Do you always choose to “serve” after winning the spin before your matches?
If so you’re often giving up a HUGE tactical advantage and likely missing a lot of queues that your opponent doesn’t want you to notice.
That all stops today and tomorrow as we dive into the tactical, strategical, and mental sides of making the right choice after each warm up.
Today we’re going to focus on the psychology and math of this pivotal decision, and tomorrow we’ll cover all the tactical factors that are critical to be aware of.
For some reason there’s a kind of unspoken assumption that serving first comes with a big scoreboard advantage in the set…
As if you’re starting a race 30 seconds before the person running next to you.
The bottom line is this: regardless of if you serve first or second you still need a break of serve to win each set without a tie breaker.
To illustrate that here’s the road map to winning a set each way:
When you serve first: Hold, break, hold, hold, hold, hold.
When you serve second: Break, hold, hold, hold, hold, hold.
Whether you serve first or second you still need to break once and hold 5 times to win the set by two!
So why does it FEEL like such an advantage to serve first??
I think talking through it clears up a lot of false assumptions…
The first and most obvious reason why serving first feels like an advantage is it gives you an extra cushion on the scoreboard if you hold, break, and then hold again.
Here’s what I mean…
If you win the toss, elect to serve, and then hold, break, hold then you’re ahead by 3-0.
Already half way to winning the set and your opponent isn’t even on the scoreboard. Half way to a bagel!
On the other hand, if you win the toss, elect to return, immediately break and then consolidate by holding your own serve then you’re only up 2-0. If you opponent successfully holds on their next service game a 2-1 lead doesn’t feel like a big lead…
But is IS!
That break of serve is massive because it gives you the two game lead you need to win the set if you keep holding serve.
And so, at the end of the day winning 6-3 (one break when you served first) feels like a more decisive win than 6-4 (one break when they served first) but they both required one break and 5 holds of serve.
The Mind Game
Now that you understand winning a set both ways requires the same amount of games won, simply in a different order, you can start messing with your opponent’s minds!
Well, tennis culture says that when you win the toss at the end of the warm up you should elect to serve.
It’s the choice that says “I’m confident, I’m feeling good, I’m going to take charge of this match!”.
Do yourself a favor and drop the macho pretense…
Confidently saying “I’ll receive” will get the wheels turning inside your opponent’s head immediately.
That little voice in their head is going to be yelling “What do they know that I don’t??”.
The answer to that question is going to be “a lot” after you read tomorrow’s email!
I’ll be breaking down the FOUR elements you should be analyzing, breaking down, and factoring into your decision of whether or not to serve or receive.
Neither one is always the right choice, but today’s message along with tomorrow’s is going to give you everything you need to pick the right one as frequently as possible.
Is this helpful? Did you learn a new perspective?
If so comment below and let me know!
I’ll be back tomorrow with all four considerations you should have in mind during your next warm up.