quite misleading. To make a statement about any particular player, then you just consider that player's stats. Isner's stats indicate that he wins 68% of his serving points, and if he served two first serves then he'd win (statistically) 69% of his serving points. For every player it's a bit different.

The stats don't indicate this. That is your interpretation only.In this case the stats do indicate that some players, such as Isner, would increase (albeit not by much), statistically, their serving points winning percentage by serving two first serves.

They don't want to do it because they have a different interpretation of the numbers than you do. I think they understand the situation completely. This is why NONE of them serve two first serves EVER. (minus some extremely rare occasions I suppose and Becker).The main reasons that they cite are psychological and emotional. In the very stressful competition of top level tennis it's probably not reasonable to expect that even the coolest competitors would adopt a strategy that would, even under optimum conditions, confer only a very slight statistical advantage.

Anyway, taking into account the fact that even the best tennis players on the planet are human, and have to deal with lots of psychological and emotional stresses, I'm going to concede this particular argument to you, and say that I've come to believe that it's not primarily ignorance or superstition that keeps them from trying the two first serve strategy in tournament competition, but rather an understanding and appreciation of their psychological and emotional makeup and how it affects their play.

In other words, even if the stats on a particular player indicated that he would win, say, 5% or even 10% more of his serving points if he served two first serves, the associated psychological and emotional pressure of doing that would probably be more than he could handle ... resulting in a lower serving percentage and thus negating the indications of the original stats.

It would be cool if somebody actually tried it. But it's not likely to ever happen.

Again, the numbers don't say this.See above. The numbers say what they say, but I agree with you and others that there are often more compelling reasons than the numbers directing the actions of players.

I don't think the best players on the planet making a huge amount of money playing on tour, making $$$ with corporate sponsorship which is dependent on their winning %, receiving world class training and instruction since childhood, access to the latest technology and data, focusing their entire lives on tennis on and off the court, discussing / thinking / analyzing tennis and their competitors every day of their lives, constantly trying to improve and looking for any edge possible, and access to sports psychologists are ignorant of service stat numbers and what they mean.Agree.

There is no evidence at all.Actually, it is. See above. It just doesn't override the psychological and emotional factors that have to be taken into account also.

There is just data on first serve percentage. That is not 'evidence' of saying 2 first serves would win more points.There's data on first serve in percentage, first serve winning percentage, second serve in percentage, and second serve winning percentage. Which is enough data to provide evidence (albeit insufficient when one also takes into account psychological and emotional evidence) regarding whether or not a player might do better serving two first serves.

TomT
12-16-2012, 12:49 PM
Lots of good points made.I agree, and back on topic, I don't think the case has been made that the original quote generally applies, in that it seems pretty clear to me that some players are way better than their second serves.

kiki
12-16-2012, 12:50 PM
I agree with the traditional quote of 'you're only as good as your second serve'.

A great truth.No top player has had a really bad second serve.and some of their second serves may be as good as many first serves.

5263
12-16-2012, 12:53 PM
Nope, there are still 4.5s with big first serves and dink second serves.

There are a lot of ways to grade a 2ond serve. A dink can be effective.

IMO the phrase is, YOU are only as good a server as your second serve.
Really tends to define you as a server.
Sampras didn't really have the best 1st serve, but due to his great second serve,
he was the best overall server in history by many accounts.
a few reasons...

-a strong second serve should be a great platform for a super 1st serve as well.
-a consistent second serve allows you to take more risks with your 1st serve if you like,
which should make it better if you choose well.
-a consistent second serve provides loads of confidence to get into every point on a
good footing.

dominikk1985
12-16-2012, 02:12 PM
There are a lot of ways to grade a 2ond serve. A dink can be effective.

IMO the phrase is, YOU are only as good a server as your second serve.
Really tends to define you as a server.
Sampras didn't really have the best 1st serve, but due to his great second serve,
he was the best overall server in history by many accounts.
a few reasons...

