low level players misunderstanding the second serve

zaph

Professional
This. I totally get how OP could be frustrated. Big flat serve that never goes in and that is followed by hard slice that is not very reliable.. IMHO try to have your partner hit two slice serves to boost up his percentages. This can work - I have seen several 4.0 and under guys hit nothing but slice one hard and one softer and still not double fault often.

Most lower level player simply don't have a 100% reliable serve people can't tee off on. The issue is this - a kick serve reduces your serve speed by at least 20mph. So if you hit a 70 mph first that means your "kick" is like 50MPH.. Hit a slice second serve with a bit of top - and you can still hit a serve thats not an easy crush.
Yes that is my frustration but I also question the idea that every serve that isn't hit big will be destroyed. I have seen too many returns blasted long or into the net to believe that a slow serve means instant point loss.

In the same way amateur players don't have 100% reliable serves, they don't have 100% reliable returns either.
 

zaph

Professional
Sounds like I’m that person. For me I was only playing recreationally so I don’t care if I double fault as long as I improve my second serve that was improve only due to the advice on this forum. Now I do still double fault but without I doubt in my mind I can hit the next second serve in and my second serve is really good that most noob player can’t return. The benefit is huge. I can honestly say my serve is one of my weapon that will set up my biggest weapon my forehand which set up my other weapon volley.
I ask myself what set us apart from pros. You can have a godly FH and still suck if you can’t crank out a good serve whereas a pro really just need a good serve and average everything else.
I can understand your point but can I play devils advocate?

You might be able to hit the second delivery big and build up the steadiness that way but I am not convinced that will work. I think you would be better off hitting a reliable second serve and slowly upping the pace and work you can get on the ball.

At the end of day we all learn differently but I have seen players who have hindered their development because they have tried to go too big too early with their second serve and they have never been able to make it reliable.
 

zaph

Professional
It is not uncommon. And OP thinks if someone slows down, or topspin it, they won't double fault, which is total non-sense. A reliable second serve is a skill, which many rec players does not have, and in that case you work with what you have.


I definitely think OP came here with a pre-determined conclusion, and just wanted TT folks to reconfirm that conclusion. If he had an open mind, he would have gotten the point many of us are trying to make.
I am surprised at the resistance to my ideas here. Tennis matches are won or lost on errors. More so I have to admit in singles but there still some truth to that in doubles.

The rule I was taught was to hit at 80% of what you're capable of, hit your shots in a controlled way. That included the serve. If your opponent wins the point, forget about it and play the next point. If they consistently do it, they are simply too good.

What I am seeing here is a lot of posters who seem to be looking for excuses to play shots above their ability level and don't want to be realistic about their capabilities.

I would be interested to know how many here have problems with junk ballers and pushers? They tend to expose players trying to play above their true level.
 

Morch Us

Professional
Your problem is you are assuming people have the skills to not make errors when they do at their 50% pace capability. You probably don't even know what the speed of your partners 90% serve is. (He may very well be doing his 70% serve and still making errors).
hit at 80% of what you're capable of
You don't know that.
play shots above their ability level
All I am saying is, instead of trying to change someone else's (your partners) natural playing style, try to work with what you both have and find the "real" issues and play to "best of the ability" of the team. That is how you enjoy playing doubles.

@zaph to be clear, I am not against the idea that people should try to develope a realiable second serve (including your partner). But suggesting that it is a must to win service games at his level of play (he is at that level for a reason), is just BS. Also it is TOTALLY UPTO HIM whether he spends his time on developing a reliable second serve or not. And if he does develop that reliable second serve, he probably may not play with you any longer (since he does not belong in your level anymore).
 
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Do people swing faster on their second serve slice compared to their first serve slice? Everyone always talks about how RHS needs to be faster on the 2nd serve kick compared to 1st serve flat, but seem to ignore the slice second serve.

