All the great servers on tour– Isner, Karlovic, Federer, Tsonga and Cilic, for example–have one thing in common; they use their serve to set up the next shot. To explain that a little bit further, let’s use Tsonga’s kick/spin serve wide.
With this strategy, he pushes his opponent way off the court and gets either a harmless short ball, which he puts away cross court with his forehand, or the return goes to the ad side and he runs around his backhand to hit an inside in forehand.
Another great example is Rafael Nadal’s slice serve from the ad side. With his slice wide he pushes his opponents extremely wide of the court, then moves a couple of steps towards the deuce side to hit an inside out forehand. With this strategy, he hurt a lot of players on the tour and left them without any answers on the return.
Last but not least, the slice serve into the body of the returner.
This is a powerful weapon, which most of the time forces a short ball as return and allows the server to put it away easily, or use the weak return to transition to the net and finish the point with a volley.
Serving with a purpose applies to doubles in the same way.
No matter what your level of playing is, there are certain ways to create advantages with the right serve selection.
A very efficient way to serve in doubles is to serve to the “T”, for the following reasons:
• You don’t give your opponent a great angle to pass you or your partner at the net after your serve
• Your partner can be more aggressive at the net and move towards the middle before your serve to poach
• Having your partner moved more to the middle on your serve can make the returner nervous and force more return errors.
• This is most effective on the deuce side when playing a right handed returner, since the backhand is usually weaker.