#3 Serve + 1

 This is a stat you are not going to see anywhere else 

Combine the Serve & the 1st shot after the serve into 1 unit.

Don’t think of the serve as just a one-way weapon. Too often we think of the primary role of the serve is to crush aces. Well, when you look at the top 14 ace totals on the ATP Tour 8 of those players lost the match. Hitting aces is not all it’s cracked up to be because you still have to have a plan for the majority of the points that still have to be played in the match.

The serve is much better thought of as a multifaceted weapon that can deliver an ace, force a return error or develop into a tactic called Serve + 1 where the serve and the first shot after the serve are considered one unit.

You want to be hitting your serve and then your strength, which is mostly going to be your forehand. The best players in the world are looking to hit a forehand as the first shot after the serve. Double teaming the strength of the serve and the strength of the forehand into one maneuver establishes the most control of the point. Forehands account for around 85% of ground-stroke winners and are the best weapon to force errors from opponents. That’s a huge deal because as we have already seen in our fundamentals at least 70% of points in tennis end in an error.

The majority of the time the ball is coming back after a serve. What are you going to do then?

Men = approx 2 out of 3.
Women = approx 3 out of 4. 

 2012 U.S. Open Analytics 

 Men Unreturned Serves = 32.0% 

 Women Unreturned Serves = 23.8% 

Men Unreturned Serves = 6121/19128
Women Unreturned Serves = 2343/9824

 Player Focus – Rafael Nadal 

 If you copy only one thing from Rafa – this is it.

Think back to a match – any match – where you watched Rafael Nadal. There is a lot of amazing things he does on a tennis court but the thing that stands out the most is his obsession with starting a point with Serve + 1.

Year Event Rd Opponent W/LScore Serve + 1 FH %Winning %
2014 Australian OpenSemiRoger FedererW7-6 (4) 6-3, 6-373% (45/62)69% (31/45)
2013US OpenFinalNovak DjokovicW6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-178% (76/97)58% (44/76)
2013MontrealFinalMilos RaonicW6-2, 6-291% (20/22)70% (14/20)
2013 Cincinnati QtrRoger FedererW5-7, 6-4,6-3 75% (51/68)71% (36/51)
2013Roland Garros FinalDavid FerrerW6-3, 6-2, 6-359% (37/63)65% (24/37)
2013RomeFinalRoger FedererW6-1, 6-363% (17/27)59% (10/17)
2013MadridFinalStan WawrinkaW6-2, 6-4 89% (26/29)80% (21/26)
2013Monte Carlo Final Novak Djokovic L6-2, 7-6 (1) 67% (23/34)60% (14/23)
2013Indian WellsFinalJ.M. Del PotroW4-6, 6-3, 6-485% (53/62)66% (35/53)
2012Roland GarrosFinalNovak DjokovicW6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-580% (63/78)50% (32/63)
2012RomeFinalNovak DjokovicW7-5, 6-383% (47/56)61% (29/47)
2012 Monte CarloFinalNovak DjokovicW6-3, 6-181% (18/22)72% (13/18)
2010 TorontoRd 3 Kevin Anderson W6-2, 7-6(6)72% (29/40)65% (19/29)
2010 Roland GarrosFinalRobin Soderling W6-4, 6-3, 6-483% (56/77)64% (36/56)
2010WimbledonFinalTomas BerdychW6-3, 7-5, 6-489% (48/54)70% (34/48)
2010RomeSemiErnests GulbisW6-4, 3-6, 6-478% (54/69)61% (33/54)
2010 Rome Rd16Victor Hanescu W6-3, 6-2 85% (40/47)62% (25/40)
2010Monte CarloRd16Michael BerrerW6-0, 6-192% (26/28)84% (22/26)

 Nadal Average Serve + 1 Forehands = 78.2% 

 Nadal Average Serve + 1 Forehands Winning % = 64.3% 


2010 Wimbledon Final. 

Rafael Nadal def. Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4
  • Rafa hit 89% Serve + 1 forehands.
  • He hit 48 Serve + 1 forehands  and only 6 Serve + 1 backhands.
  • After 34 first serves Nadal hit a forehand 30 times.
  • After 20 second serves Nadal hit a forehand 18 times.
  • Berdych hit 66% forehands as the first shot after the serve but was only able to win 49% of those points.
  • Berdych hit 18 backhands as the first shot, which was almost triple the amount that Nadal hit. It was crystal clear Nadal was trying to force this tactic on Berdych. An amazing stat is that from those 18 first shot Berdych backhands Nadal hit 14 forehands on the very next shot. That shows that Nadal is purposely trying to hit it to Berdych’s backhand on the first shot after the serve so he can then get a forehand, and control of the point on his first shot after his return. The inner workings of a genius.
  • After 1st serves Berdych hit 84% (21/25) Serve + 1 forehands. After 2nd serves that dropped dramatically to 50% (14/28) as Nadal targeted Berdych’s backhand (Nadal was at 90% on 2nd serves).

2010 Roland Garros Final. 

Rafael Nadal def. Robin Soderling  6-4, 6-3, 6-4
  • Nadal hit 83% Serve + 1 forehands and only 17% Serve + 1 backhands.
  • Soderling hit 77% Serve + 1 forehands and 23% Serve + 1 backhands.
  • Nadal won 64% (36/56) Serve + 1 forehands and 54% (6/11) Serve + 1 backhands.
  • Soderling won 44% (20/45) Serve + 1 forehands and 54% (7/13) Serve + 1 backhands.

2013 Cincinnati Final.

Rafael Nadal def. John Isner  7-6 (8), 7-6 (3)
  • Nadal hit a serve and a forehand 86% (45/52) of the time.
  • Isner hit a serve then a forehand 94% (48/51) of the time.
  • Both players combined to hit an astonishing 92.0%  (93/101) Serve + 1 forehands for the match.

 You have the numbers. Now listen to the great man 

My serve worked very, very good. Sure, I had a few free points with the serve. But most important thing, after the serve, I had the chance to go inside with my forehand a lot of times, so this makes a big difference, no?Rafael Nadal. 2012 Monte Carlo
My serve percentage is high. That’s important, especially on this kind of surface, on grass. And then, I think, my first shot after the serve is a good one, normally—that first forehand is a good one, and that’s a big advantage.”Rafael Nadal. 2010 Wimbledon

 2012 Wimbledon Final: Roger Federer def. Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 

The Swiss Maestro is back. 

Roger Federer stepped up big time to defeat Andy Murray in a dream return to form. He also passed Pete Sampras the next week as the owner of most weeks at #1 in the world plus the win guaranteed Federer the #1 seed at the upcoming Olympics. Oh, and he also qualifies for the ATP Tour end championships back in London in November.

Would you like fries with that?

Federer’s favorite first serve tactic was to initially pull Murray off the court with a wide serve on both sides to create holes and force a weak return that he could then control from the middle of the court with his forehand.

Federer made 26 1st serves to Position 1 and hit a Serve + 1 forehand on 24 of them. He won 22. It’s time to go home people.

Only twice out of 26 points did Federer have to hit a backhand as the first shot after the serve with this play to Position 1, but Murray was pulled so far out of court that Federer was able to win both of those as well.

Go Do This

Play a practice set where both players have to hit a forehand after the serve or they lose the point.

Plan for it in your mind before the point starts. 

Experiment with serve patterns that naturally bring the ball back more to your forehand. 

When watching pro matches on television study this area of the game. 

You will be amazed at how much more control you have at the start of the point looking for this pattern.

Combine a serve and a forehand vs. a backhand return and a backhand groundstroke.