Serve or Receive?

Most people have a pretty strong opinion about whether they want to serve or receive for the first game of a match. I’m no different. If I win the spin, I always want to receive, for three reasons:

Shot strength. At my level, the serve usually isn’t a big weapon. Yes, a few players can fire bullets, but most players I see return as well or better than they serve. So there’s no real advantage to serving.

First game jitters. Nerves come into play for everyone at the beginning of the match. I like to put the pressure of holding serve on the opponent. They’re supposed to win that game; I’m not. If I’m receiving, I can use that first game to settle in a bit more and get used to the opponents’ style.

Adjustment time. If we’re playing at home, the opponents will need time to adapt to our court surface and lighting. The earlier in the match, the bigger the home court advantage. That first game may be my best chance to break serve.

On the other hand, if we’re playing away, I’ll be the one adjusting to the conditions. I want to receive serve and postpone the pressure of holding for the length of that first game. If I break their serve, great. If not, no big deal. I wasn’t expected to win it anyway.

Of course, if you win the spin, you can also decide to pick which end of the court to start on instead of whether to serve. I don’t know why, but this additional factor takes me by surprise every year when we start playing outside.

Although I figured out my indoor strategy years ago, I’d never bothered to think this decision through for outdoor play. When I win the spin and have to choose, I get flustered. No matter what I decide, I end up second-guessing myself, not the best mindset for starting a match.

This morning I decided to devote a little time to figuring out a strategy. As it turns out, it wasn’t all that difficult.

If I win the spin, I still want to receive. Nothing about the outdoor conditions changes the fact that I want to put the pressure on the opponents right away. The opponent will then pick the best side, but so what? I’ll be serving there the very next game.

If I lose the spin and my opponents choose to receive–which rarely happens–then I’ll be forced to serve first. In that case, I’ll choose the most advantageous side and give myself the best chance of holding serve that first game.

I’m sure at least a few of you are shaking your heads and muttering, “What in tarnation are you talking about, girl?! No one should EVER choose to receive!”

So let’s hear it. What’s YOUR call when you win the spin?


5 thoughts on “Serve or Receive?

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  1. My reaction is very far from “What in tarnation!” I’m continuously impressed with the amount of thought and care you put into your game. Your logic is well reasoned, as always. Sure, not everyone will agree. Some of us will be too competitive to skip the chance to serve. Hey, if I had a killer serve, I would definitely benefit from a strong start. But I don’t have a killer serve, and I have to agree with your reasoning: Take the pressure off, settle in, get to see what they can do when the pressure is on them, hold onto your secrets a little longer. Also, they’ll be assuming you don’t have a good serve. So if you have anything decent to give, that will come as a surprise to them. I like it.

  2. I always pick receive for all the reasons you mention. Early jitters, learn more about them, and if you serve, you are expected to hold serve, so if they start and hold game, they are only doing what is expected. If you break them, great! If you start, and don’t hold serve, than you are behind in the count and the expectations.

    In general, I believe that the only players who should opt to serve should have a killer serve matched with supreme confidence out of the gate.

    Great topic that always gets partners talking between themselves after the racquet has been spun

  3. hmmmmm. We always serve first if we win the serve to appear confident…. : 0

  4. My DBH partner and I always choose to serve first, relying on a reasonably steady serve from me and her great net play. Now, we’ll have to review!!!! Thanks for many additional considerations.

  5. I don’t think there’s one right answer to this question. What makes sense to me isn’t going to make sense to another. Serving first does show the opponents you’re confident. Plus, if you hold serve, your opponents have to play catch up all set–that can be a psychological edge.

Let me know what you think!

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