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Psychology Of Serving In Tennis

Posted by: Dr. Granat on January 29, 2006

A big serve is a huge weapon in tennis. In order to serve well, you need to

have reliable mechanics, an effective pre-serve routine and a range of different serves.

In addition, top servers know how to disguise their serve, so their opponent

can not determine what kind of serve is coming their way.

Furthermore, you need to understand the psychology behind serving well.

In my view there are two kinds of psychology related to serving. The

internal psychology and the external psychology.

The External Psychology

Serving in tennis is a lot like pitching in baseball. In order to be effective as a

pitcher, you need to master a variety of pitches and a variety of pitching locations.

A baseball pitcher needs to keep a batter guessing as to the location of the pitch,

the movement of the pitch and the location of the ball. These same concepts hold

true in tennis when the server needs to keep his or her adversary off balance, confused

and, when possible, guessing wrong.

A great server can move the ball around the serving box with different speeds,

different spins and with great disguise. Being able to serve down the middle,

out wide and into your opponents body makes you a tougher player. In addition,

if you can disguise your serve, you can create a lot pressure for your adversary.

Coming in behind your serve and attacking the net will also help to

guessing as to what you will do next and keep him or her off balance.

Adjusting Your Serve To Attack Your Opponent’s Body Type

In general, taller players have difficulty handling a serve into their body. Tall athletes

like to extend their arms on the ball, so a serve out wide or a serve down the middle

may be easier for them to return effectively, than is s a serve which jams them

Taller players also often find it hard to manage a serve which skids or slides and stays

close to the ground.

Conversely, shorter players tend to handle ball that are served into their body better

than do taller players. Obviously, because of their shorter reach, balls which

require shorter players to extend for are usually more difficult for them to

return. Similarly, balls which kick up high can be tough for diminutive players.

Realize that these are general rules and there are always exceptions to them.

However, you will find it useful to watch tapes of our opponents and see if these

strategies seem to apply to their strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t have access

to tapes, try to evaluate your opponent, by watching him or her play in their


Adjust Your Serve For Different Surfaces

Realize that the tennis ball behaves differently on different surfaces. Clay,

for example will slow down the pace of a big serve. On the other hand, a hard, flat

serve can be a powerful and effective weapon on grass or on a hard court.

Adjusting Your Serve To The Score In The Match

Smart players consider the score when they step to the line to serve. If you

are ahead forty to love, this is time to be aggressive on your first and second

serves. If you are behind in the game or the match, you may need to consider

a different serving strategy.

The Internal Psychology

The internal psychology refers to the players ability to develop the

right mental state for serving effectively. Most tennis players who I coach

want to “serve in the zone.” In order to do this, they need develop a state of

mind in which they are relaxed, focused and confident. I teach tennis pros how

to place themselves in a hypnotic trance prior to serving and how to develop

the right blend of relaxation, focus and confidence.

Once players learn how to integrate tools like relaxation training, visualization,

self-hypnosis and positive self-talk into their serving routine, they tend to serve

quite effectively. These skills are not complicated, but they take a little time and

a little practice. Mastering the mental part of serving is a lot like learning

serving mechanics. I generally teach relaxation techniques first and then

teach people visualization and then self-hypnosis.

Different players require different kinds of mental training and psychological

tools. One tennis player needed a hypnotic trance which helped him to feel

more confident. Another needed to breathe deeply five times before every serve

in order to relax. A female player used hypnosis to eliminate distractions.

Most of these top players use our cd program prior to learn how to get into a mental

state which has the right balance of the three elements mentioned above. This

program has a total of more than twenty trances for serious athletes. The program

emphasizes techniques for developing relaxation, confidence and focus.

To get your copy of this CD program, visit or go to

Chapter 7 is a favorite among tennis players and pros who want to

add more accuracy to their serve.

Once you master the internal and the external psychologies of serving your

game will probably move up a few notches and you will start to win more matches.

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist and the Founder of

Dr. Granat has counseled many world class athletes and has written and lectured

extensively on sports and sport psychology. His articles have appeared in Tennis

magazine and he was recently interviewed by the BBC. His Stay In The Zone program

has been used by thousands of athletes.
He can be reached at
For more information, visit

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