What to "get down" first: 1st serve or 2nd serve?

firstblud

Professional
First let me say i'm a self rated beginner :confused:

I feel like my groundstrokes are developing much faster than my service game (which I have none and double fault a lot).

I was taking lessons and my coach gave me the gist of how to do the flat serve, but I would always struggle during lessons and he would give me homework assignments to practice on it.

I've been practicing for the past 3 weeks (about twice a week) with 3 hoppers of balls on serves and came to a few conclustions...

A strange thing for me is I feel like my topspin serve is actually alot better than my flat serve (gets in the service box more with some pace), but I cannot hit a flat serve for the life of me. But even that is like a 50% success rate :oops:

I sometimes try to alternate, flat and topspin, serves during my solo practice, but I'm not sure if it's effective.

Common issue I have with flat serve is framing the ball.

Any insight on what I should focus on? Should I try to "perfect" my 2nd serve before working on the 1st serve?
 

Solat

Professional
for clarification what grip are you serving with? I assume that it's conti if you are hitting topspin serves. If that is the case then the body rotation and pronation required to hit an effective first serve is very difficult and its going to take you 3 months not 3 weeks.

I would stick with the topspin as it will encourage you to use the correct grip. Then gradually attempt to straighten out the swing path through the ball rather then up the back. You should also be learning the slice serve with conti grip, that will also benefit your body rotation.
 

firstblud

Professional
Yep, you guessed right (continental grip). I guess my pronation isn't real good (although you need to pronate for topspin serve right?).

also you bring up a good point that with a 1st serve, I feel like there's too many pieces that need to be executed properly in order to do the serve correctly.
 

Moz

Hall of Fame
You shouldn't be hitting all your first serves as flat serves anyway, so definitely focus on the topspin technique as that will help with your first serve also.

The saying goes that "you're only as good as your second serve"....
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
I would strongly recommend mastering a 2nd serve before trying to develop a 1st serve. Using a continental or semi-continental grip should make it easier to develop a topspin-slice serve or some other spin serve. You would be better off using two 2nd serves when playing games rather that a low % 1st serve followed by a weak 2nd serve. You could always crank up the 2nd serve a notch to use as a 1st serve.
 

AAAA

Hall of Fame
A strange thing for me is I feel like my topspin serve is actually alot better than my flat serve (gets in the service box more with some pace), but I cannot hit a flat serve for the life of me. But even that is like a 50% success rate :oops:
Topspin serves should always go in more providing you actually hit with topspin. You can gain much more pace on the topspin serve just by learning to serve with a ball toss that is more forwards towards the net if you aren't already going it. Serving like this will allow to you to use forward weight transfer to generate a lot more pace, much more.
 

tennisdad65

Hall of Fame
Topspin 2nd serve without a doubt.
You can also use this as a first serve by placing it well or using less brush.

Surprising that you frame balls with a flat serve :confused:. Are you pronating late on your flat? Normally, folks frame balls with the topspin brush.

Flat serve percentage will be fairly low. Unless you are 6-0+ tall, I would not recommend it. Even Federer and Sampras at 6-1, hit their first serves with topspin and they probably practice their serves everyday.

I use topspin or topspin-slice as first serve and mostly topspin as second.
 
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Il Mostro

Banned
I would strongly recommend mastering a 2nd serve before trying to develop a 1st serve. Using a continental or semi-continental grip should make it easier to develop a topspin-slice serve or some other spin serve. You would be better off using two 2nd serves when playing games rather that a low % 1st serve followed by a weak 2nd serve. You could always crank up the 2nd serve a notch to use as a 1st serve.
Great advice. I see many decent players who have such a disparity between their first and second serves, using the second serve just to get the ball in play. And, their second serves get eaten alive.

