Second serves are the ones that you, obviously, cannot miss. The pressure is on you and your opponent knows it (by the way, if he is a savvy player he will prepare to attack your second serve).
1. Before you toss the ball up, tell yourself what you intend to do with your second serve: – if your opponent shows intention to attack it, consider slicing it (brush sideways). That will keep the ball low and difficult for your opponent to go for an aggressive shot. – if your opponent stays back most of the time, a simple kick serve should do it to dip the ball over the net and make it bounce high off the ground.
2. Everything you’ve learned in practice… forget about it. This is not the time to think about your technique. You should just let your habits take over your movements. Toss the ball up and hit it after you previously told yourself what you’d like to accomplish (see previous point).
3. Hit your second serve with confidence. It is easy to let doubting thoughts cripple into your mind, therefore training your mind to stay on the positive side is crucial for delivering consistent second serves.
The two types of serve returns (first and second) should not be treated the same in any way.
While returning first serve is just a matter of avoiding being on a defense as the point begins, on the second serve return the player should think a lot differently:
1. From a psychological perspective you must understand that your opponent is tense getting ready to deliver the second serve. He now realises he just missed the first serve and failing to deliver the second one will cost him the point. Not only that but if his serve does not have enough “juice” on it (spin, depth) you could be taking control of the point.
2. From a technical aspect, pay attention to your opponent’s tendency of delivering the second serve: is he hitting it hard or slow? is he applying good spin on it – what kind? does he usually hit it deep or short into the service box? This kind of information can help you decide where to position on the court for the second serve – inside the baseline or on the baseline? Also it can give you clues whether you can attack it with your strong wing or not.
3. From a tactical point, is he trying to deliver the second serve to any of your weak sides, deep into the court or is he just…. getting it in?
Try taking these notes during the first two receiving games.
As a general rule, be aggressive with your second serve return. That doesn’t mean you should try to hit winners off of a return; instead, take the ball as early as you can (move forward) and preferably hit it to your adversary’s weak side.
By being aggressive and attacking the second serve you will put a lot of pressure on your opponent every time he will miss his first serve.
Mentally you should realize that an upcoming second serve is your chance to take control of the point from the start of it. Use your strong wing to hit the second serve return as often as you can.
For many, the second serve is the shot that should just go into the proper service box and begin the point. But not for me and my students… To exemplify this I would like you to consider the following: You just missed that first serve and now you are about to get ready for the second one. How do you feel? If you are like most of the players then your first concern would be to get it in to deprive your opponent of a free point. But if you are ready to push it a little further than this and dare to be proactive, the second serve is really about two main aspects:
1. Get the ball in to start the point. 2. Deliver the second serve in a manner that makes it hard for your opponent to attack you.
Now how do we make the second serve hard to attack? Spin and Depth! You thought I was going to say – hit it hard!? 🙂
Yes, spin that ball! Don’t just push it in, spin it! And spin it hard! Consider the following: a ball hit against a wall, flat, straight on, will come back in the same direction (more or less) from where it came; whereas a ball with spin will be carried in the direction the spin dictates.
The spin you impart on your second serve will make it more difficult for the returner to control and attack your served ball. This associated with a deep placement into the service box will give you the perfect combination to get you on a good start for the rally. Now, if you add to the spin and depth the placement to your opponent’s weak side then that’s what I call the ultimate second serve. But I know that that would be pushing the envelope too far for most of the players who read this article.
So, I’ll leave you with this thought: should you spend more time on developing a good slice or topspin second serve?
I have been playing tennis against some of my top juniors and even though I am the more experienced player they can run me about the court and make me pay for a shot that I don’t place tactically right.
Now, in this article, I would like to mention one very important stroke that you should perfect so that you do not begin the point on a defensive situation – the second serve. You just missed your first serve (either in the net, deep or wide) then you see your opponent stepping inside the baseline to attack your second serve… Suddenly you find yourself in trouble: your opponent is going to be all over your second serve and from there on… you are in trouble!
What can you do so that your second serve is not going to put you on defensive mode?
Why slice and not topspin or kick? For the two very simple reasons: 1. Slice (side-spin on the serve) will keep the ball low. As a result, your opponent will have to play the ball hitting up and the chances for him/her to put it away (or attack it) from a low contact point are very slim. 2. The spin will make it harder to control the ball when your opponent returns it. Especially if you are a doubles player; think about serving and volleying… Would you not prefer to hit a slice so that the returner hits the ball up (that sets you up for a high volley)? On the other side, if you choose to go for topspin serve as a second delivery and move up to the net, the returner will attack the high bouncing serve of yours and put it down to your feet.
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