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Serve +1 Data | Ad Court 2nd Serves

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Baseline Locations A,B,C,D.

Question: Is there ever a situation where the majority of returns don't go down the middle to Positions B & C?
Answer: Yes. 👇

MEN: Ad Ct | Serve +1 Location Following A 2nd Serve
(Forehand & Backhand Returns)

Position A - Just like first serve returns, players generally avoid going straight down the line in the Ad court to attack Position A. It's actually a gold mine and I have always encouraged players to do it. The main reason is that the server will come out of the serve with his weight on his right foot ready to push to his right to cover a Serve +1 backhand or turn that Ad court ball into a Serve +1 forehand. That makes the other side wide open to attack. I highly encourage you to work on hitting returns straight down the line in the Ad court. Only 6% of backhand returns vs. 2nd serves went down the line to Position A. That's simply a bad strategy.

Position B - Only 15% of returns went to Position B against 2nd serves. Again, I think that's a bad strategy. Here's why. When you face a 2nd serve, you have got to be aggressive. As a returner, you want to win the lion's share (>50%) of these points. Returning deep to Position B rushing the big backswing of the Serve +1 forehand is a great place to do it. More aggressive returns should go here.

Position C - This was the No. 1 place for forehand returns to go, and No. 2 for backhand returns. This is all about safety, and it's not necessarily a bad strategy. The problem is just getting complacent returning middle to the backhand and then starting the point. Got to be more aggressive. Don't overplay this location.

Position D - This is the first time that the primary location is not B or C when hitting a return. Overall, 70% (819-354) of 2nd serves in this data set went to the backhand return. Almost half (49%) of the backhand returns went cross-court to Position D. So if you do not have a particularly strong backhand, or make too many mistakes in a Serve +1 backhand situation, then you should definitely consider serving more to the forehand in the Ad court with your 2nd serve.

MEN: Ad Ct | Serve +1 Location In Deuce & Ad Ct

Deuce Ct vs. Ad Ct - It's amazing how things change Deuce court to Ad court and with the point starting with a first or 2nd serve. For example, when the point starts in the Deuce court with a 1st serve, the ball comes back 50%-50% to the Deuce and Ad court of the server. Now, starting the point with a 2nd serve in the Ad court, more than three out of four (78%) of returns come back through the Ad court. If you don't have a strong backhand, you better do all you can to look for a run-around forehand to start the baseline component of the point.

MEN: Ad Ct | Serve +1 Location Middle & Wide

Middle vs. Wide - This is the first time that wide surges to first place over the middle. But it's important to note that it is not wide on both sides, but in particular, it is wide in the Ad court to Position D. If you hit a 2nd serve wide in the Ad court to the backhand return, you better run straight to D and get ready to defend, because that's where that return is headed.

It's no fun starting the point with a Serve +1 backhand, which is what is happening the majority of the time here. The server is only winning 47% of points in this pattern of play. The worst combo for the server actually has nothing to do with backhands at all. It's a 2nd serve to the forehand, and the returner goes straight down the line to Position A. The server is only winning a lowly 31% of those points. The returner also does well targetting A with their backhand return. The server only wins 43% of points with this combo. The server much prefers for the return to come back down the middle. The returner has a higher win percentage immediately attacking out wide. the server only wins 38% overall if the return comes back to A, and a much higher 47% if it goes to D.

Data Set - 2019 US Open Women (right-handed players)

  • 2nd Serves 
  • Ad court
  • Forehand & backhand returns.
  • Serve +1 performance (totals / win %) in A, B, C, D.

The first thing to lock in on is the win percentage for the women with 2nd serves in the Ad court. It’s just 42%. Anything below 50% is underwater. This win percentage may as well be sitting on the bottom of the ocean! There was only one combination that managed to be above 50% - backhand returns to Position B. You can imagine the backhand return is not hit with authority, lands short around the service line, and the server gets to step straight into the court in Position B and plays with aggression with their own forehand. 

