A traditional tennis adage says, "you are only as good as your second serve." Without question, this preaching is wholly true as any tennis teaching professional will tell you.
At any level, the capacity of a player to develop and integrate a consistent and more crucially, an insusceptible second serve, is vital in maintaining a stable service game.
Let's consider the aspects and resultant implications regarding the second serve.
The second serve is the weak link within the course of a point
If you were to chart the speed and depth of shots throughout the course of a large sample of points, you would undoubtedly observe that the second serve is the weakest and shortest shot observed. Inherent in the fact that the serve must land within a designated area being the service box, depth is commonly an issue players face when hitting second serves.
In supplement, the idea that the second serve is a must make shot forces a natural tendency to reduce pace and increase spin for the purpose of accessing a high rate of consistency.
Rarely will you see players excel on serve when lacking an unreliable and/or fragile second serve as they are immediately forced into defensive positions and yield no room for dictation over a vast amount of second serve points.
The second serve is most ideally used as a weapon
This statement is seemingly obvious in nature, but surprisingly enough, the second serve is far and away used simply to start points rather than gain an upper edge at a crucial juncture of the point.
The server always has the advantage hence why the term to characterize a steady progression of even play throughout the course of a match is "on serve" rather than "on return."
So this leaves an important question begging: Why not use the second serve as a forceful medium of offense rather than a neutral, watered-down version of your first serve? This is not to say it would be advisable to hit two first serves, so to speak, but positions of vulnerability yielded by weak second serves are disadvantageous on the tennis court.
A classic example of a player who took the second serve and truly used it to his advantage was Pete Sampras, who arguably possessed the most potent and effective serve in tennis history, with Sampras even once stating, "I had the best second serve in the game."
An impetus to developing such a powerful serve may have came in the form of Andre Agassi. Taking into account that Agassi is in the minds of many the greatest returner in history, Sampras had no other choice but to approach his second serve with great volition.
The data speaks for itself
Excluding the top four on the men's sides, the names that reign the upper echelons of percentage second serve points won should not surprise you.
Names like Isner, Raonic, Del Potro and Anderson are recognizable within this statistical subset as players who unrelentingly infuse their second serve as a weapon rather than a gashing liability.
Check out the full list here.
From a personal perspective, I would rather lose a tennis match as a result of high quality play from my opponent rather than a structural collapse physically, technically or mentally on my own part.
As evidenced in this article, one way to safeguard against this self-inflicted oblivion is to produce a second serve that provides the greatest amount of opportunity to fasten an ideal amount of control over second serve points.
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