Updated: Dec 4, 2022
Serving and returning are two of the most critical aspects of professional Tennis, and they're essential in deciding the outcome of a match. Most tennis players and tennis coaches will spend hours practising their baseline game with lots of forehands and backhands.
The truth is, the average tennis rally is just under four shots, with an average of 61% of points lasting this length.
Forget about developing your footwork, don't spend hours hitting from the baseline and focus on the first two shots in the game.
In this blog, we'll explore the stats and facts about serve and Return in professional Tennis and discuss their role in determining the winner of a match.
We'll also look at the effects of the first and the Return of the second serve on the game itself and how they can affect the outcome of a match.
So read on to learn more about the server's critical advantage, how the returner also has a great opportunity and how each situation can help decide the winner of a tennis match!
The role of the Serve and Return in professional Tennis
In professional Tennis, the serve and Return are two of the most critical aspects of the game.
A great serve and Return can make all the difference in a tight match. Just look at professional tennis players like Andy Roddick. An average first serve speed of 155 mph helped him win the US Open in 2003.
A player who can deliver a strong serve and return game is in a much better position to win points and even the match. Andre Agassi never had a big service game, but his Return of serve was legendary and helped him win multiple grand slams on all surfaces.
To succeed in Tennis, players must focus on service delivery and return games.
Statistics of serve and Return in professional tennis players
Start of the point: First Serve
Arguably the most crucial shot in the game, the first serve. The men win 75% of points if they get in the first serve over and in. If you win your service games, you have an excellent opportunity to win the match.
The first shot in the rally can give you a considerable advantage over the returner. The server has the luxury of deciding the direction of the ball when to throw the ball up, to hit a fast serve or a kick serve and take control of the point from the start.
Massive servers like Andy Roddick could hammer down a fast serve to take control of the service game.
The men's first serve is an average of 63% in. As a club player, you should look at 6 out of every 10. Most club players believe they must get 80% or even 90% of serves.
The top men like Djokovic may be serving harder at an average of 120 mph, but you should still be looking at 60% 1st serves in.
Stats are very similar across all the age and ability groups and are, on average, very similar. You can see the boy's ITF average first serve 62%. The quality of the professional game may be higher, but the stats at the club level are very similar.
Key takeaways: Spend time developing good serve technique and the mindset that the first serve has to be a key weapon in their game.
Start of the point: 2nd serve & Return of serve
The second serve gives the returner an excellent opportunity to get to the point. The slower speed, shorter depth and high spin will give the returner more reaction time.
The stats show us that professional tennis players, on average, get 85% of second serves returns in. However, the server now lose 46% of these points. This is a massive drop from the 75% of points won if they successfully make the first serve to a lower 54% if they succeed in getting a second serve in.
The server may now attempt to serve more to their opponent's backhand side, hit a kick serve to try and push their opponent back or slice outside to take away time or space. These are all great options, but the opponent's second serve is not as effective.
Please pay close attention to Novak Djokovic next time you watch him; he will adjust his court position on his opponent's serve by moving forward. The slower serve will give him a lot of time to effectively split step and attack the ball crosscourt or down the line.
At the club level, the second serve is generally just a tap over the net, and this is a big deal for the returner and presents the best way to attack your opponent's serve. It makes no difference if you receive it from the deuce or ad court. You can attack the ball by using directions such as going diagonal back behind the server or hitting a topspin forehand down the line.
Key takeaways: The second serve can’t be a weakness. Spend time developing the quality, placement, and variety to stop it from being over-attacked.
This is the crucial battle; develop the mentality to attack the server and get ahead in the point.
In Tennis, the serve and Return are the two most essential parts of the game.
The serve is the first and most crucial point of contact between the server and the opponent, while the Return is the player's responsibility to return the serve promptly and effectively.
By understanding the role of the serve and return in professional Tennis, you can improve your game significantly.