Pushing serves.legit strategy?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by dlam, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. dlam

    dlam Rookie

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Messages:
    380
    I was playing the other day and serving normally, the pace of my serve usually hits close to the line and bounce and reach the back fence.
    By the third set I was getting tired and double faulting.
    So I took off a LOT of pace , by justing serving with arm motion and not letting my feet leave the ground or have any forward momentum.
    Essentially I was pushing my serves and letting gravity fall the ball in the middle of the service court and barely bouncing it to the back line, no where close to my normal pace.
    This seem to work really well.
    My opponent usually feeds of the pace of my serve ,
    This time he trouble and hit some returns into the net.
    Now I thinking this might be a way to conserve energy and throw some unexpected change ups serves.
    So I serve mostly weak slices, reverse slices, I even thought about underhanded serving
    To mix it up, I served a few fast pace serves.
    He couldnt hit a winner of the returns plus made a lot of unforced error into the net.

    I never seen anyone do this.
    Legit strategy?
     
    #1
  2. Govnor

    Govnor Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,335
    that is pretty extreme, but in long matches (at the typical recreational level), it's pretty standard to have serves slow up as it goes on.

    what level are we talking about here?
     
    #2
  3. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2004
    Messages:
    7,189
    Of course it is legit. In mixed doubles, men will often make more errors off the lower-level women's serves than the higher-level men's serves. They just aren't used to them. Some guys don't like to generate their own pace and struggle more off of slow balls.
    Of course, if you used it all the time, your opponents would catch on and start beating you, but mixing in variety (as you did with putting in a few fast serves) is almost always a smart play. Find out what your specific opponent does or does not like.
    You have learned an important lesson.
     
    #3
  4. Mike Y

    Mike Y Rookie

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Of course it is legit. First serve percentage is very important, and if you are hitting 110 mph serves, but it is going in 20-30 percent of the time, then it is useless. My first serve is usually flat, and fairly hard, but if I am missing it, I will take a little off just to make sure I get it in. I also will not go with the flat serve 100% of the time, even if it is going in. I'll throw in some kick serves and slice serve occasionally, all across the box just to keep them guessing. Sometimes, I will find that an opponent will be able to return my hard flat serve fairly easily, but when I hit spinny serves, they handle those much worse, and I will end up hitting 90% spinny serves for the rest of the match. Whatever works, wins!
     
    #4
  5. Tennishacker

    Tennishacker Professional

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2009
    Messages:
    991
    Is it legit, yes, but IMO not within the, "spirit of sportsmanship".

    Sounds like your ability to control your serve places you in the 4-4.5 range, your opponent seems to be a lower rated player.

    Your strategy will work against lower rated players, but will not work with 4.0 and higher rated players.

    When I play matches (match pressure), I always try to play my best, always looking for ways to improve my game.
     
    #5
  6. IA-SteveB

    IA-SteveB Professional

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,089
    Location:
    Iowa
    I think it is fine to play that way since you are just doing what you can to win points. I don't think I would go as extreme as you did, but that's me. I know my serve slows down as the match progresses, but I do not consciously slow it down ... fatigue does it for me. If I think too much about my serve, that's exactly when it fails me. The mind can do funny things. "Hey I haven't double faulted in this match yet. Ooops."
     
    #6
  7. woodrow1029

    woodrow1029 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2012
    Messages:
    2,653
    What does this even mean?
     
    #7
  8. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Messages:
    1,319
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Sounds like Tennishacker is saying if you vary your serve during a match, it is not sporting. I totally disagree. Hitting shots that your oponent cannot return, or force weak shots from your opponent is a GREAT TENNIS SHOT.

    I suppose tennishacker thinks that a Major League Pitcher should only pitch one type of ball, because if he changes from a fastball to a curve ball, that would be unsportsmanlike, right?


     
    #8
  9. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Messages:
    1,319
    Location:
    Connecticut
    My problem is, if i change my stroke (slow my racket speed, don't jump during the serve) because of tiredness, I will make many more faults. What I try to do with serves is change the location, i.e. sometimes i go down the T, out wide, into the body. Other times, I might throw in a spinny second serve for a first serve.
     
    #9
  10. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    If it works at your level, 3-4.0, keep using it.
    Once you get into strong 4.0's, they can attack your short serves by using an approach shot into your backhand corner, or dropshot when you cover that.
     
    #10
  11. Joeyg

    Joeyg Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2004
    Messages:
    747
    Location:
    Sarcasm, USA
    I am only guessing, but I would imagine that Tennishacker has a hard time beating "pushers" and would much prefer to play someone with "clean" strokes.
     
    #11
  12. sundaypunch

    sundaypunch Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    May 17, 2011
    Messages:
    1,692
    For many people, "trying to play their best" means playing beyond their limits and losing. It feels great to hit hard with the idea that it will help improve your game. The reality is that this is why many people lose.

