February 19, 2024 - The Laziness of Simple Serves

When coaching or rooting for a player, why does is sometimes seem like every opponent has nasty serves that your player struggles to return, while your player just serves to keep the ball in play? It’s even worse if you are the player with simple serves, while the opponent is throwing all sorts of nastiness at you. It puts you at a huge disadvantage.

Yes, it’s easy to learn a simple serve that players your level can’t easily attack. But the lesson you should learn is that if opponents can develop really good serves, so can you. Yes, YOU! It’s just a matter of learning how to do them (the easy part) and practicing them a lot (the hard part).

Many good serves look seemingly simple, and yet are not. For example, some players specialize in backspin and no-spin serves, where they go back and forth. The serve itself seems simple, right? But what makes it effective is their ability to hide which of the two it is. They serve with heavy spin while seemingly not putting that much effort into it (they snap their wrists into it vigorously with a fine grazing motion), and to serve with a big, spinny motion that actually has little spin (by contacting the ball near the handle, where the racket isn’t moving very fast). When you watch world-class players using seemingly simple serves, it’s anything but that.

Next time you face someone whose serves give you trouble, why not ask them how they do their serves? Most players would be flattered by this. Learn how it’s done, then practice until you can do it yourself. One interesting side benefit that was pointed out to me by five-times US Men’s Champions Dan Seemiller – when you learn how to do a serve, you also learn how to return it. I’ve found this to be true, both because I understand what the serve is doing, and because I see how opponents return it effectively.

When I see someone with good serves, I don’t think, “He only wins because of his serve,” as some do. I think, “This guy’s been practicing his serve! I better get to work so I can catch up or stay ahead!”