A three-quarter kick serve at 75%-80% pace is the best friend you will ever have from both sides of the court, and can be used effectively as a first serve when you want to change things up, or if you are just having an off day.
 

pabletion

Hall of Fame
My two cents: A good second serve is one of the best weapons you can have. It gives you confidence to go for your first serve, because you have a 2nd to back it up if you miss. What good is it to have a big first serve and no 2nd serve, if you miss 1-4 first serves? You might get one ace and then get pounded on the next 4 points. I had some recent problems with my 2nd serve, went on for a couple of months, and got to see how much confidence it takes out of your game. After a lot of work, its back and better than ever. I use a kick 2nd serve, and my goal is to make it automatic, to the point that I dont have to think about it, and im very confident its goin in. Thats the way it should be, you shouldnt have to think too much, tamper, or adjust when serving, specially in a tight match, where nerves might get the best of you.
Another thing, I almost NEVER hit a flat serve, maybe 1-10 just to change things around. My 1st serve has some slice. Personally, I struggle more with a spinny, well paced serve, than with a flat hard serve that I can get my hands on; if you have a good return, you can use the pace and take a short swing for a great return. Practice your second serve to the point where you can confidently hit it at 80-85%, heck, you can use it as well as a first serve sometimes... good luck!
 

Nanshiki

Hall of Fame
Personally I find that the quality of my serve depends greatly on the condition of my strings. If I can't hit a fast flat serve with reasonably good reliability, it's time to restring. The second serve will start to go bad when the strings are REALLY worn, as will the ground strokes. The only thing that will stay reasonably good are volleys and overheads (although they'll tend to overshoot).

It's not a good habit to blame your equipment, but at a certain level, for certain types of players, you have to get your racquet and strings JUST right or you'll drop way below your potential.
 
The nice thing about developing a very good 2nd serve is that you might find you have two indistinguishable serves for 1 and 2, which basically means you'll have two first serves. . . all depends how you look at it.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Toss the ball more onto the court and you will hit a faster 2nd serve. You can use that as your first serve. Then for the second toss the ball closer to you - and you can hit with more spin. Also I would experiment with the eastern backhand grip with the second serve. I find it gives extra spin..

If you can already hit an effective topspin serve your doing well. It took me a long time to get the trick of it.. Even now most of the self rated "3.5s" I play with don't have a real topspin serve - especially the men. Some of the women have taken more lessons and have a decent topspin.

The men all have powerful flat first serves that usually go out. :p

Pete
 

fishuuuuu

Hall of Fame
Personally I find that the quality of my serve depends greatly on the condition of my strings. If I can't hit a fast flat serve with reasonably good reliability, it's time to restring. The second serve will start to go bad when the strings are REALLY worn, as will the ground strokes. The only thing that will stay reasonably good are volleys and overheads (although they'll tend to overshoot).

It's not a good habit to blame your equipment, but at a certain level, for certain types of players, you have to get your racquet and strings JUST right or you'll drop way below your potential.
I got a good chuckle out of this one.
 

snvplayer

Hall of Fame
"Your serve is only as good as your 2nd serve."
This mainly applies to people who can actually hit various serves, not to someone who can only hit one type of serve.

If you could execute all three serves, then it would definately make sense to strengthen your 2nd serve to put more spin, vary placement, and add vareity.

However, if you don't HAVE a flat serve, but you can execute topspin serve with decent consistency, then you should definately learn to hit flat serve.
This is not to say you should neglect your topspin serve.

In the short term, you may not do as well, but in the long term, you will have more variety and a good or decent flat serve that you can use. Your kick serve will become even more effective since you aren't throwing the same stuff over and over again.
 

Zachol82

Professional
What to get down first? The serve that goes in. So probably your second serve.

You're literally giving points away if you double fault, so even if you ace someone and then double fault your next point, then that ace was pointless.
 

Nellie

Hall of Fame
In my opinion, the problem with working on the top spin serve is that it does not translate well to a first serve for most people. Nothing is worst than the kicker that does not kick. In contrast, if you work to develope a slice second serve, a harder first serve comes pretty naturally by tossing the ball a little further into the court.
 
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