    There is no shame in hitting a 50% serve that is more effective than your normal serve.
     
    #12
  13. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Isn't there always the question of, should we try to play our BEST tennis, or should we play what is winning?
    Winning, we might push and play conservative, winning more, but never getting any better at tennis.
    Best tennis, we will lose lots of matches, for sure, but we also learn to hit harder and heavier shots, learn where and when to hit them, and make the attempt to ADVANCE our level of tennis, not just winning where we already are.
    Should I max out my winning percentages at 3.5-4.0?
    Or should I hit like a 5.0, miss like a 3.0, and play like a hard hitting 4.0?
     
    #13
  14. North

    North Professional

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Messages:
    937
    Lol. It means I got beat by a pusher!
     
    #14
  15. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2008
    Messages:
    2,411
     
    #15
  16. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Messages:
    1,319
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Sounds like playing your "best tennis" means losing to pushers, and complaining about how the pushers didn't play their best tennis, and thats why you lost.

     
    #16
  17. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    You pushers ever wonder how and why can Fed, Nadal, and DJ hit like they do?
    I mean, you guys pushing and dinking, them hitting heavy topspin hard shots and all that.
    You don't wonder?
    So you're happy being a pusher at 4.0 who wins lots of matches, and never hits any good shots.
     
    #17
  18. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    4,097
    Leave it Lee, some folks can never hit high level shots, so why not make the most of what they have to win?

    OP, sure, why not? Until he starts hitting winners off 'em, go for it!
     
    #18
  19. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Messages:
    1,319
    Location:
    Connecticut
    It might have a little something to do with the fact they are 20 years younger than me. duh.

     
    #19
  20. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    AH, the famous defeatist attitude. I"m too old. I"m too injured. I can't see. I"m out of shape.
    OK, all those are true with me too. OTOH, I can still hit my first serves as hard as I can. I can hit forehand winners given a 10' opening. I can hit any overhad for a winner if I"m near the service line. I can hit every single second serve IN, by swinging as fast as I can swing.
    See the difference? I lose because I missed. YOU lost because you allowed your opponent to beat you. We both lost. Remember, I"m a 4.0, just like YOU. But I hit 5.0 level shots. You hit 3.5 level shots, but are more consistent than me.
    A lion, or a sheep, your choice.
     
    #20
  21. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    Messages:
    6,404
    Location:
    The Great NW
    There is a difference between practicing drills and matchplay. The time to get better is in practice, not during a match. When it is match time, the goal is to win the match. If you do it by using what you practiced, great, if you do it another way... still great!

    Many miss the point that learning to win by whatever means necessary is it's own skill and one you can't practice with drills, it can only be honed during matchplay, so work on it.
     
    #21
  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Learning to win, opposed by learning to play like a good player.
    You can practice all day like a lion, then go out and push like a lamb....to win.
    I'd rather practice like a lion, then play like a lion, hopefully winning a few to fuel the fire, of course.
     
    #22
  23. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Are we saying a 40 year old cannot hit shots like the pros? It sure isn't physical, so is it between the ears?
    Yeah, you gotta get in some kind of shape. Yeah, you gotta try. What's stopping you?
    I"m not saying to PLAY like DJ. I'm saying to hit shots like DJ. For sure, we can't hit every shot like them, but one in 3, for sure. Every other, possibly.
     
    #23
  24. Avles

    Avles Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2009
    Messages:
    1,505
    Location:
    The Peak of Good Living
    Notice that the OP said that his opponent was feeding off the pace of his fast serves. He didn't turn to his slow-serve tactic out of cowardice or whatever-- he turned to it because his original tactic was proving ineffective.

    I think that if my faster serves aren't good enough to trouble a given opponent, I need to practice and improve them, then bring the improved product back to match play. Insisting on hitting a shot that's lower-percentage and yet not particularly threatening doesn't seem like the way to go.
     
    #24
  25. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Someone pummelling your fast serves, you spin it into a corner, not dinkball 3.0 it into the court. You spin your second serve into the body, both sides, you kick it over their shoulders, then you go back and hit the corners with your first serve, or body shot the guy.
    What you don't do is hit lazy serves into the court, wasting YOUR time and HIS time.
    You wanna win, or you wanna get better at tennis? Getting better, you suffer early loses, then get better and pummel those low level guys that you USED to be.
    Win, you stoop to the lowest denominator, win some now, and never ever get good at tennis.
     
