How much is having a consistent serve the difference between winning and losing?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by HughJars, Nov 13, 2013.

  1. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    ^^^I don't know. A 4.0 vs a 3.5, with the 4.0 serving ununderhand; the 4.0 certainly could win.
     
  2. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Hugh, correct me if I missed it (like imo others have here) but seems you are asking about two players of the same level in general, since there is not a ton of difference in 3.5-4.0 strokes......but one has "command" of his serve enough to direct it well without double faults and the other player with the only slightly better groundstrokes, has a pretty bad serve, prone to DFs.

    Seems pretty clear that if the groundstrokes don't separate the 2 players that much, but the serve clearly does.....then yes, the better server can use better tactics due to a better "all around" game and could definitely make up the difference.

    In the end, we play out the matches to see how it goes and often it goes different on different days.
     
  3. HughJars

    HughJars Banned

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    There isn't? Surely an equally as subjective Bone of Contention? :)

    I think we can conclude that its impossible to prove this 'hypothesis' of mine without objective data pertaining to this level of play taken a from a large sample size. Its just way too hard!!! Way to many variables!..what defines a 3.5 player; do we look at it by match records, or subjective observation and analysis?

    in the meantime, my serve is coming along quite nicely working my coach. Hopefully it will help win me a few more games this year! :)
     
  4. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    One guy has better strokes, The other has a better serve. Everything else is equal. The guy with the better serve will win. That's his hypothesis.

    I don't agree because at the 3.5 level and even the 4.0 level, very few players have enough command over their serve to make it consistently advantageous. The person with the better shots is going to have the odds on his side because he has many more opportunities to convert.
     
  5. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    I forgot this was your OP, Hugeazz.

    Let's revisit your premise: "Heres my hypothesis: a player with 3.5 strokes and an accurate, consistent serve will beat a player with 4.0 strokes and an inconsistent serve (eg: low first % and weak second serve)."

    This is why language matters, my friend. This is why high-level tutorials do not use NTRP numbers. Certainly, many members thought you said, "Could a 3.5 level player beat a 4.0 level player if ..."

    Let's reword your hypothesis.
    At the low level of recreational tennis, the player with a consistent serve will defeat a player with an inconsistent serve, but significantly better ground strokes

    I believe your hypothesis to be false because your only defining characteristic for the serve is "consistent." This does not account for the quality of the serve, only it's probability of landing in. For this reason, since you identified the opponent as one who can hit significantly better ground strokes, I would say that player would likely have an easier time breaking serve.

    ASIDE: Don't give up on the 2HBH topspin shot. It took me a long time to develop it. I sliced everything for a long time, and it was a good slice. It could be offensive, and it worked well, but eventually you start running into better opponents and it doesn't work any more. The bottom line, you can't find a good movers BH with a BH slice often enough. You can't pass with a BH slice often enough. You can't lob as well. You need the BH topspin shot in your bag.

    I was literally losing matches because of it, but I was dedicated to developing the shot, so I stuck with it in match play, and almost exclusively practiced it against the wall. Now, I can credit several matches to my 2HBH topspin shot. It's not even so much the rallies where it really pays off (even though it really does find their BH so much easier!) it the return of a fast first serve to the BH where this shot becomes your best friend. Excellent serves literally just bound off the racquet, with pace, and can go all the way to the baseline. Keep at it. I strongly encourage it.
     
  6. HughJars

    HughJars Banned

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    Well re-worded TimeSpiral. I accept your point of view. I feel my serve has been the one aspect of my game that needs 'catching up' for me to be truly competitive in the division I play in. So far things are working well. Techincally I wiped the slate and have redeveloped everything from the ground up with the help of a coach, and will probably invest a couple more lessons on it. Now I am developing a slice serve which will hopefully become another thing I can call upon. I want my serve to be the foundation of my game, and the return of serve next, closely followed by my net game.

    In terms of the BH, I have realised I cant just live on a diet of slice. I am still tryinh to incorperate the BH topspin shot in my game. Although Ive been working hard on developing a good slice and slice approach, I still plan to work on the topspin BH specifically. I recall playing 5 of these shots during my game on the weekend, with only 1 unforced error - so its not completely redundant I guess! :?
     
  7. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    Thanks Skiracer!

    When I look at the NTRP self-rating, it looks (on paper since I’m in Canada) somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0.

    My weaknesses are mainly related to movement, since I'm also very heavy (220 lbs at 6'2") and with kranky knees (surgery in high school due to a basketball injury). The coaches (and partners) say that I'm not slow, but...lazy. Dunno. With fast shoes (like Asics GR5) I felt lighter on my feet and could come to the net at will, but then I got a minor injury on the balls of my left foot during a ladder match with them and went back to CB's 4.3 for now.

    BH, volley and serve were poor, also b/c until a few years ago I haven't played tennis at a club, but on public courts- basically didn't learn it the proper way and only restarted to play tennis about 5 years ago(last 4 at the club)...
    Now while lessons are helpful, sometimes they confuse things for me (i.e. my serve has been stronger in the past, but not sound etc while my BH went through many variations).
    I don't have a great 2nd serve yet and I get very tense in ladder match situations (even when I win at love I'm still somewhat nervous). I can place both 1st and 2nd serves with power and some slice. They are a weapon even against 4.0s, but not really consistent enough for my taste.
    I don't think that I see too well and might need contact lenses.

