#1 Eight Serve Locations

 Let’s copy Roger. Roger that 

The 8 Serve Locations

Always start in deuce court out wide and work your way across the court.

 Roger Federer – 2010 Australian Open Serve Patterns 

Does Roger have patterns to his serve? You bet he does!

1st Serves 

Here is the mother load on serve location from analyzing every 1st serve Roger Federer hit at the 2010 Australian Open from the Rd 16 onwards against the following four opponents:

2010 Australian Open Opponent Score
Round 16Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
Quarter FinalNicolay Davydenko2-6, 6-3, 6-0 7-5
Semi Final Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
Final Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11)
Roger Federer played very, very well at the 2010 Australian Open.

In the 4 matches I analyzed from the Rd 16 to the final Federer only dropped one set.

After winning the final, Federer had this to say:

When I came on tour, matches were played very differently. It was more of a bluff game, guys serving well, but there was always a weakness you could go to. Today that doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s also thanks to guys like Murray. They’ve made me a better player, because I think this has been one of my finest performances, you know, in a long time, or maybe forever.Roger Federer

WOW that will make you sit up and take notice.

From deeply analyzing the 4 matches, I completely agree with Federer’s assessment of his own game. Federer was on. Really, really on. He was playing well, his mind was sharp, and he was making extremely good decisions on the court. His game was flying. It is important to understand that, because it gives value to the statistical analysis.

These numbers don’t represent a player struggling. They represent a player dominating.

The following analysis of Federer’s game represents him completely and utterly in his element – in his prime. Therefore this analysis provides a road map for us to understand what works when Federer is putting together one of his finest performances ever.

Federer 1st Serves Made – Deuce Court 

Federer’s runaway favorite 1st serve in the deuce court is a wide slider to Position 1. He hit almost double this amount than the next highest – Position 4. And that was double the amount than the next highest to Position 3. And then there is Position 2, which only had 6 serves there in 14 sets. It would not be a stretch to say these serves were all meant for Position 1, but failed to find their mark.

So now we have unlocked one of his secrets. The question is why does he go to Position 1 so much?

The answer to this question can be found in the court position of both players when Federer makes contact with his next shot after the serve – what we like to call Serve + 1. I analyzed around 50 pro matches looking only at serves to Position 1, the court position of the returner, the quality of the return, and how much control the serve to Position 1 offers. The results were jaw dropping. Even though the serve is going to a righty’s forehand to Position 1, nobody – repeat, nobody – can consistently hit a good return off it. In fact, it’s very difficult to find any good returns.

The benefits are:

  • It’s a high percentage serve to hit – slice dominates over power.
  • The return is nearly always weak, even though it’s to the forehand.
  • It opens up the backhand for the next shot (primary pattern).
  • You can also go behind the player on the next shot (secondary pattern).

Federer is not the only player that has figured the wonderful benefits of serving 1st serves to Position 1. He just happens to be one of the best ever at executing it, and making the right decisions on the next shot.

Federer 1st Serves Made – Ad Court

Federer still prefers the wide serve in the Ad, but he goes a little more body in the Ad than the deuce.

The tactic is still exactly the same, but the numbers are not as clearly defined. Make no mistake about it, Federer still prefers to serve out wide to force a weak return and open up the court, but there is a little more mix and use of the surprise (secondary) serves to the T and body.

4 MatchesWide 1 & 8Body FH 2 & 6Body BH 3 & 7T 4 & 5
1st Serve110212964
Percentages 50%9%13%28%
1st Serve Summary: Roger Federer has been the best in the world the past several years mainly because of these patterns.

50% of all first serves go wide on each side to force a weak return, and open up the court for the next shot. 28% of all serves go down the T. Serving at the body is a secondary pattern to mix and surprise. There would also be an element of body serves that were actually meant to go wide, but missed their spot.

It is not easy to exactly pin-point the greatness of Roger Federer. Well, I think we are a few steps closer now than what we were.

2nd Serves

Federer 2nd Serves Made – Deuce Court

Pretty clear cut here.  Serving to the safety of the backhand jam (Position 3) is the favorite spot in the deuce court for Federer. It’s a high percentage serve nowhere near the center line or side line, and goes in tight to the opponent’s backhand. Almost two out of three 2nd serves go to this spot. I was amazed when I first started analyzing 2nd serve location with how the elite players gravitated to Positions 3 and 7 on 2nd serves.

Federer 2nd Serves Made – Ad Court

The Ad court shows a little more variety but not much.

Federer again hits exactly hits 62% of his 2nd serves to the safety of the backhand jam – Position 7 in the Ad court. It’s a staple on both sides of the court. The serve wide to Position 8 is a little easier to hit for the right hander, so he goes a little wider to the backhand, but not nearly as much as you might expect.

Go Do This

The better you become as a player, the less patterns you run – especially serving.

1st Serve Primary Locations – Positions 1 and 8.

2nd Serve Primary Locations – Positions 3 and 7. 

Smart to serve more at the body starting a match to get a high % in. 

Also serve body when you need to make a 1st serve.

Serving at targets is by far the best way to improve this area.

Before Rajeev Ram’s 2012 Wimbledon doubles QF vs. the Bryans I  put a ball can down at the following locations:

Position 1 – he hit it 1st try.

Position 4 – he hit it 1st try.

Position 5 – he hit it 2nd try.

Position 8 – he hit it 1st try.