Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lesson : Don't Fear To Serve Double Faults

Many players try to avoid them. Here's what you should do instead.

1. Be Confident In 1995, Boris Becker promised me a big bonus if he won a top-level clay title. In the Monte Carlo final, he had match point against Thomas Muster in the fourth-set tiebreaker. Becker went for a 122-m.p.h. second serve and missed by two inches.

He lost the fifth set at love, and there went my bonus. But Becker did the right thing: His serve was his biggest weapon, and he didn’t hold back. The second serve is a confidence shot, and no one hit it more confidently than Becker. That’s the attitude you need to strive for; you can only get there by learning to accept double faults.

2. Play On Your Terms You can’t afford to be on the defensive when you serve. If you hit one dinky second serve after another, you’re not going to control too many points. Look at the double fault this way: If you hit one, at least you’re losing the point on your terms, not your opponent’s. You want to call the shots when you serve.

3. Go After It In Matches You can hit thousands of second serves in practice, but once the match starts, it will feel different. There’s more pressure in competition. It’s important to go after your second serves in a match because that’s where you need this weapon most. You may lose a few matches on double faults and feel like pulling your hair out, but that's O.K. It's for your own good.

4. Take It To Tough Returners The return game has improved immensely both on the pro tour and at the club level. It used to be that only Andre Agassi was a dangerous returner from both wings. Now almost every top pro can crush a weak second serve, no matter where it’s placed. At the club level, modern racquets and strings give the returner more stability, which in turn results in more power and fewer mishits. So if you hit a terrible second serve, it’s almost as bad as a double fault.

You need to make your second serve as solid as possible. If that means a few double faults along the way, so be it. 5. Look Ahead Losing because of double faults will make you miserable. But cheer up, you’re preparing for the future, not worrying about the present, and that’s the best way to improve. Some people call the serve the easiest shot in tennis, because you have complete control over it.

But it’s the toughest shot, too, since all the pressure is on you. If you double fault, there’s no one to blame but yourself. It takes time and lots of setbacks to learn to believe in yourself. The sooner you get started, the better.

By : Nick Bollettieri has trained many collegiate and professional players, including 10 who reached the world No. 1 ranking.

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