One additional point, higher RHS = higher shank frequency. Even a GOAT like Nadal will badly shank balls occasionally due to how fast he swings. For players just learning a topspin serve, swinging 80%+ RHS isn't needed on second serves if you are playing 4.0 doubles or below. Just like you can achieve lower rotational topspin on a slower RHS forehand off a hand feed, you can still achieve a low rotation topspin serve off a slower RHS serve swing. If you clear the net by a fare margin with just 50% swing speed and can at least aim for their backhand, most 4.0 doubles players won't be able to pop off strong returns consistently.
 

Morch Us

Professional
Agree. Generally it is a lack of a reliable & confident second serve. So extremely low on confidence on second serve. I most cases, it comes out as a bunt second serve, which still goes to net a lot, or end up being practice feed for opponent. In some other cases (not as common), they just goes for two first serves, to avoid facing that pressure, same result. Hard to argue which approach is better. Of course developing a reliable & confident second serve is long term fix, but that takes a lot of practice/time.

In reality, the easiest short term fix they could make is make a true effort for higher first serve percentage and do whatever they want to do in second (since they don't have the skill anyway).

In the end if they are playing at their correct level, these issue does not matter much for the result (since others would also be making same/similar mistakes in serves or returns or groundies), even though there is tons of room for improvement.

Is that really a common issue that one overhits the second serve? I have encountered it a couple times but way more often rec players just bunt the second serve over frying pan style
 
What about the very popular and true doubles mantra... 'Get the first serve in'. I think people way under value the importance of getting the first serve in when playing doubles (even singles for that matter). Too often I see people trying to win the point with a big first serve that they don't even get in 50% of the time. Returning is one of my strengths so I start licking my chops because I know I'm going to see a lot of second serves and many people can have a huge first serve and than a duck of a second serve. In doubles especially... it's important to get the a good percentage of first serves in. The weaker your serve... the more important it is to get the first serve in. From the returners perspective there is always more doubt on the first serve of what is coming than on the second. With the first serve the server has every option available... they can hit hard, soft, spin, go for corners, body, etc. Second serve... most people are going to go with what they have confidence in and feels safe... and that usually means just two or three options instead of triple that even if they're decent players... huge advantage to the returner.

With a man at the net in doubles, getting the first serve in means more opportunities for the net man to poach and help out the server. It's much harder to poach on the second serve since the returner is going to see a very hittable ball. I have solid first and second serve, I can get an occasional ace and several unreturned serves, but I'm not dominant with my serve. I focus a lot on placement and variety and my end goal is to set up my net guy for easy put away... which I'm pretty good at doing. I always tell my double partners if they are struggling on server to 'hit up the middle' because it takes the angles away and makes it easier for me to poach. I also will tell them to 'just get it in and let them hit it' because it's not the servers job to win the point... really it's just to get it started/setup.

That said there is the occasional/rare player that benefits from hitting two first serves. A guy I play with hits 'first serves' on the both serves all the time. He's tall, hits flat, hits big, has a simple motion and can place the ball pretty well. If you're capable of getting close to 70% or better of your 'first' serve in... why not hit a second time if it's an effective weapon. He hits a lot of aces and unreturnable serves so he doesn't get broken a lot and the occasional double faults he sees... he gets back all the time with an ace or unreturned serve. It's a valid strategy if you serve is a weapon and you have the confidence to shake off doubles. I alway joke with him that he hits is his second serve as the first serve and first serve as the second serve.
 

jered

Rookie
What about the very popular and true doubles mantra... 'Get the first serve in'. I think people way under value the importance of getting the first serve in when playing doubles (even singles for that matter). Too often I see people trying to win the point with a big first serve that they don't even get in 50% of the time.
There is definitely some truth in how rec players over-focus on a big 1st serve and have no reliable serve. That is a totally valid complaint. Coming from another sport where it was drilled into me that you must have solid basics before layering on more advanced hits, I developed my "second serve" first. Honestly, I only had one type of serve for a good year or more. Now my topspin kicker is my highest percentage serve. In doubles, I'll often start the match hitting two second serves instead of deploying my first serve. Opponents often assume I'm hitting two first serves until I actually break out my first serve. :cool: I've also played entire matches where it was completely unnecessary to break out my first serve because my reliable serve was enough to get it done. However, I don't consider a patty cake serve a reliable serve except in the sense that you'll reliably lose your service games.
 

enishi1357

Rookie
I am surprised at the resistance to my ideas here. Tennis matches are won or lost on errors. More so I have to admit in singles but there still some truth to that in doubles.