    #25
  26. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    6,441
    well I disagree. of course overhitting is bad but I know a some guys that hit big in training but play fearful and pushing in matches. you need to practice good hitting in matches too or you wont be mentally able to pull it off consistently. that does not mean hit as hard as you can all the time but gradually increase your hitting power so that you gain confidence in matches.

    if you play like a pro in practice but push in matches you will have a hard time translating this to matches. there are many "practice world champions".

    what makes you win in the short run must not the best for winning in the future.

    I have that pushing disease a little too. I hit big in training but I'm often a little afraid of errors in matches. I play my best against way superior opponents since then I really swing for the fences because I have nothing to lose.
     
    #26
  27. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2007
    Messages:
    2,770
    I think the OP is talking about "spinning it in". Nothing wrong with this he said he was getting tired, better then quitting or risking form falling off so far, reaching for a bad toss and injuring a shoulder or an arm--and it works against players who can't produce their own pace lacking technique and feed off their opponent's pace. This works especially well in dubs where a big serve does not allow the server to come in and get set for the volley.

    I have trouble reproducing the serve I hit for practice when there's someone on the other side of the net. Some how having a body even, if they're barely breathing over there, makes my biceps and triceps want to get involved, rather then maintaining a live arm motion, with no hitches, fully utilizing the almost infinite elements of the serve.

    Just my 2 cents. (Am I the last one on Al Gore's internet to use the term "Just my 2 cents"?
     
    #27
  28. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    I thought OP was pattycaking his serves in.
    We are what we practice. You should hit practice serves with someone standing on the other side, racket in hand.
    And we can never practice good tennis, then play push, and expect all of a sudden, we can play good tennis. Ain't gonna happen. You need to implement what your practice in your play.
     
    #28
  29. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2010
    Messages:
    2,007
    I wouldn't underhand serve....but my serve most of the time hits top speeds of maybe 30 mph. There have been some days where I've served really well and hit 9 or 10 aces but that is maybe twice a year. Most of the guys I run across in 4.0 or even some 4.5 leagues have tried to murder the serve as opposed to putting me on defense. I have above average speed so they they have to hit a damn good shot to hit a clean winner even with the the serve being in the middle of the box. it also helps that i serve a lot of second serves right down the middle of the court to cut off the angles. So i think if you are smart you'd mixed these serves in from the beginning of the match. You'd be surprised how many free points you get.


     
    #29
  30. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    Messages:
    6,404
    Location:
    The Great NW
    You oversimplify the game by proposing that tennis is a 2 dimensional game with "lion" and "lamb" (Low percentage and high percentage) on one axis and "win" and "lose" on the other.

    You are going to get much farther in this game in the long haul, by learning to recognise opponents who have a low percentage game who will fall to a player (you) with a high percentage game.

    In what universe is matching an opponent with a low percentage game with one of your own a good strategy for winning, be it at 2.5, 3.5 or 4.5?

    If you played a guy with no backhand return, where would you go with your first serve on setpoint? To his backhand.

    If you play a guy with no wheels and no volley, would you think about dropping him? You'd be an idiot not to.

    Similarly if you play a guy who can hit at most 5 shots before shanking one into the net or long, would it be the right move to select shots that you only have a 66% chance of getting in? That is a recipe for disaster in a match you could easily win.

    The ability to win matches is not a light switch than any ol' player can switch on and win at will. It also needs to be practiced. Playing "well" but losing matches that are winable is not improving your game, you are fooling yourself.
     
    #30
  31. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    And that's exactly why you are a 4.5, and will remain so, until the day you start your decline.
     
    #31
  32. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    14,330
    Watch the Luxembourg Final with Venus. She armed her serve in and won the title. Seved like a lamb, played like a Lioness. Plan Z, just win baby.
     
    #32
  33. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,418
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Serena is at the top of the game.
    OTOH, you and I aren't, and could use the practice.
     
    #33
  34. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    14,330
    Serena, Have Gun, Will Travel. Then Venus wins without it. Must be in the jeans, eh?
     
    #34
  35. Rjtennis

    Rjtennis Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,888
    I would use slow heavy topspin serves to change things up. Intentionally drastically lowering you racket head speed and changing your serving motion will end up hurting you if the match gets tight. You want to use the same motion just different serves. Serving really slow sitters also won't get you far at higher levels.
     
    #35
  36. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2008
    Messages:
    2,411
    i second that 100%:)

    there are good hitters and good matchplayers. some can be both, and that´s the recipe to improve and become your best.
    tennis is after all a game, which includes tactics, the ability to read one´s opponents game, to evaluate a situation, and not just a ball-hitting contest
     
    #36
  37. Big_Dangerous

    Big_Dangerous Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    Messages:
    6,172
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Isn't what we're all kind of taught about the serve, is that sometimes you just have to get it over the net and in the box.

    I understand and even respect the fact that you want to play your best or play really well. I mean I think we all do and strive for that. However, hardly ever do we really and truly play our "best in match situations. And part of the game is figuring out how you are supposed to win a match or beat a guy when you aren't playing your best.
     
