The most important stroke in tennis. There are opinions that this is a serve. There are people who say it is return. Modern coaches like to pick forehand as the most important stroke in tennis. Where is the truth? I think it is not vital to have a debate about which one is the first, which is the second etc. All these strokes are important and we have to spend a lot of hours on the court to make them our strengths. One fact is undeniable: each point starts with the serve so you have to know how to use it to your favour.
Being able to effectively perform technical movement of serve is a basic. That is why so many coaches spend a lot of time on technical repetitions while working on the serve to make sure that players don’t have visible flaws in this coordinated movement. But this is the first step. The next one is to develop tactical awareness of serve because only good strategy can get benefits of magnificent technical efficiency. If you don’t know why you serve in the proper direction you will never reach the top of tennis world. You can have the best technique but it won’t be effective if it is not connected with strategy.
Strategy is different for every player. It depends mostly on their strengths and weaknesses. Considering own skills players should use specific serves to use strong points and avoid possible troubles. That is why some players use more flat serves to the T while others specialize in wide kick serves. Your body pays also a crucial role according to the serving strategy. If you are a tall player you will have more opportunities to create advantage with your serve than your shorter peers. All these factors confirm that serve is not the universal stroke but it has to be specifically designed to fit particular athlete.
So let’s go back to the title. Wide serve means placing the ball close to the sideline of the service box. Why do we need this option? Let’s look at possible benefits:
This is the basic strategy why we should have wide serve in our arsenal. Each player has some weaknesses and there is a big chance that one of them will be forehand or backhand. It simply means that we should use opportunity to start the point to put the first ball to the opponent’s weakest side. With this tactic we can be sure that our rival won’t give us troubles and we can also count on many weak responses or even unforced mistakes.
Opening the court
Another benefit of putting the ball close to the sideline of the service box is an ability to open the court for the next shot. As we know well-placed wide serve will put the opponent way outside the single court so there is a lot of space for us to put the next shot and create an advantage. This strategy can be used to put opponent on the run or to hit straight winners. Developing specific responses after good wide serves lead to hitting automatically during the match so players should strive to have as many trained patterns as possible.
Being effective on different surfaces
The better you play the more you will compete on different surfaces. Playing at clay is not the same as playing on hard court. If you know how to compete on both courts you have to still improve your skills because there are also carpet and grass courts. Top tennis players have a lot of skills that allow them to quickly adapt to new playing environment and use them to own advantage. Flat wide serves are recommended on hard court, slice wide seves are better on carpet and grass courts, and kick serve is the favorite pick for clay courts. Having many varieties in your arsenal will make you a complete player and allow you to win on all courts.
What are you waiting for? Go and work on your wide serve!
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.