The lowest win percentage, by far, is the server getting attacked straight down the line to Position A. The server will naturally be covering the cross court return, so going straight down the line catches them with their balance leaning the wrong way. Interestingly, it’s the backhand return to Position A that yields the lowest win percentage for the server, at just 27%. If the returner is rocking a backhand down the line to Position A, then they are in all likelihood hitting it hard, hitting it deep, and really putting the server under the pump.

Position A - The server only won 29% overall when the forehand and backhand return went to Position A. But here’s the million-dollar question… when was the last time that you worked on your down-the-line return to Position A vs. a 2nd serve in the Ad court? Hardly ever!!! Partly is that you had no idea how good this strategy really is. Only 9% overall of 2nd serve returns in the Ad court went to this location. This is great data for the practice court. This should actually become a staple of your lessons. Have your coach serve primarily to the backhand and you step in and attack with a backhand return OR hit a run-around forehand return straight down the line. Make sure that you are balanced when you hit this shot. If you are still falling left when you make contact, there is a good chance that you will pull the ball left into the alley as well.

Position B - Only 20% of returns came back to Position B. It’s a 50-50 bet on who will win the point. The server will win 46% of points if it’s a forehand return and 54% if it’s a backhand return. With a weaker 2nd serve coming in the Ad court, the safety of the middle of the court is not paramount anymore. Don’t get me wrong - crushing a 2nd serve return DEEP to B and rushing the backswing of the Serve +1 forehand is an awesome strategy. With a slower second serve and an attacking mindset from the returner, you will see more returns go wider in this situation. 

Position C - Position C gets a lot of traffic (35%) because most serves go to the backhand return (64%), the natural angle is going to be back cross court and Position C is the first place to land a cross court return. The server only wins 45% of returns that come back to Position C, which drops down to 43% if it is a backhand return. Position C is safe. Position C is where the backhand return if you just close your eyes and swing. You still get to hurt the server with depth, height, spin, power, court position, and time, so there is still a lot of ways to win points with returns to Position C.

Position D - Position D slightly edges Position C (36% to 35%) as the primary location 2nd for the Serve +1 shot in the Ad court. A substantial 71% of 2nd serves are directed to the backhand return, and the returner loves to hit that specific shot cross court. 40% of all backhand returns went cross court to Position D and only 6% of backhand returns went down the line to Position A. If you like to hit your 2nd serve to the right-hander’s backhand return in the Ad court, you better have a strong Serve +1 backhand in Position D to counter the aggressive return that is most likely going right there.

WOMEN: Ad Ct | Serve +1 Location In Deuce & Ad Ct

Deuce Ct vs Ad Ct - 71% of 2nd serves in the Ad court come back cross to the Ad court of the server. If that is where your strength is, then you are going to be love being fed Ad court balls all match long. You may have a strong backhand or are adept at hitting run-around forehands in the Ad court. Pre-plan to be standing in the Ad court with your Serve +1 shot. If you are on defense then block your way out of trouble, most likely back through the Ad court to Positions C and D. If you can get on offense, then the primary play is to go to Position D and hit behind your opponent. Wrong-footing them makes them slower to react to the ball. their next shot could possibly be a defensive slice backhand rather than an aggressive drive backhand. 

WOMEN: Ad Ct | Serve +1 Location Middle & Wide

Middle vs Wide - 55% of balls came back through the middle and 45% wide. The wide total is being totally fueled by backhand returns to Position D. Remember, the middle works great if you can take time away and rush the backswing. Wide works great to force a slice and extract a short ball. Pick your poison and mix it up throughout the match.

Overall this is a really rough place to be the server, only winning 42% of points. The only location that got above 50% was when the returner hit their backhand return to Position B 54%). The worst for the server was when the returner attacked with their backhand return straight down the line to Position A, where the server only won 27% of points. Not far off that was a forehand return to D, where the server only won 28%. 

Improving your Serve +1 win percentages here can be done in multiple ways. Improving your 2nd serve technique, such as a higher toss and higher contact. Mixing in topspin and slice. Moving the 2nd serve around the service box to not be predictable. Throwing in a serve and volley when hitting a second serve. Any time you win just 42% at any specific strategy on the court, you have a real problem. You are bleeding. Got to stop the bleeding as much as possible in this specific area.

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