    #37
  38. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2008
    Messages:
    2,411
    There´s an old tennis wisdom. i think it goes back to Pancho Gonzales but i could be wrong. that says, you don´t have to hit hard serves all of the time, just the threat that you could hit them is enough. and than you vary pace, depth, spin, slice,.... to throw of the returner
     
    #38
  39. Magnetite

    Magnetite Professional

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Messages:
    907
    Do whatever your opponent is uncomfortable with.

    If he can't hit a slow serve (no idea why this would be the case), hit slow serves.

    If he can't hit faster serves, serve faster, as long as you don't double fault.

    If your opponent has a weaker backhand return, serve to his backhand.

    If you don't know, vary the speed, spin, trajectory and placement.
     
    #39
  40. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2008
    Messages:
    2,411
    sometimes players go for too much on a slow serve. players with extreme grips can´t get under the ball if it´s not only slow but also short
    lots of times it´s the variation though
     
    #40
  41. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    Messages:
    6,404
    Location:
    The Great NW
    No, the reason my game will not improve (which is a central issue on this topic) is that due to work and family pressure, I don't have the time to practice enough to increase my game. Matchplay is for winning, not working on your strokes. The practice court is for grooving your shots.

    But ultimately you are correct, my career will not be in tennis.
     
    #41
  42. mmk

    mmk Professional

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2011
    Messages:
    982
    It is amazing how many guys hit the back wall when returning a slow serve. I guess they get over-anxious.
     
    #42
  43. robbo1970

    robbo1970 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2010
    Messages:
    2,261
    Location:
    UK
    I dont think it ever hurts to mix it up a bit. Playing someone with a predictable serve is actually a bad strategy on their part as you are likely to know where the ball will go and how it will bounce.

    I have played many hard hitters and they often thrive off a hard hit serve by taking its force and thumping it back.

    I would try and add a bit of spin to it though, just to take it away a bit, if you know what I mean. But you dont need to add more power. Its like golf really, if you let your swing do the work and by slowing it down you have more accuracy to hit the corners or lines then go for it.

    I think against any opponent you need to be adaptable and able to mix things up if you need to and exploit their weeknesses.
     
    #43
  44. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2008
    Messages:
    19,844
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Most players like a little pace to work with. Throwing in a slow spinny serve can trip up quite a few of my opponents. Others can slap it away for a winner. Depends on the day and/or opponent for me.
     
    #44
  45. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Messages:
    1,319
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Its great you take tennis so seriously. But, I don't think you are being completely realistic. John McEnroe is in his 50's. Do you think he is still trying to "improve"? Do you think the current John McEnroe could beat the McEnroe of 1983?

     
    #45
  46. tennis_ocd

    tennis_ocd Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Messages:
    2,001
    I'd guess that he is quite focused on being a better player than he was the day before.... But I'll confess that "improvement" is such an overwhelming strong personal motivator that I have trouble grasping the mindset of perhaps a majority of guys that simply enjoy playing were they currently are. I'm amazed that the VAST majority of guys I meet have simply no interest whatsoever in taking a lesson.
     
    #46
  47. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2007
    Messages:
    2,770
    John Mac's current head in his '83 body would definitely win today. He is fit, carrying no fat. He's been playing on the Outback Senior's tour since it started. Beat guys much younger like Philipousis. Played open doubles after retiring from singles. When he's in SoCal practices with the top college players. Much of his game is finesse, great hands, not requiring big power. He's still very competitive but much of the blustering today is for show because that's what the fans pay to see.
     
    #47
  48. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2007
    Messages:
    2,770
    For the majority it's about hanging out with the chums, getting away from the little woman, having some beers, liar's dice--four old farts trying to one up each other and cutting a deal once in a while.
     
    #48
  49. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    Messages:
    1,319
    Location:
    Connecticut
    so the answer is no, Mcenroe of today couldn't beat Mcenroe of the 1980s. and obviously, Mcenroe is not continually improving, in fact he is getting worse.



     
    #49
  50. Backhanded Compliment

    Backhanded Compliment Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2011
    Messages:
    2,170
    It is a legit strategy to change things up... esp. if you are a 4.0+ playing against those below your level. Against equal or better playesr I throw in 65% power with lots of spin just for the way it makes them rethink their return position... then I hit a 130mph 1st serve the next point. It works great.

    Honestly, sometimes when I play a pick up doubles game I have trouble returning powderpuff serves at first (usually hitting the net) but I keep at it and by the second service game Im hitting return winners left and right (typical when a 4.5 or so hits with a 3.5). It forces me to stay sharp and forces them to develop a better second serve.
     
    #50

Share This Page