    My main strengths had always been the FH, flat and with power, consistent enough and the ROS (but only from the FH side, that I tent to hit about 70% of times). I'm one of the hardest hitters at my club apparently, not only in my house league (my "ladder" which is usually 3rd out of 8-9, although there are players above house one).
    Like Djokovic I have the confidence that my deep, penetrating balls will push you back and I'll take control of the point. I can run around my BH, but now I'm confident enough in it to hold my on (at least to some extend). I don't really need to send balls to my opponents BH, I'm more interested in sending deep balls mainly and have decent control to chose placement, depth, angles, etc.
    I also got endurance/stamina.

    I've improved my TS 1HBH, my serve, consistency, control and net play (use to be an almost 100% baseliner, never coming to the net, now I do it more often with maybe a 50% success rate even against the strongest players close to my bracket).
    I'm still a terrible BH returner, i.e. against a sliced lefty serve in the add court, b/c I probably try to return with TS or block it (plus nerves).
    I do play first strike tennis and retort to pushing or defense only about 5-10%, mainly as a variation or if both me and the opponent are very tense(or he/she is way weaker than me).
     
  8. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    I just think too many people put too much emphasis on serve from rec all the way to the pros in American Tennis. I can't tell you how many people in the stands tell me how they'd crush me 1 and 1 or whatever but then when it's time to play they end up getting beaten.

    Most think they are bringing a Roddick or Isner serve when the reality is it's much better than mine at kicking up out of the strike zone but at the end of the day it's coming back or being returned. One the ball is returned people don't realize that we are now on even terms no matter how my bad my serve is. I'm smart enough to serve at a high percentage with people that attack second serves and when I do serve second serves to people that attack, I serve them to the middle of the court to cut down on angles which makes it easier for me to get back even in the point which also allows me to use movement to take control of the point. lol So there are ways to mask a bad serve but there is hardly anything you can do when you can't move worth a damn.

     
  9. downdaline

    downdaline Professional

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    My main strength is my ground game. My mentality towards my serve, with specific regards to match play, is to get it in, and get it approximately to where I want it to go (eg. to opponent's forehand and backhand).

    I've always had trouble with this guy I play against. He's got a big consistent serve, but only average groundies.

    He kept beating me by attacking my serve and putting lots of pressure on me, and usually at the tail end of a set so that I have no time to respond.

    Yes, I have better groundies, but when under pressure to hit the winning shot, especially if I need the break, it usually leads to an unforced error.

    It was only when I improved my serve, specifically my second serve, that I managed to hold serve easier, and thus allow me to be bolder on the return game and allow me to break my opponent easier.

    If this is TLDR, then in summary: Yes, having a much more consistent serve allowed me to win, for me at least.
     
  10. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    I'd be the first to say that a better serve would make things easier...I'm just not motivated at 45 to go out and hit 600 serves a day. I approached my backhand the same way. It got better as people played it. It's one of the best one handers around now. I have no problem with a backhand exchange going 7 or 8 strokes.

    The serve is just taking more time to come around. So I'm doing the same thing I did with the backhand. I'm just in my practice matches hitting two second serves no matter what the score is in the set, game or match. That's the way I approached my backhand. I hit a lot of them off the fence for a couple of months and lost a lot of pickup matches.

    I think I heard Federer say that he works on his strengths as he says people playing your weaknesses will take care of them. I found that odd but I guess in hindsight, I kind of viewed it the same way. Honestly I never worked on anything except volleying and that was very rare but I did work on it. :)


     
  11. HughJars

    HughJars Banned

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    Hypothesis proven then!
     
  12. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    Actually, he didn't even address your hypothesis. An improved serve helping his game is a given. A better serve will help anyone's game.
     
  13. Dimcorner

    Dimcorner Professional

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    ??? He just said he had better groundies than his opponent but the opponent had better serves and he had problems playing against him.
     
  14. mightyrick

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    I guess it depends on what he means by "better groundies". The key sentence is after he said he had better groundies...

    Sorry, that isn't "better groundies". A person with good groundstrokes can work a point and put away the winner more often than not.

    All his post told me is that if he had better groundstrokes, he'd have beaten the guy.
     
  15. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    He then said it was his improved serve that allowed him to beat this guy. So now it's one consistent server with decent shots playing against a consistent server with better shots. That's not the hypothesis the OP presented.
     
  16. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    Bingo!....
     
  17. Dimcorner

    Dimcorner Professional

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    So he had worse groundies and at best the same quality serve than his opponent and lost, then got better serve, then beat him with same bad groundies but better serve?

    So that could me than better serve and worse groundies beat better groundies and worse serve?
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  18. shindemac

    shindemac Hall of Fame

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    He said he had better groundstrokes, but nerves got in the way. Confidence is key, and if you don't have it, then your entire game falls apart. Also, how many times have you seen a hard hitting 3.5 during practice. But once the game starts, he tightens up and his strokes become weaker. This is a real issue that needs to be taken into consideration.
     