The rule I was taught was to hit at 80% of what you're capable of, hit your shots in a controlled way. That included the serve. If your opponent wins the point, forget about it and play the next point. If they consistently do it, they are simply too good.

What I am seeing here is a lot of posters who seem to be looking for excuses to play shots above their ability level and don't want to be realistic about their capabilities.

I would be interested to know how many here have problems with junk ballers and pushers? They tend to expose players trying to play above their true level.
My last match was against an old guy who is a junk baller but I guess due to the shut down he just got back to play so he was out of shape. I lost to him years ago but I was pretty bad back then. I changed my style to playing very fast. Of course I treat this an an learning experience so i wasn't afraid of losing. Anyways at the beginning there could be a real chance I might lose but I knew that my play style is completely the worse match up for him and that my second serve could hold my service game when I want. I just need to place the ball wide even if it means making a few error in the process. At some points he did serve his best serve but I return it for some very easy unforced error so he serve slow but low to force me to hit close to the net but also wide hoping I would make errors which I did but that that didn't really matter since my second serve almost always put me in a very good position for the next shot. But I didn't play well since I double faulted on my service games that I lost but I broke back right away and won 6-3. Could I have played better? Sure. Should I? I don't know. Maybe subconsciously I don't want to beat the guy too bad since he's pretty good guy. Overall I would prob want a better challenge like playing double instead of single which I'm better at probably since I haven't play single against someone good.

9 months ago I was rated by a chick 3.0 because my serve and groundstroke is not consistent enough. 9 months ago I didn't even have a proper serve and groundstroke and volley so it's a miracle I almost beat the girl so right now I should at least be 3.5. That chick is not a junkballer but she's incredibly fit as she is in the army and she has a second serve similar to what you want which is like a pancake serve or something. Either way her second serve is very slow but due to the hot weather she made a couple of double fault either way. Honestly I could play like her but really I just want to improve and improve I did. I rather lose than to pan cake serve to a win because I know I have the tools for it but I guess I didn't learn how to do a proper second serve until I asked in this forum. So maybe instead of placing blame perhaps if you know how to do a proper second serve than offer some advice to your partner. I would be grateful if someone I knew taught me ten years ago.
 
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Cashman

Hall of Fame
OP - your points are well made, but as long as you are playing lower level tennis I wouldn’t expect it to change. I would focus on finding a way to enjoy your matches in spite of it.

As long as you are holding your service games, returning well and making some good net plays - you should leave the court very happy with your match.

Try not to live or die on a result that depends on three other people.
 

spaceman_spiff

Hall of Fame
That said there is the occasional/rare player that benefits from hitting two first serves. A guy I play with hits 'first serves' on the both serves all the time. He's tall, hits flat, hits big, has a simple motion and can place the ball pretty well. If you're capable of getting close to 70% or better of your 'first' serve in... why not hit a second time if it's an effective weapon. He hits a lot of aces and unreturnable serves so he doesn't get broken a lot and the occasional double faults he sees... he gets back all the time with an ace or unreturned serve. It's a valid strategy if you serve is a weapon and you have the confidence to shake off doubles. I alway joke with him that he hits is his second serve as the first serve and first serve as the second serve.
I also used to play against a guy who hit two first serves. His serves weren’t wild, so he could get through a match averaging around one DF per game.

He was tough to break, even if he double-faulted twice in a game, because you and your partner had to win at least two more points off of first serves. When he was paired up with a good net player, that wasn’t easy.
 

WNB93

Rookie
I played against a guy with a huge first serve. About 180kph, consistently. But he missed a lot and his 2nd serve was his 1st serve. So he double faulted a lot.
He is a much better player than me, yet we were always very close score wise. He ended up beating me because I'm an idiot but then the second type of problematic 2nd serve comes around.

