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
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
Good Luck on the Court!