Friday, December 2, 2022

To choose or not to choose?




Doug Browne

In most cases, it has only been a brief five or ten minute warm up and it’s time to make a critical decision! Who is going to serve, receive, or are we going to leave the decision to our opponents? Oddly enough, far too many people over-think this decision and find it compelling to not make a decision; better yet, we will trick our foes and have them make the all-important verdict. Without a doubt, this has to be the most ridiculous idea in the game of tennis.

Just like in life, avoiding resolutions is a cop-out. Quickly abandon this approach and learn to choose one over the other. With any luck, someone on your team has learned something from warm up and can shed a little light on this matter. In most situations, the team is well aware of their strengths and weaknesses and can make a simple response on whether to serve or to receive. As we assess CTA or USTA 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 teams, most people are not big servers. Yes, there are few exceptions but most recreational players receive well but struggle with their serves.

As we analyze the WTA stars, Serena William’s serve is the best in history. Ironically, the number one player, Victoria Azarenka serves well but clearly does not have a dominant serve. She can struggle with double-faulting and must back up her serve with tenacious groundstrokes. Therefore, it is clear that it is wise to choose to return serve verses electing to serve when one wins the toss.

There are few exceptions to this rule. Just last month, I was observing a 3.5 women’s doubles match and did witness a woman serving at least 80 miles per hour. However, she had absolutely no clue how to use her power and struggled to hold serve. Specifically, she served to her opponent’s forehand the entire match in the deuce court and then served to the backhand every time in the advantage court. One does not need to be Einstein to figure out her basic patterns; our Hideaway Beach ladies easily figured out her serves and broke her over and over as they won the match.

Another great reason to return serve first is due to one’s nerves… if you are so nervous that you and your teammate cannot function, it is okay to drop the first game and come back and then hold. (Serve) As we analyze the men’s 3.5 division, a small percentage of men have dominant serves. However, most, if not all of the men have solid returns and excellent strategy. For example, many men run around their backhands and hit forceful forehand drives which helps set up their teammate.

Additionally, several competitors return and quickly move into the net to apply pressure to their foes. The bottom line is that it is common to see the return team gain a solid edge with their return games. Therefore, just about every league player who plays at the 2.5-3.5 levels should highly consider the return game to begin the contest. As men delve into the 4.0 and higher levels, more and more players possess an effective topspin or ‘kick’ serve and know how to win simple points. Either the net player is aggressive and poaches well or the server moves into the net and gains an edge with this solid strategy. When the server has the talent to control a point, never hesitate with the toss.

In summary, most competitive league tennis players should seriously consider the receiving option when winning the racket or coin toss. Let me know how this strategy affects your game. Good luck!

Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback. 

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