I once played my young instructor, Matt, in a tournament, and was expecting to be “blown” off the court by his serve. Instead, he served with such unpredictability that he essentially “confused” me off the court.
Here’s the “thinking man’s” way to win matches with the serve.
Don’t hit every first serve flat.
Most of my opponents serve in a familiar pattern: Flat first serve, spinny second serve. Flat first serve, spinny second serve. It’s easy to read. But Matt randomly mixed in flat, kick, and slice serves on his first serve. He was very clever to set up off-speed serves with fast, flat ones. When he sensed I was expecting another bullet…and promptly served up a slow but high bouncing serve. The result: an early swing, an error, and another easy point for him.
You probably serve to your opponent’s backhand TOO much.
This is probably the most predictable tactic I find at my level (4.0). And it does work for a while, but on the way to the end of the first set I’ve returned so many serves with my backhand (I usually slice them back) that it actually becomes MORE reliable than my forehand. Serving to the backhand is a fine tactic, but choosing that side any more than 66% of the time is too much.
Disguise your intentions with a hard-to-read ball toss.
What good is a random serving pattern if your opponent can “read” it after a few games? Try to place your toss in the same spot each time regardless of how or where you’re hitting it. Here’s a great discussin on camouflaging your intentions:
Original article as posted on VolleyCam blog: