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3 Choices of Placing the Serve
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

When serving in singles or in doubles you have three different choices of where you can place your serve in the service box. Where you choose to place the serve should depend on your opponent's strengths and weaknesses as well as your ability to mix up the placement of the serve. Mixing up the placement of your serve will not allow your opponent to get into a groove and keep them guessing where you might serve next. To always serve in the same spot is a mistake. Your opponent will be ready for the serve and be more likely to hit winners more often. Your three choices are as follows: Out wide, Down the Middle (Down the "T") and at your opponent (Into the body). Each of these three options have their own advantages and disadvantages, which can vary depending on your opponent's strengths. Below we will take a look at the three options in depth.

Serving Out Wide:
Serving out wide can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage. If your opponent is not quick on his/her feet, dragging them off the court with a wide serve can create an easy point for you. Serving out wide creates a wide open court for you to put away an easy winner if your opponent's return of serve is weak. If you are playing a slower player they may not be able to reach the ball, or they may not be able to prepare to hit the ball as effectively as they may like. If you are a serve and volley player this serve gives you a lot of open court to put a volley away. If you are a baseliner than it gives you a lot of open court to hit the winner, or to hit the ball in the opposite corner and be in control of the point.

The disadvantage of serving out wide is that you have created an angle by hitting out wide. Now your opponent has a shot in which they too can return the ball at an angle, so be ready! Do not think because you pulled your opponent out of the court that his/her return will be back down the middle. You now have to watch the down the line shot and at the same time be prepared to cover the cross court angle. This is especially true for serve and volley players b/c you will have less time to react to your opponent's return. When serving out wide the ball has a longer distance to travel than serving down the middle. This means the ball will have to encounter more wind resistance which will cause the ball to slow down before the opponent gets to the serve. The net height is also higher at the ends than it is in the middle, so you have less room for error serving out wide.

Serving Down the Middle (Down the "T"):
Serving down the middle of the court, or "down the 'T"', eliminates the angles that your opponent can hit. With this serve you can expect more balls to be returned down the middle. This makes it easier to serve and volley, however you do not have the open court to hit the volley into. If your opponent hits a return down the middle, you can take advantage of this and hit to your opponent's weaker side and start to control the point. If you can plan on where your opponent is going to hit the return of serve this can help you to be aggressive and win the point. Another advantage of serving down the middle is the height of the net. At the middle of the court the net is at its lowest point. This will allow you to have more margin for error on the serve. Also when serving down the middle the travel distance for the ball is shorter than serving out wide. This means the serve will be traveling at a faster pace when it gets to the opponent due to less wind resistance.

The downfall to serving down the middle is that there is no open court to hit the ball into. You will have to create a tougher angle to hit a clean winner.

Serving at Your Opponent:
Serving into the body of you opponent, if done well, handcuffs the opponent not allowing him to step into the ball and hit back a hard shot. This would allow you to approach the net on a weak return, or control the point from the baseline. If the serve is executed correctly it does not let your opponent easily come up with a great angle to hit a winner which can give you the control of the point.

There are 2 choices of placement which may get you in deep trouble. These two would be directly to the opponent's forehand or backhand. You will have to hit the ball at your opponent's body to effectively jam him/her. If you are off by a foot or so they may be able to easily step out of the way and pound a return within their comfort zone! I heard an analogy once that helped to see the 3 good choices vs. the 2 poor choices. Hold out your right hand (with your fingers extended) towards the deuce service box. All 5 fingers represent choices of placement. The 2 bad choices would be the ring finger and the index finger.

In addition to the 3 different options of serve placement there are the 4 different types of serves. This will help you to mix up your types of serves and truly keep your opponent guessing. If your opponent gets used to one serve in the same spot you could be in deep trouble. To read in more detail about the 4 different types of serves click here.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker