One of the key differences between tennis and other racket sports is the significance of the serve.
In tennis, you can afford to attack the first serve and try to win the point with it, simply because you get another try if you miss it.
Learning how to win points with your second serve is still very important, however, particularly if you are missing a lot of first serves, so in this article we will set out a few of the best tennis second serve tips.
Why Is Second Serve Important In Tennis?
If you are holding your serve comfortably and consistently making a high percentage of first serves, your second serve is probably not that crucial.
For most of us this only happens some of the time at best, so we need a second serve that we can rely on to give us a good chance of winning points when our first serve misfires.
Having a solid second serve can actually improve your first serve too, as it takes the pressure off by removing the feeling that you are in trouble if you miss it.
Tennis Second Serve Grip
A racket handle has an octagonal (8-sided) profile, so the easiest way to describe a grip is to explain how these sides, or ‘bevels‘ as they are known, sit in your hand. The bevels are illustrated and labelled in the diagram below.
The continental grip is widely accepted as being the best grip to use when serving. To hold the racket in this grip, you will place the index knuckle and the heel of the hand approximately on bevel 2. The fingers will be reasonably spread out along the handle when a player is serving.
How Should I Hit A Second Serve?
There is no single answer to this question, as different serves can work for different players. The simplest way to look at it is that you should commit to whichever type of serve you choose to hit.
Equally importantly, you should have a consistent pre-serve routine, giving you the opportunity to clear your mind of any thoughts about the first serve you just missed, and to visualise the way you are going to hit your second serve.
What Is The Best Second Serve In Tennis?
Given that the type of second serve you hit will partly depend on your own style and strengths, there are three popular approaches to second-serving. These are: a slice serve, a topspin serve, or a flattish serve similar to your first serve.
You may vary your choice according to court surface and weather conditions, as for example a slice serve may work best in low, skiddy conditions, while a slow, grippy court surface makes topspin serves more effective.
1. Tennis Slice Second Serve
To hit a slice serve, you need to align your upper body towards the netpost on your dominant side, and toss the ball slightly towards that same side.
You should use a continental grip, and aim to hit the outside of the ball, beginning with the edge of the racket pointing towards the ball and adjusting it slightly as it gets closer, ensuring that the arm is extended at contact.
A well-struck slice serve will stay relatively low and can be difficult for the returner to control.
2. Topspin Second Serve
For a topspin serve, your shoulders need to be aligned approximately perpendicular to the court, and you will once again use a continental grip.
The ball should be tossed relatively close to your head, slightly to your dominant side, and you should strike the ball a few inches below its highest point, with the racket moving upwards to impart topspin and following through to the dominant side.
The topspin serve must be struck aggressively with plenty of racket-head speed, and this will produce a ‘kicking’ serve which is hard to attack on slower courts.
3. Hitting Two First Serves
Some players prefer to maintain an attacking mindset with both serves and choose to hit their second serve as aggressively as their first.
Serve-volleyer Maxime Cressy is an example of a player who likes to dominate all of his service points, and who therefore makes little distinction between first and second serve.
This approach can work well, despite producing more double-faults, as long as you can stay positive and relaxed on big points and continue to attack both serves.
Who Has The Best Second Serve In Tennis?
This question is difficult to answer purely from the readily available statistics, as that for points won on second serve is heavily dependent on who wins the most rallies, meaning that arch-rallier Rafael Nadal is often statistically the best point winner on second serve.
In 2019 a study was done among the top 25 men of who hit the most unreturned second serves, which is potentially a better measure of serve quality, and John Isner topped the table with 24.9%, just ahead of (surprisingly) Cristian Garin, with Roger Federer in third place.
Tennis second serve tips Summary
We have set out some key tennis second serve tips in this article. To summarise, in brief:
– An effective second serve is crucial if you aim to win consistently
– Maintaining a continental grip will help your serve
– Make sure you have an effective pre-serve routine, and commit to the serve
– Slice serves are simple to hit and tricky to return
– Topspin serves are good for slow courts, and can be hit safely and aggressively
– Hitting both serves like first serves can work well if you can stay positive and relaxed
– John Isner has a great second serve, but, if you are not that tall, look at what Cristian Garin does
Spending time working on your second serve will definitely benefit your matchplay, whatever your level.
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