Pete Sampras, the former world No. 1 tennis player, was revered for his accurate and winning serves.
He once said a tennis player is only as good as his or her second serve. There is no argument against the importance of second serves by area high school girls tennis players who opened the season March 3.
“It’s overall the most important part of the game,” said Cherry Creek senior Kalyssa Hall, who was last season’s Class 5A No. 1 singles runner-up. “If you miss your first serve and you don’t have a second serve, if it’s a weak second serve, they will attack it immediately. Then if you can’t get it in, you are going to automatically lose a point.”
Players are more aggressive on first serves, hitting with more power. Second serves are usually hit with a variety of spin in order not to be vulnerable for the opponent’s return. Second serves are more strategic with placement and pace.
“Service is probably the most important part of tennis, so second serve is obviously important,” said Mountain Vista junior Casey Zhong, a left-hander who finished third in the No. 1 singles bracket in the 2015 state tournament. “If you can’t serve and start the point, how are you going to win the point?
“My second serve is usually more conservative. The goal of the second serve is to get it in … you want to hit a second serve with a lot of spin to throw your opponent off. My second service, believe it or not, has slice and top spin.”
Defending state No. 3 singles champion Gloria Son, a senior at Cherry Creek, doesn’t separate her first from her second serve.
“The first serve is the most important,” she said. “You can take more chances. It’s just important that your second serve is there when you need it. You need to have a strong backup serve.
“For me my first serve is almost like my second serve. I just have one serve overall. First and second serve are the same for me with a lot of spin and I try to get it on the weaker side with a lot more slice since I am a lefty.”
Second serves can test a player’s mental toughness. Many players, especially in a close match, tighten up on crucial second serves.
“The second serve is all you, there’s nothing that your opponent controls about it,” said Mountain Range senior No. 1 singles player Kristen Kirby, who finished fourth in last year’s 5A state tourney. “And on the second serve you are going to have a chance for a point or lose it right off the bat; it’s really easy to tense up and just try to get it in.
“The second service is kind of like you have muscle memory and you have to trust that it will come out and you’ll have the top spin and have the right angle and everything. When I start not really trusting that muscle memory is when I get in trouble.”
Douglas County senior Clara Larson agrees that second serves can be pressure-packed.
“There’s definitely more pressure,” she said. “Serving is kind of a your way to take control of the points, and when the first serve doesn’t go your way, the second serve is your last line of defense. Depending on how well you hit it (second serve), it gives you the advantage of being in an offensive position or giving your opponent the advantage or putting you on defense.”
Serving in doubles is different because the return of serve is a key, since there is a player at the net. Service angles are critical and topspin serves usually result in good net rushing opportunities on returns.
So the importance of good second serves in doubles doesn’t diminish.
“Usually with my second serve, I know it has to go in and I hit it a lot less hard,” said D’Evelyn senior Trinity Payne, who teamed with Cammy Lee to capture the No. 4 doubles title in last season’s Class 4A state tournament.