I’ve just returned from Wimbledon, my second Grand Slam event of the year! The contrast with the French Open is striking. I enjoyed Roland Garros, but compared to Wimbledon it’s looking a little tired & frayed around the edges. However both tournaments have served up some wonderful tennis & I have been fortunate enough to have watched five rain free days of world class matches.
As in Paris, I was able to get front row seats which really do give you a sense of the speed at which the modern game is played. It was interesting to observe players’ serves as there was a huge disparity between the fastest & the slowest. The best servers regularly hit 130mph + with Raonic averaging 127mph against Federer in the semi-final.
A strong server will always get some cheap points & I have always felt as a player, coach & spectator that a weak serve is really debilitating. It allows opponents to step in & take the initiative on the return giving them confidence on a shot that should be the toughest they’ll face.
I have to say, some of the slower serves surprised me. Andy Murray’s second serve averaged 86mph against Dimitrov & although he’s imparting a lot of spin on it, this is still not a great second serve speed. Some of the women’s serves were really poor. I watched the 3rd round Ladies Doubles match between Hsieh/Peng & Babos/Mladenovic & was astonished to see 62mph second serves from Hsieh.
Most male club players & many female club players can achieve better speeds than this! Slow serves cause major problems for the server’s partner as returners can take pot-shots off serves this slow. Hseih/Mladenovic lost in three sets but was always on the back foot when Hseih served; so much so that her partner stood on the baseline for second serves!
At any level, the serve can be a weapon or a liability. Take some time out to practise yours. If you play doubles your partner will thank you for it.