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by Joe Dinoffer
One Serve Rule
Bang. Out! Poop. Bang. Out! Poop. That’s what most recreational tennis matches sound like the majority of the time. The first serve is nailed, but missed. The opponent calls “Out!” and then the server poops on a second serve. Ever hear of Rafael Nadal? Among top pros, he probably has the slowest average first serve speed in recent history. But, he probably also has the highest first serve percentage.
TennisPro January/February 2013
A PTR and USPTA Master Professional, Joe is the owner of Oncourt Offcourt, a PTR Corporate Member that supplies innovative training aids and educational tools to tennis, fitness and physical education teachers. Joe is the author of seven books and 22 DVDs. He has numerous shows and tips airing on the Tennis Channel. As a member of the Head/Penn Advisory Staff and National Speakers Bureau, Joe has been a speaker at more than 250 national and international tennis conferences and workshops.
One serve drills. We’ve all done them, right? Probably every single coach and teaching pro in the world has run a live ball drill where only one serve is allowed. Let’s take the concept further. First, we’ll list the benefits of running single serve drills. You may realize that running them once a month, or even once a week, doesn’t come close to tapping into the benefits of this little adjustment to the rules.
1. More Hitting per Hour Take away the first serve and the amount of balls struck per hour of practice can increase by 25%. Most players can complete about 100 points an hour with the regular two serve rule. With one serve, assuming that 50% of the first serves go in the box, about 15 minutes of play time is gained! 2. Easier Tournament Scheduling Use this rule in social or modified rule tournaments, and you will find tournament scheduling easier than ever. Matches will be much shorter, and with more predictable durations. 3. Points Last Longer The one serve rule would also extend the average point, since service winners and aces will likely decrease dramatically. Players will get more exercise per hour of play. 4. Improved Second Serves Players will build confidence when hitting a three-quarter spin serve, which would improve their regular second serves. 5. More Exciting Practice Matches The one serve rule would make matches more exciting, as it takes away the ‘boring factor’ of “Bang, Out! Poop” matches. 6. Neutralizes Height Advantages Taller players will be forced to depend on building a more complete game, rather than lean on their first serves for regular free points per set.
7. Fewer Injuries This would be a huge benefit. Shoulder injuries are on the rise in tennis. Just look at tennis on television, and you’ll often see a player’s serving shoulder taped. A one serve rule will not only improve the players’ skill levels, but also reduce the wear and tear on their shoulders! Fewer serves per hour means less shoulder stress. Compare tennis to baseball for a moment. They track the number of pitches thrown. It is that important. You always see baseball pitchers icing their shoulders. You seldom see tennis players perform the same precautionary therapy after a match. So far, I am only talking about using the one serve rule for drills, and possibly social tournaments at a tennis club or junior academy. But how about on the pro tour? With so many advantages, maybe a rule change like this will be on the table for discussion one day. While I doubt it will happen before John Isner and Ivo Karlovic retire, I find it tedious to watch players who have such dominating serves compete against one another. However, I do admit that while I turn off the volume during most of the match, I turn it up again to watch the inevitable tie breakers in each set. Will there ever be a rule change allowing only one serve on the pro tennis tour? Not tomorrow and probably not next year. Someday? You never know. It would have all the benefits above, plus make tennis more television viewer friendly. Remember before the advent of tie breakers when skeptics thought the tiebreaker too radical a rule for tennis to add? It was introduced in 1980, after years of discussion, and the rest is history.
January/February 2013 TennisPro