The "reliable, gravity dependent 2nd serve". Yesterday a guy was doing that. He might as well just throw me the ball. He could not touch most of my returns. I just let it rip and it was done, or done with an extra hit from me.
So I guess neither extreme is good. But it is important to develop a topspin serve that lands in and kicks up so the opponent has a hard time attacking it.
 

toth

Professional
My last match was against an old guy who is a junk baller but I guess due to the shut down he just got back to play so he was out of shape. I lost to him years ago but I was pretty bad back then. I changed my style to playing very fast. Of course I treat this an an learning experience so i wasn't afraid of losing. Anyways at the beginning there could be a real chance I might lose but I knew that my play style is completely the worse match up for him and that my second serve could hold my service game when I want. I just need to place the ball wide even if it means making a few error in the process. At some points he did serve his best serve but I return it for some very easy unforced error so he serve slow but low to force me to hit close to the net but also wide hoping I would make errors which I did but that that didn't really matter since my second serve almost always put me in a very good position for the next shot. But I didn't play well since I double faulted on my service games that I lost but I broke back right away and won 6-3. Could I have played better? Sure. Should I? I don't know. Maybe subconsciously I don't want to beat the guy too bad since he's pretty good guy. Overall I would prob want a better challenge like playing double instead of single which I'm better at probably since I haven't play single against someone good.

9 months ago I was rated by a chick 3.0 because my serve and groundstroke is not consistent enough. 9 months ago I didn't even have a proper serve and groundstroke and volley so it's a miracle I almost beat the girl so right now I should at least be 3.5. That chick is not a junkballer but she's incredibly fit as she is in the army and she has a second serve similar to what you want which is like a pancake serve or something. Either way her second serve is very slow but due to the hot weather she made a couple of double fault either way. Honestly I could play like her but really I just want to improve and improve I did. I rather lose than to pan cake serve to a win because I know I have the tools for it but I guess I didn't learn how to do a proper second serve until I asked in this forum. So maybe instead of placing blame perhaps if you know how to do a proper second serve than offer some advice to your partner. I would be grateful if someone I knew taught me ten years ago.
If my doubles teammate would ,,learn" something new in our match, i would think after wheather i want to play doubles with him or not...
Maybe if someone has a lot of time to play tennis, is he not so angry becouse of waste of time...
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Yes that is my frustration but I also question the idea that every serve that isn't hit big will be destroyed. I have seen too many returns blasted long or into the net to believe that a slow serve means instant point loss.

In the same way amateur players don't have 100% reliable serves, they don't have 100% reliable returns either.
Yes but in doubles you can hang people out to dry.

In singles sure just dump it in. But in doubles you are better off missing then tossing in a gravity reliant puff ball. It's not that returns are 100% reliable its that they will be demoralizing at even 3.5 - never mind 4.0 or 4.5.

But there is another reason to not to go for reliability on the second serve - it slows development.

Here is the stone cold truth that tennis pros and better players do not want to admit:

Almost all low level players can hit a face-on pancake puff ball serve in more accurately then they can a "topspin" serve.

If you had to teach your mom one serve to get in - if she was playing a match it would be a forehand grip front facing puff ball tap serve. This is what your partner would resort to if they HAD to get the second serve in.

So like I said a better approach would be to really "boost" his "slice" serve - have him hit that for first and second. Your overall numbers would go up and you can do it with positive reinforcement. "Hey buddy great serve you should hit that more often. "

You are a team - you need to use some charm..
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
The worst are people that tap in their 2nd serves leaving you to be a giant target at net. And when you move back to save yourself they give you an offended look. lol
Those people should be banned from playing doubles.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
The worst are people that tap in their 2nd serves leaving you to be a giant target at net. And when you move back to save yourself they give you an offended look. lol
Those people should be banned from playing doubles.
This. Better to avoid hanging your partner out to dry then not double faulting. Winning is not everything.
 