-a strong second serve should be a great platform for a super 1st serve as well.
-a consistent second serve allows you to take more risks with your 1st serve if you like,
which should make it better if you choose well.
-a consistent second serve provides loads of confidence to get into every point on a
good footing.

those are good points. the mental part is very important. that is also why some numbers games (is it better to serve 2 first serves?) is not telling the whole story. having a reliable second is stabilising your whole game.

the goal should at least be to get in a neutral rally. you don't need to dominate with the second but if you get under fire you are in trouble. when the opponent is taking home run cuts on your second you are having a problem.

but if you get into a neutral rally and win 50% of the points that is fine (the WTA players who often have good groundstrokes and bad serves often lose like 70% of their second serves -then you could really think about going for the ace with the second:))

Cheetah
12-16-2012, 04:45 PM
yea... well it is an interesting discussion anyway.

TRVX1912
12-16-2012, 06:15 PM
They put spin on there first serve.... they hit there first serve flat....

bhupaes
12-16-2012, 07:06 PM
I will be giving this as a problem to my son tonight. Let us see if he can come up with the same formula.

You can make it more interesting. :) Assign probabilities to successful (winning) first serves and second serves, and ask your son to come up with the probability of winning a point when (a) two first serves are used, (b) first and second are used as usual, and (c) two second serves are used.

rufus_smith
12-16-2012, 07:09 PM
If a person has a second serve as "good" as his first, then the second serve is the more important one, since missing that one gives away a free point whereas missing the first one is never harmful. So because of the game structure, it seems that the second serve tends to be more important than the first. This supports "you're as good as your second."

ATP/WTA stats support it too.

Raul_SJ
12-19-2012, 04:46 PM
This supports "you're as good as your second."

ATP/WTA stats support it too.


The serve (along with return of serve) is the most important shot. Not the backhand or forehand or volley. It is the serve.

The top 3 ranked players in % of points won on second serve are Fed, Murray and Novak.

The top 3 players in % of points won receiving second serve are Fed, Murray and Novak.

% Points won on second serve is the best predictor of the match winner.

And I believe a coach told me that pro match outcomes are usually determined not by winners but by unforced errors. So a player with a weak serve is unlikely to win the match by hitting winners on his groundstrokes.

You're only as good as your second serve.

Avles
12-19-2012, 05:29 PM
The top 3 ranked players in % of points won on second serve are Fed, Murray and Novak.

The top 3 players in % of points won receiving second serve are Fed, Murray and Novak.


Are you sure about that? The stats on the ATP website don't seem to agree.

2012 Second serve points won (http://www.atpworldtour.com/Matchfacts/Matchfacts-List.aspx?c=3&s=0&y=2012)

2012 Second serve return points won (http://www.atpworldtour.com/Matchfacts/Matchfacts-List.aspx?c=7&s=0&y=2012)

Roforot
12-19-2012, 05:52 PM
Andy Murray's second serve is not one of the best on tour and he's managed to become a fixture in the top 5. I'd say that Connors and Nadal are two other players whose overall game far outclasses their second serve quality. So yes, I don't think it really holds true for world-class players.
,<edit>


Nadal was 2nd on points won 2nd serve for 2012 (granted his season was cut short). Murray is 11th which is pretty respectable.

http://www.atpworldtour.com/Matchfacts/Matchfacts-List.aspx?c=3&s=0&y=2012

Nadal's got a pretty decent 2nd serve. It usually sets up a rally and I don't see it smacked down for winners too often.

As for dink serves in rec play, sometimes those aren't easy to aggressively return especially if they're well placed. Sometimes playing doubles, I'm surprised by how many cheap points they'll give away trying to punish my partner's 2nd serve.

5263
12-19-2012, 08:45 PM
Nadal was 2nd on points won 2nd serve for 2012 (granted his season was cut short). Murray is 11th which is pretty respectable.



