The Importance of a PreServe Routine

Published 8/24/2008 4:03:30 PM by Shane Barrow from Dallas, Texas

The tennis serve is considered by most tennis experts to be the most important shot in the game of tennis. After all, if you can serve well and hold your serve during a match then you cannot lose, or at the very least you will end up in a tie-break situation.  It is also the one and only shot in the game that you have total control over.  Unlike every other shot and situation that occurs during a tennis match where you are reacting to the shot of your opponent, the serve is the first shot of every point and as such gives an opportunity to the server to deliver the ball in a manner that totally suits them.

The direction, the pace, the spin etc. is totally at the mercy of and is the decision of the server and no one else.  It is for this reason alone that you should make full use of this fact and develop a delivery that can at least put you in the driving seat for the point if you don't manage to hit an ace or unreturnable delivery. The big thing that most players overlook is the fact that just as the physical actions that make up the serve itself need to be practised, so do the physical and mental elements that surround the preparation of the shot in order to maximise it's effectiveness.

This means the development of a physical and mental pre-shot routine to help you reproduce the best serve you can again and again and again and again.  All of the top players use pre-serve routines before every serve. This ranges from the very simple ball bouncing of Roger Federer to the complex almost compulsive sock, hair and pants adjusting routine of Rafa Nadal.  Just as no two players have the same forehands and backhands or indeed service actions, there are also differences between all the players in regard to their physical pre-serve routines even though they all will share some fundamentals such as:

I. Taking up of a comfortable stance.

II. Ball bouncing and/or some kind of regulated motion for rhythm.

III. Visually honing in on the target area.

The same can also be said of the mental pre-serve preparation, where important elements include:

I. Positive decision making about where to hit the serve.

II. Deciding what type of serve to hit.

III. Visualization of the balls flight to the target.

After that it is just a matter of letting go and trusting yourself. The worst mistake you can make is to try to push or guide the ball to the target.  So, try to develop a pre-serve routine for yourself that you are comfortable with that fits in with your personality, learning type and game style. This will help it to become more natural and therefore reproducible in stressful situations.  Practice it every time you serve (even when you are just practicing), so that it becomes automatic and this will ensure that when you need it most, your serve will be the one thing you can count on for success.  Make it count - remember this shot is 100% down to you!