There is definitely some truth in how rec players over-focus on a big 1st serve and have no reliable serve. That is a totally valid complaint. Coming from another sport where it was drilled into me that you must have solid basics before layering on more advanced hits, I developed my "second serve" first. Honestly, I only had one type of serve for a good year or more. Now my topspin kicker is my highest percentage serve. In doubles, I'll often start the match hitting two second serves instead of deploying my first serve. Opponents often assume I'm hitting two first serves until I actually break out my first serve. :cool: I've also played entire matches where it was completely unnecessary to break out my first serve because my reliable serve was enough to get it done. However, I don't consider a patty cake serve a reliable serve except in the sense that you'll reliably lose your service games.
I've played for years at 4.5 and 5.0 hitting my 'second serve' on both serves... because my placement, depth and spin were good enough on the second to at least start the point from neutral or a slight advantage most of the time. Yes, sometimes people rip a winner... but that's usually my fault for getting too predictable or missing my spot. Often times just varying the speed and placement on a spinny second serve is enough... or like you said... try and throw in a flat, hard first serve every now and then. Even if you miss... they know you can go bigger so it leaves some doubt as to what is coming even if you never get the first serve in. But trying to hit a big 1st serve every 1st serve that only goes in 30-40% of the time is not a great serving strategy. Hit flat but back off to 80% effort or whatever effort that gets you close to 70% in or better. Mix that flat serve in with spin serves as the first serve. Point is that getting first serves in at a high percentage is much more likely to allow you an advantage or neutral start to the point than when you have to hit a second serve... period.

And yeah... if you have a patty cake serve with the old frying pan grip... well not much you can do there. At that point you might consider standing back at the baseline with your partner if you're the net guy.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
Slice should be a reliable second serve,.......

when I play against weaker guys who double fault its usually because they hit a slower version of their flat first serve
yes, the correct 2nd serve slice should be the most reliable serve you have....

A slower version of the first serve is just backwards, but many would think what I will say is the same even though it is very different. The 1st serve should just be the faster version of the 2nd serve!

Explanation....as OP gets right, the second serve MUST be dependable.....
but not just that. It should be the foundation of all your serving technique. This is why so many don't serve well for one or both of their serves. They don't base their fundamental serve technique on the proper primary 2nd serve and build from there. By all means throw in kickers when you feel it will work, which can be quite often in doubles... but for practice and your default setting, it should be a solid topslice serve with a very solid level of diagonal slice.

The first serve should be a faster version of this serve, which has minor adjustments that will increase the power of the shot. The topslice diagonal spin should be less steep (less like a kicker) and the contact should be slightly more thru the ball than the 2nd serve, which gives more power and some degree less rpms. When your 2nd serve is this topspin slice and your serving skills are developed around this foundation, your technique will be more practiced and grounded in fundamentals for all the serve adjustments you can later add into your serve skills.
 

Morch Us

Professional
Totally agree. High first serve percentage, especially when you don't have proper second serve skills. But even when you have a realiable second serve, upto a certain point increasing first serve percentage does big magic in a tight match. The biggest advantage is your opponents mindset on first serve is totally different. So even an underhand or pancake-gravity serve is more effective as first serve.

getting first serves in at a high percentage is much more likely to allow you an advantage or neutral start to the point than when you have to hit a second serve
 

enishi1357

Rookie
If my doubles teammate would ,,learn" something new in our match, i would think after wheather i want to play doubles with him or not...
Maybe if someone has a lot of time to play tennis, is he not so angry becouse of waste of time...
What even is this? So we should stop learning? I don't get your point. I have no words.
 

toth

Professional
What even is this? So we should stop learning? I don't get your point. I have no words.
I just think not the match is a place where we schould learn something totally new thing.
If it is not totally new, we can practise it on the match, it is an another story.
 

enishi1357

Rookie
I just think not the match is a place where we schould learn something totally new thing.
If it is not totally new, we can practise it on the match, it is an another story.
I see. Thanks for the clarification. I never play tournament or league so I think it's ok to try new things in a practice match. It's not like I ever get coaching and my other practice is against a wall so it's not like I have many options to experiment.
 

toth

Professional
I see. Thanks for the clarification. I never play tournament or league so I think it's ok to try new things in a practice match. It's not like I ever get coaching and my other practice is against a wall so it's not like I have many options to experiment.
In my experience at 3,5 practise match does not exist.
What exist: the ,,big sport chef " laugh to my face, you have not so good reputation...
 
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