Murray is probably a pretty good example of the negative on this. His second serve is ok, but bringing him down.
Since his 2ond is shaky at times, even with
his excellent ability to grind, it can cause him big problems against the better
players. Imo his first serve could be more solid and dependable overall if his 2ond
serve was more sound. Not only would the 1st serve be better, but it would
allow him to hit less second serves by being more consistent....then when he
did have to go to a 2ond, his confidence would better due to 2 reasons-
1...making all those first serves gives a great flow into making the occasional 2ond
2...knowing the 2ond is the basis of his serving will make it a comfortable place to go

TomT
12-19-2012, 08:59 PM
The serve (along with return of serve) is the most important shot. Not the backhand or forehand or volley. It is the serve.This is debatable.

The top 3 ranked players in % of points won on second serve are Fed, Murray and Novak.

The top 3 players in % of points won receiving second serve are Fed, Murray and Novak.This is irrelevant wrt the adage that "you're only as good as your second serve".

% Points won on second serve is the best predictor of the match winner.Maybe so, but still irrelevant regarding the generality of the adage.

And I believe a coach told me that pro match outcomes are usually determined not by winners but by unforced errors. So a player with a weak serve is unlikely to win the match by hitting winners on his groundstrokes.Then, from that, it would follow that most players are only as good as their groundstrokes.

You're only as good as your second serve.I think the generality of this adage has been refuted. Nice thread though, Raul_SJ.

The problem is that there are so many counterexamples to the adage. No matter how the relative quality of a player's second serve is evaluated. That is, there are just too many other variables involved for the adage to be a true assertion. The fact of the matter is that there are lots of players who are both better and worse than their second serves.

5263
12-19-2012, 09:51 PM
I think the generality of this adage has been refuted. Nice thread though, Raul_SJ.

The problem is that there are so many counterexamples to the adage. No matter how the relative quality of a player's second serve is evaluated. That is, there are just too many other variables involved for the adage to be a true assertion. The fact of the matter is that there are lots of players who are both better and worse than their second serves.

I generally think you make some good posts, but don't see how you get here on
this one.
Nobody with a bad second serve is a real good player. It's a limiting factor for sure, imo :)

I don't think there are any excellent 1st serves by guys with bad 2ond serves, but
yes, there are those with good 2ond serves & avg or below 1st serves.
How are you going to do well at any level with bad serves.

Avles
12-19-2012, 11:08 PM
Nadal was 2nd on points won 2nd serve for 2012 (granted his season was cut short). Murray is 11th which is pretty respectable.

http://www.atpworldtour.com/Matchfacts/Matchfacts-List.aspx?c=3&s=0&y=2012

Nadal's got a pretty decent 2nd serve. It usually sets up a rally and I don't see it smacked down for winners too often.


Agreed on Nadal, I should have checked the stats.


As for dink serves in rec play, sometimes those aren't easy to aggressively return especially if they're well placed. Sometimes playing doubles, I'm surprised by how many cheap points they'll give away trying to punish my partner's 2nd serve.


Yes, at my level (3.5ish) it seems you see almost as many "service winners" on dink serves as on harder serves. (On the down side, the inevitable dink serve double fault is one of the more humiliating experiences you can have on a tennis court. Definitely a sad trombone (http://www.sadtrombone.com/) kind of moment.)

My feeling is that the second serve is a limiting factor in that it's extremely important to have a "good enough" second serve-- good enough that it usually gets you into a neutral rally, good enough that you have the confidence to hit a real first serve.

So in that sense the adage is true-- it's tough to be be good with a bad second serve. But maybe you can be very good with a "good enough" second serve.

TomT
12-19-2012, 11:18 PM
I generally think you make some good posts, but don't see how you get here on
this one.
Nobody with a bad second serve is a real good player. It's a limiting factor for sure, imo :)

I don't think there are any excellent 1st serves by guys with bad 2ond serves, but
yes, there are those with good 2ond serves & avg or below 1st serves.
How are you going to do well at any level with bad serves.The adage that the OP is advocating is that it's generally true that a player is only as good as his second serve. However, the facts suggest that this isn't generally true, and therefore not necessarily true, and that there are other, perhaps more important, factors that contribute to any player's competitive strength.

Phonco
12-19-2012, 11:41 PM
Warning, long post ahead. Wall of text incoming. Be prepared.


