The serve is the most important shot in tennis as it starts off a point. How important it is to place your serve in a match is not often discussed. The names of the three directions that you can place your serve are: out wide, down the T, and into the body. These three serve locations are used for both doubles and singles, some more frequently than others. Here are a few pointers on serve location for singles and doubles.
Out Wide- This is a good serve used in singles as it opens up the court for the next ball that the server can hit. My one caution is that serving out wide creates more angles for the returner, allowing more options for the return. In doubles, an out wide serve can help the server’s partner at net aggressively look for the poach.
Down the T- This serve is a better percentage serve as it does not allow as many angles as the out wide serve for the return. Serving down the T can sometimes limit a cross court angle return, therefore bringing the service partner into the point earlier. The risk of this serve, as well as the aforementioned out wide serve, is that you are aiming at a very small target.
Body Serve- This is a very effective serve in doubles as it jams the returner for space, making the first volley for either player much easier. This can also create a short return in singles, putting the server in an aggressive court position early in the point. A third benefit of this serve is that you are aiming to a bigger target space in the service box, making it a more high percentage serve.
While all of these can be used in singles or doubles, one note should be made for doubles. In doubles, I recommend constant communication so that the net player is aware of where his or her partner is serving. You’ll notice professionals using hand signals to achieve this.
Overall, beware of the percentages when serving. Aiming to a bigger target more frequently is advisable.