  19. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    Again, this is 3.5. You don't need to hit hard. You just need to be consistent.

    At 3.5, putting away a winner doesn't mean hitting hard. It's basically just hitting a medium-paced angle shot away from your opponent. If they get it back... you just do it again. The 3.5s that lose are the ones that think they need to hit 80mph winners on short balls.

    BTW, confidence isn't just a ground game issue. It is an overall issue with your entire game, including the serve.
     
  20. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    Exactly my words.
     
  21. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    Oh I totally agree with you, having similar style of play, aggressive all around :)

    On a couple of occasions during the summer, I even went for too much on my serve and returns and I made many mistakes(especially if I had a first serve meltdown and a weak or non existent 2nd serve), even in cases when the opponent didn't put much pressure at all on my serve... The end result being a close call against players with way weaker ground games then mine and a loosing proposition against my peers and above! You also get tense if you DF (like a couple of people pointed here) and is hard to relax/find your shots (ground ones) in that context. In many of my matches I start slow, also due to that.

    Since then I've worked at my serve(both first and especially 2nd- including with tips from here, as how to not swing slower on the 2nd etc.) and it helps.
     
  22. downdaline

    downdaline Professional

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    Sorry, guess I didnt clarify. When I mean I improved my second serve, I specifically improved its consistency.

    And by Consistency i mean, i served less double faults with better controlled placement.

    A few posters also mentioned my "better groundies". What I meant was that stroke for stroke, I could always push my opponent back and make him play defence.

    The biggest problem for me was nerves, I have to agree. Having so much difficulty holding serve meant there was additional pressure on me to break serve as often as possible, thus making me go for the winner more often and thus making more errors. Once I established a consistent second serve, I had less trouble holding serve and thus was less pressured to break serve so often.

    So, yes the hypothesis works for me.

    Lastly, this hypothesis works for me - mainly bcos my second serve is my weakness. Just bcos the hypothesis works for me, doesn't mean it is Law, I could be in the minority.

    Anyway, great discussion so far.
     
  23. Dimcorner

    Dimcorner Professional

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    Little off topic but according to tennisleaguestats the guy I played in states should be 3.5 next year. I'm still at 2.81.... :(
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2013
  24. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    I challenged this 4.5 to this. He has a huge serve but plays only doubles. He was ragging me about my serve and I told him I'd let him serve the way he serves and I'll serve under handed and still beat him...to prove a point. He has yet to take me up on the offer. :)


     
  25. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Every underarm serve I've ever seen has been an ace. :twisted:
     
  26. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    At 3.0, you've definitely brought a gun to knife fight with that serve. Very nice.

    I only watched a bit, but overall game looks nice too. Keep working on it.
     
  27. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    At most levels of tennis having a consistent serve is often the difference between winning a losing.

    Being able to be confident and play your own service game on the front foot is a major part of being successful in tennis. It also lumps extra pressure on your opponent's serve.
     
  28. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Maybe. It certainly helps to have a good serve, but so does having other good attributes like good groundstrokes, good returns, or good movement. Of all the individual shots though, I would say the serve is the most important since a good serve can help you start half your points on the right foot and since the serve offers so much potential for attack.
     
  29. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    This is all pretty obvious. As I said having a reliable serve would benefit more players at more levels of the game than any other single stroke improvement. At most levels simply always being able to serve proficiently and confidently is enough to deny most opponent's a chance to beat you.
     
  30. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    Bobby, a 3.0 who constantly shanks the ball out of court or dumps the ball into the net should not be working on a better serve. A 3.5 who cannot sustain a rally of more than 3 or 4 shots should not be working on increasing the MPHs on their serve from 60 to 70 mph.

    At any level, there is a stroke which would benefit a player more than others. At low levels, the serve isn't it.
     
  31. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Learn to read what was written. Nowhere did I suggest they should be trying to add pace to their serve.

    If a 3.5 cannot sustain a rally and they are playing similar level players then having a reliable serve will still be the best stroke improvement to their game insofar as improving the chance of winning goes. The serve improvement alone would all-but ensure they never lost their serve so on return games they could try to play better tennis in the knowledge many points were effectively free swings.

    Of course if you're suggesting a 3.5 with an improved serve would lost to 5.0 then you're right. But that's a specious argument because that scenario is atypical.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
  32. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    yes. I would even go so far that developing any kind of weapon be it a serve or a big FH is really secondary to consistency of the ground at the lower levels. velocity becomes more important later.

    my old tennis coach always said that the progression always should be first consistency, then accuracy and then finally velocity.

    winning players at all levels are consistent. there are very few players who hack as hard as they can and then get more consistent. most starting hitting soft and then gradually increased velocity until they finally reached that 70 mph top10 ATP rally FH (or something below that for most:)).

    master consistency and then gradually but consistently add more and more power.
     
  33. degrease

    degrease Rookie

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    Unless you are much better off the ground a weak 2nd serve will cost you.
     

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