I've been reading this thread and I'd like to put in my two cents. First I want to say my definition of a second serve is one that is consistent/high percentage, and will at least neutralize the rally (hopefully).

Looking at the 1st percentage statistics, I think the reason pros don't do this is also logical in addition to emotional/psychological. Let's assume a 1st serve in = 100% win, and that you always serve 70%. I don't think the numbers take into account the permutation/combination of serves. You could serve 7 straight, and then miss the next 3. Then, by chance, you also miss the subsequent 3 and making the following 7. The point is that you the numbers don't tell you when the 30% kicks in, it could be intermittent/sporadic or it could come in patches. In this sense, why would you leave points to what could be chance. If you're match point down, are you really going to take the risk of double faulting for a free point when you can neutralize at nigh 100%? At best (on match point) you'll return to deuce or still MP down, and at worst you lose. Of course, this is given a perfect 70%. In real life, I agree that this doesn't factor in the possible fluctuations in percentage caused by whatever factors.

Moving on, I believe there is different application of the old saying in regards to pros and non-pros. I feel the second serve is also a reflection of the players mental strength/strategy. This can apply to non-pros, but I tend to gear it toward pros. A weak second is a huge weakness. All pros have fundamental strokes, and a weak second will lead to either a winner or huge court advantage. You'd have to have strong groundstrokes and keep it up consistently in order to erase the disadvantage. Having a good second indicates mental strength in pressure moments to maintain high percentage, and to neutralize or even attack by mixing up location/spin/pace. Unfortunately, even with all this, pro groundstrokes are so solid that you can still lose. Look at Federer v Isner from Davis Cup. Isner kept crushing Federer's second serve, forcing Fed to do more on the first, but this led to more seconds and thus a downward spiral. I think we'd all agree Fed should be better than Isner in nearly all categories, but that day Fed was "only as good as his second." If the strokes don't work, got to rely on the serve. It's the only thing you can control.

On the subject of Murray, his second serve is weak and he tends to be mentally fragile. He compensates a lot by having a great 1st serve and groundies. However, the matches he loses tends to be ones where his 1st % is low causing more seconds and him to rely on his groundies. Others have said he has managed to win despite the second, I tend to disagree. Yes, he has won matches against the top 100, but he couldn't win a major for the longest time. Against quality opponents, especially Fed, Nad, Djok, he loses. These players are able to match Murray's groundies and expose his 2nd. He has to bring something special or he'll lose. This is especially apparent in big, pressure moments like the Majors, where his 1st tends to drop and his fragility and 2nd serve affect one another and bring him down. It's easy when the tournament doesn't matter, but when the Majors come around the "old adage" comes into play.

I saw Nadal being mentioned, and honestly I'm kind of unsure regarding him. I lean toward believing that his "weak" second is compensated by the lefty spin, thus making it good. The spin alone is enough to throw players off. Exception being Djokovic who seems immune and broke Nadals game down by exposing his weak 2nd. This causes Nadal to panic, tries to do more with the 1st and then loses.

I tend to agree that the second serve is most important. The 1st won't always be there or be on which is why you need a good, solid second. When you got pros who hit great returns off of 1sts, it makes having a great 2nd even more important. I like to cite Djokovic at the 2011 US Open. He was throwing seconds for 1sts and did fine due to Nadals inability to attack. You could say that Novak was avoiding the 2nd serve situation, but we can discuss that later.

For non-pros or lower level players, I'm not too sure. The variation at lower levels is so high that I would like to exclude players still developing their strokes. At that point the old adage tends to refer to no free points on serve. I'd like to go further on this, but this post is long enough as it his :)

Cheetah
12-19-2012, 11:52 PM
What facts are those?

You've stated as 'evidence' only Isner's and others' 1st % percentage which has nothing to do with the 2nd serve at all. That's not evidence and doesn't imply any relation to success using 2 first serves.
(Isner has one of if not the best best second serve in history btw.)

