There are few things in tennis as belittling as not being able to start a point because you cannot serve the ball into that giant service box on the other side of the net. From top touring pros to beginners starting matchplay, the dreaded double fault is always in the back of a players mind, especially under pressure. So how do you deal with doubles faults and what can you do to help prevent them?
This article specifically targets the second serve, not technically but your mental preparation and the strategy you incorporate when using it. Firstly, a second serve by nature is not as aggressive as the first serve, the risk is inherently higher so getting the ball in the box is first priority. This requires more control, and to achieve maximum control on any shot in tennis you must use spin. It always comes back to spin doesn’t it!
There are 4 ways you can hit a second serve. You can hit a flat, slice, topspin or kick serve. The flat and slice serves have the lowest net clearance of the four and they are the riskiest. The topspin and kick serves have the highest net clearance and they are the safest. For the average club player the kick serve is the hardest to master and it can take years to truly develop a good moving kick, so for someone who needs to upgrade from the flat push second serve I would recommend moving toward a slice or topspin serve. The slice serve is the easiest of the spin serves to develop because the ball toss doesn’t vary as much as it does when you hit a topspin or kick serve.
So, now that you have a good second serve how can you limit your double faults? The mental side of the game cannot be ignored, especially under pressure and especially in relation to the second serve. Before you start feeling too bad, remember that Anna Kournikova once served 31 double faults in the second round of the Australian open in 1999 (For the record, she still won the match).
The Mental Trick
What happens when you think about double faulting? You double fault. This happens because you tighten up and it affects your technique and your overall execution of the stroke. A good second serve needs to be loose and relaxed so you can generate enough racquet head speed to spin the ball in the box. Good servers always accelerate through the serve, they never decelerate!
Thinking about the serve you are about to hit through the stoke is a sure fire way to affect it negatively. The trick to taking the pressure off of yourself is to visualize the serve and the second shot. Boris Becker was known to visualize every serve before he hit it, helping him execute exactly how he wanted. This is a great tool that many players at all levels neglect. Visualizing the shot after the serve helps take the pressure off the serve you are about to hit and gets you ready to start the point on your terms, after all you control how the point starts when you are serving.
Try using this mental trick during your matches and not only will you be able to limit the free points you give your opponent but your second serve will actually become more aggressive as you strive to set up the following shot.
Good luck and see you on the courts!
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