I've been watching a lot of playoff baseball lately, and have started thinking about serving as a style of "pitching" if you will. If you pay attention to pitchers in baseball, there are many different styles, even at the pro level, but they all know their limits and, at the highest levels, know when to throw what at the hitter. Guys like Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens had the ability to throw the ball past hitters on a regular basis, but had other pitches to rely on. At most of the levels of tennis, the serve is rarely going to show the dominance of a 95 mph fastball with movement - that's an elite level. Even at that level, though, the power pitchers will have a second or third pitch to go to. A fastball alone rarely makes a pitcher elite (excluding Mariano Rivera, who is an anomoly in every sense of the word). My thought process toward serving has been changed, and as such, my serve has gone from being merely a "big serve" to a true weapon at my level, and even at a level above. My goal as a server isn't to hit the ball past the returner every time - it's actually the opposite. I want the returner to hit the ball, but hit it long or into the net. I don't want the returner to find a rhythm. If you watch the pitch sequence, you can draw a lot of comparisons to serving as an offensive tool. If the pitcher throws a fastball away, and the hitter fouls it straight back, they've got the timing of that pitch down. You can bet that 9 times out of 10, that next pitch is not going to be at the same speed, and will likely not only have movement, but will be in a different location. If I serve a "fastball" to the returner, and they either pick it up and stick the return or just barely miss, I'm sure not going to hit that to them the next time. I'm going to stick it in my back pocket for later. If the hitter is looking away, often the pitcher is going to aim inside to move him off of the plate. That will reopen that outside corner for later, and often frustrates even the smartest hitter. For an example, tonight, I played a couple of good doubles players. The ad side returner was favoring his backhand return by cheating toward the middle. My first serve to him wasn't a kicker out wide, which I'm sure he sees often when standing in that spot, but a slice up the middle. That opened up the outside corner on my next serve to him, and allowed me a little bit more real estate out there, as opposed to having to hit a perfect serve to force an error. Throughout the match, my focus wasn't hitting bigger, it was hitting smarter. The deuce side returner was a taller guy, and moved in to take my kick serve early, and he was quick enough to get around on my flat serve. He struggled all night, however, with my slice serve into his body. That's not my strongest serve, but I'd much rather put my #3 serve against his weakness rather than my #1 serve against one of his strengths. We are all going to have stronger and weaker serves, and stronger and weaker aspects to our serves. Some of us are "Randy Johnson," able to hit with lots of heat. Some of us are "Greg Maddux," and we rely on hitting spots and thinking due to not being able to hit big. Even Randy Johnson had a strong #2 pitch, and that was what kept him dominant for so long. In short, what I'm getting at is twofold: 1. Develop a second and third serve, and be able to hit them to multiple spots reliably. 2. Work to your strength when you can, but know when you need to add some variety to your service game. No sense in abandoning what is working, but if you can keep the returner guessing, that weapon just became bigger, and you'll have it when you need it (like when you're down 30-40).