I think what is happening here is that you do not understand how the 1st serve is related to 2nd serve. The 1st and 2nd serves work together. They are not independent of each other. This is why there are no pros who use 2 first serves ever and the same goes for anyone who plays in tournaments of any level.

The server has the advantage at all levels. A weak 2nd serve erases that advantage. It's as simple as that.

Cheetah
12-19-2012, 11:57 PM
Warning, long post ahead. Wall of text incoming. Be prepared.


I've been reading this thread and I'd like to put in my two cents. First I want to say my definition of a second serve is one that is consistent/high percentage, and will at least neutralize the rally (hopefully).

Looking at the 1st percentage statistics, I think the reason pros don't do this is also logical in addition to emotional/psychological. Let's assume a 1st serve in = 100% win, and that you always serve 70%. I don't think the numbers take into account the permutation/combination of serves. You could serve 7 straight, and then miss the next 3. Then, by chance, you also miss the subsequent 3 and making the following 7. The point is that you the numbers don't tell you when the 30% kicks in, it could be intermittent/sporadic or it could come in patches. In this sense, why would you leave points to what could be chance. If you're match point down, are you really going to take the risk of double faulting for a free point when you can neutralize at nigh 100%? At best (on match point) you'll return to deuce or still MP down, and at worst you lose. Of course, this is given a perfect 70%. In real life, I agree that this doesn't factor in the possible fluctuations in percentage caused by whatever factors.

Moving on, I believe there is different application of the old saying in regards to pros and non-pros. I feel the second serve is also a reflection of the players mental strength/strategy. This can apply to non-pros, but I tend to gear it toward pros. A weak second is a huge weakness. All pros have fundamental strokes, and a weak second will lead to either a winner or huge court advantage. You'd have to have strong groundstrokes and keep it up consistently in order to erase the disadvantage. Having a good second indicates mental strength in pressure moments to maintain high percentage, and to neutralize or even attack by mixing up location/spin/pace. Unfortunately, even with all this, pro groundstrokes are so solid that you can still lose. Look at Federer v Isner from Davis Cup. Isner kept crushing Federer's second serve, forcing Fed to do more on the first, but this led to more seconds and thus a downward spiral. I think we'd all agree Fed should be better than Isner in nearly all categories, but that day Fed was "only as good as his second." If the strokes don't work, got to rely on the serve. It's the only thing you can control.

On the subject of Murray, his second serve is weak and he tends to be mentally fragile. He compensates a lot by having a great 1st serve and groundies. However, the matches he loses tends to be ones where his 1st % is low causing more seconds and him to rely on his groundies. Others have said he has managed to win despite the second, I tend to disagree. Yes, he has won matches against the top 100, but he couldn't win a major for the longest time. Against quality opponents, especially Fed, Nad, Djok, he loses. These players are able to match Murray's groundies and expose his 2nd. He has to bring something special or he'll lose. This is especially apparent in big, pressure moments like the Majors, where his 1st tends to drop and his fragility and 2nd serve affect one another and bring him down. It's easy when the tournament doesn't matter, but when the Majors come around the "old adage" comes into play.

I saw Nadal being mentioned, and honestly I'm kind of unsure regarding him. I lean toward believing that his "weak" second is compensated by the lefty spin, thus making it good. The spin alone is enough to throw players off. Exception being Djokovic who seems immune and broke Nadals game down by exposing his weak 2nd. This causes Nadal to panic, tries to do more with the 1st and then loses.

I tend to agree that the second serve is most important. The 1st won't always be there or be on which is why you need a good, solid second. When you got pros who hit great returns off of 1sts, it makes having a great 2nd even more important. I like to cite Djokovic at the 2011 US Open. He was throwing seconds for 1sts and did fine due to Nadals inability to attack. You could say that Novak was avoiding the 2nd serve situation, but we can discuss that later.

For non-pros or lower level players, I'm not too sure. The variation at lower levels is so high that I would like to exclude players still developing their strokes. At that point the old adage tends to refer to no free points on serve. I'd like to go further on this, but this post is long enough as it his :)

Good post. well worded.

