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How I prevent double faults

That is a a big claim. Serving is often the toughest part of the game of Tennis. Here is one very simple tip that has turned my serve from a liability into a weapon. It’s so easy it doesn’t seem like anything and in reality it works for just about any problem.

In a nutshell it is about focusing on something else. For years I’ve loved my serve when it is firing and loathed it when it isn’t because I can’t control it. It always feels like a gamble. I have tried everything, different stances, tosses and all sorts. They’re very helpful and all add a little something to the serve but even when everything is in place and technically sound I could still serve multiple double faults in a set and even a game. That just knocks your confidence.

The secret is just to focus on the goal and not the process. I actually think about where I will hit the ball, how it is likely to come back and what my next shot is likely to be. So I’m thinking strategy. That’s counter intuitive if you’re a process oriented person but in reality its just about thinking of the process in a different way. The more I think of what I want to do with my serve the less I get hung up on how I do it.

What I do to stop micro managing is step back and think ‘what do I want from this serve’? Do I want to move my opponent out wide or to the centre? Do I want them hitting a high ball or a low one. What shot is hardest for them to hit. How do I give them that shot to hit?

All these thoughts shift my focus from how to hit the serve to what the serve should actually achieve. After doing this the serve just works. It becomes a shot like any other.

Even if I decide to play the simplest serve possible just so I can definitely get it in I have won the point against a good returner because I knew they would cream it. So I could prepare. They saw the gift and put everything into it which actually made them predictable. Knowing what they would do made my job easier. This is the biggest advantage of just getting it in. I can make the most of my weak serves. My good serves take care of themselves, even my average ones do. But the occasional double fault makes me tight, tentative and slow. By using strategy not technique to back up my weak serves I stop thinking about how I hit the serve. When I do that my opponent only sees one thing. This guy doesn’t miss and I really have to go for anything weak. Imagine how much pressure I have started to put on opponents simply by taking it off myself.

Once I figured this out I began to realise it works for all shots. I don’t generally micro manage my forehand or backhand, I just rally. The points are mostly too quick. When I do start micro managing any shot it breaks down and I miss, I lose power and generally suck.

So physical technique is obviously important but it’s not everything. I like to think of this as mental technique. Being able to get your serve in sets up the rest of your game. You move the pressure from yourself to your opponent which is the point of every shot and you get to assume the ball will go in and prepare for the next shot. Having this reliability frees you up to experiment with your serve and your wider game so you can improve.

So next time you feel yourself losing control of your serve stop paying attention to the serve motion. Just pick a target and aim at it. Let your body figure out how to get the ball there. It is something I do during a match, not just practice, and helps me focus on what matters, targeting my opponents weakness and giving him what he doesn’t want. How I achieve it isn’t as important as getting the job done so I let go of the mechanics. I just trust that my body and mind will do it for me.

Try this tip and let me know how it works for you. I haven’t shared every tip I’ve followed for a good serve. There are so many. This one is simply about building belief in your serve so you don’t tense up on it and just let it flow and knowing how to centre yourself when it does go off kilter. When you can do that it will improve naturally and all the other tips simply add to it.

Good luck.

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