Phonco
12-20-2012, 12:02 AM
To answer the OP,

The adage tends to falter in the strictest of philosophical and hypothetical situations. It's supposed to be applied in a realistic sense where in reality tennis players have fluctuations in everything from 1st % to groundies to focus. However, the one constant should be a consistent, neutralizing second serve. It gives the player a reliable shot, and prevents free points.

In your example, I think you need to provide a bit more info on A and B such as relative groundstroke level, mentality player Bs 1st % and 1st serve win % etc.

I'll assume all is equal between A and B, and the only difference is A having higher 1st % and points won. In which case, B is only as good as his second because if his 2nd was better, and all else stayed same, then B could win more points on his 2nd and that could positively affect his serving confidence and 1st serve % and points won.

However, your question doesn't seem to allow B to raise any aspect of his game or else the "equal" aspect becomes broken. So I feel my answer cheats that situation. Thus, my final answer is that it doesn't apply for the reasons I stated earlier in this post.

TomT
12-20-2012, 12:03 AM
What facts are those?

You've stated as 'evidence' only Isner's and others' 1st % percentage which has nothing to do with the 2nd serve at all. That's not evidence and doesn't imply any relation to success using 2 first serves.
(Isner has one of if not the best best second serve in history btw.)

I think what is happening here is that you do not understand how the 1st serve is related to 2nd serve. The 1st and 2nd serves work together. They are not independent of each other. This is why there are no pros who use 2 first serves ever and the same goes for anyone who plays in tournaments of any level.

The server has the advantage at all levels. A weak 2nd serve erases that advantage. It's as simple as that.What we're considering is the truth of the assertion that any player is only as good as his second serve. It's been established that this isn't, generally, true. That is, some players are better than their second serves, and some players aren't. Thus, while it might be true that most players are only as good as their second serves it doesn't necessarily follow that all players are only as good as their second serves. Prime counterexample to the generality of the adage ... Ken Rosewall. Crappy serves, but everything else a cut above most other world class players.

Cheetah
12-20-2012, 12:12 AM
It's been established that this isn't, generally, true.

Where has this been established? I don't see any examples of this. Rosewall's serve didn't have power but it was very consistent and very accurate. That means his 2nd serve was good. And even hypothetically if his second serve wasn't good that would be only one example. One example does generally establish anything. Do you have any other examples?

TomT
12-20-2012, 12:22 AM
Where has this been established? I don't see any examples of this. Rosewall's serve didn't have power but it was very consistent and very accurate. That means his 2nd serve was good. And even hypothetically if his second serve wasn't good that would be only one example. One example does generally establish anything. Do you have any other examples?Compared to his competitors, Rosewall's serve was weak. Compared to the rest of his game, Rosewall's serve was weak. The fact is, by the standards of world class tennis, Rosewall's serve was NOT good.

It's only necessary to provide ONE counterexample to an assertion to prove it to be, GENERALLY, false.

It might be true that some players are only as good as their second serves. But it's not necessarily generally true. The fact of the matter is that some players are much better than their second serves and some players are much worse than their second serves.

Given that we have a counterexample to the adage, at the all time world class level no less, then the adage is refuted. Unless you want to argue that Rosewall's serve was the best part of his game. Which is an argument that you're sure to lose.

Cheetah
12-20-2012, 12:36 AM
Compared to his competitors, Rosewall's serve was weak. Compared to the rest of his game, Rosewall's serve was weak. The fact is, by the standards of world class tennis, Rosewall's serve was NOT good.

Maybe. I can't speak on that as I've haven't seen him play regularly.

It's only necessary to provide ONE counterexample to an assertion to prove it to be, GENERALLY, false.

Not in this case. This is not discreet mathematics or science where every instance must prove true.

It might be true that some players are only as good as their second serves. But it's not necessarily generally true.

How did you come to the conclusion that this is not generally true? From the one example of Rosewall? Tennis ability is only measured by how you fair against others in competition. If you have excellent ground strokes but can't serve then you can't win.

TomT
12-20-2012, 01:07 AM
Maybe. I can't speak on that as I've haven't seen him play regularly.Several vids on YouTube. I saw him play once in person. Believe me, his serve is nothing to write home about. But his movement, his quickness, his anticipation, his volleys, his lobs, his overheads, his groundstrokes seemed effortless and were unbelievably effective. He was a genius at tennis, albeit with a crappy serve. Which disproves the adage that a player is only as good as his second serve.

I sometimes play a 4.0 + level player who often has trouble just getting his serves in. I mean, they just suck, both first and second. I have no problem with his serve. But his strokes and movement are SO GOOD that he generally bagels or breadsticks me. Another counterexample to the OP adage.

Not in this case. This is not discreet mathematics or science where every instance must prove true.If a general assertion about reality is made, and if a factual counterexample to the assertion can be provided, then the assertion is untrue. Beyond that, it should be readily apparent that there are far too many variables involved in tennis matches to say that the outcomes depend on the strength of second serves.

How did you come to the conclusion that this is not generally true? From the one example of Rosewall?One counterexample is all that's needed to disprove the generality of an assertion. I'm sure there are countless counterexamples at various levels of tennis.

Tennis ability is only measured by how you fair against others in competition. If you have excellent ground strokes but can't serve then you can't win.Rosewall is a prime counterexample to this assertion. By world class standards his serve sucked. Yet he is one of the greatest players of all time.

It even applies at my low level of tennis. If you have excellent groundstrokes but a terrible serve, then you will probably win most of your matches.

Raul_SJ
12-20-2012, 01:52 AM
Are you sure about that? The stats on the ATP website don't seem to agree.

2012 Second serve points won (http://www.atpworldtour.com/Matchfacts/Matchfacts-List.aspx?c=3&s=0&y=2012)

2012 Second serve return points won (http://www.atpworldtour.com/Matchfacts/Matchfacts-List.aspx?c=7&s=0&y=2012)

I misread the stats in an article written by Coach Jim McClennan during the U.S. Open.

But Fed, Murray and Novak are among the top 3 in one of the 2 categories

-- Points won on second serve: Fed is ranked #1.
-- Points won returning second serve: Murray and Novak are ranked #1 and #2 respectively.

http://www.essentialtennisinstruction.com/2012-us-open/

Federer, riding high with his 17th grand slam title and a 6-0 set against Djokovic leads in the serving categories

And if you are only as good as your second serve, Federer rules the roost in first place winning 60% of the points on his second serve, and winning 91% of his service games, Novak is 6th at 87%, Murray is 18th holding serve 84% of the time.

Murray is at the top of the match fact board when it comes to the return game.

Andy leads in points won returning second serve, Djokovic is one hair behind in second place 56 to 55%, Federer is 20th at 50% (most probably occurring out wide to the ad court).

Raul_SJ
12-20-2012, 03:20 AM
There are a lot of ways to grade a 2ond serve. A dink can be effective.

IMO the phrase is, YOU are only as good a server as your second serve.
Really tends to define you as a server.
Sampras didn't really have the best 1st serve, but due to his great second serve,
he was the best overall server in history by many accounts.


Yes, the adage should be modified.

"You're only as good a server as your second serve."

This is a less controversial statement and I believe most would be in agreement with it.

I would extrapolate this further, based upon my belief that the serve is the important shot in the game, by making the secondary assertion:

"The most accurate predictor of match outcome is second serve win percentage."

Some may claim that a player such as Rosewall had a relatively weak serve and won despite of it... For the sake of argument, let's assume Rosewall did
have a weak serve (I am not convinced that he did).

The fact that Rosewall won means that he compensated for that weakness (which would have doomed almost any other player) with his world-class groundstrokes (mainly the backhand).

So I would suspect Rosewall's second serve points won percentage was still very high and hence still does not violate the secondary assertion above...

But Rosewall would still be the rare case... Players with a high second serve points won percentage usually achieve it by having a strong serve, not by defending a weak serve with overwhelmingly superior strokes.

If you have a weak second serve, your peers will attack and exploit that, and it will be difficult to win a tournament, no matter how good your groundstrokes are.