Serve Plus One


Improving Serve Plus One
Many organisations are now looking at the serve plus one and its importance in tennis tournaments.

For example, in 2021 the USTA (United States Tennis Association) presented their advice on coaching the serve plus one – discussing key principles. National Coaching Staff discussed the importance of improving the Serve and Serve +1 (server’s first shot after the serve) technically, tactically, and mentally.

Data from 2019 shows that in the 4 tennis grand slams, rally lengths are commonly only 1-4 shots. Australian Open recorded 67% and the average of all four being 59%, showing just how essential it is to practise the serve plus one technique.

It is not just adults where the serve plus one is important. Research shows that from 12-year-olds to 18-year-olds rally’s get shorter with 4 shots or less happening more frequently as they progress through the ages from 46% to 58% in boys and 50% to 55% in girls.


Goals of effective servers
As to underline the importance of practicing serve plus one, Jose Higueras said that the goals of effective servers must be:
1. Go after your targets. Go after your targets is setting a target in your mind and really going for it.
2. Maximise the opportunity after the return.
3. Get better at one and two.

He went on to say the key is training the mindset and physical nature to properly prepare for the plus one shot. The practise must provide a variety of service returns to keep training the mindset to prepare for whatever comes back wither it is a loopy or direct left or right its working on the expectation it will come back. Do not think about ending the point on the first shot.


Serve Plus One Philosophy
The philosophy to the Serve Plus One concentrates on the mind and in forward planning. The tactic is to use the placement of the serve and prepare your next shot after the return to maximize the serve plus one advantage. Footwork is essential with serve recovery and preparation of the plus one technique.


Serve Plus One Development
Technically, the server should develop a sound service motion that allows for the player to efficiently and consistently produce serves under pressure and get into
position to take advantage on the serve +1.

Tactically, the server should place the serves wide, body and on the Tee. They can vary characteristics and use both the forehand and backhand equally for the serve +1.

Physically it’s important to maintain good shoulder health with proper serve technique. Achieve a good balance after serve recovery and take the proper line to the serve + 1

Mentally a server should develop a plan for the serve +1 that can be executed under pressure. Have the ability to adapt the plan as the situation requires. Be proactive instead of reactive.


Serve placement training
Coaches can work on improving the serve by practising serve placement which is critical to the serve plus one success. The serve plus one training can start with hitting all of the targets using a variety of spin, speed, height, depth, width. The coaches can then teach the player the basic patterns with forehand and backhand as the + 1 whilst looking to maximize the advantage without making forcing errors


Prioritising the serve plus 1

Coaches should increase the priority of training the Make the serve and serve + 1 in their sessions. Using rebound targets can greatly help increase fun and engagement in lessons. Players can then develop appropriate timing, frequency, duration and use of blocked shots as required. By using rebound targets and setting goals, for example hit 2 targets 25% of the time, the player has the freedom to discover ways to improve own their own.


The Importance of Coaching and Practicing ‘Serve Plus One’ in Today’s Game

This paper gathers research, analysis and commentary from academics, tennis coaches and other sports professionals looking into the importance of short points in tennis today.


Research and analysis from tennis tournaments around the world show including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, indicate that the first 4 shots of a rally are increasingly important in today’s game. Players that win more points in their first two shots (known as serve plus one) are far more likely to win matches than players that dominate longer rallies.


Investigating the most important aspect of elite grass court tennis: Short points Anna Fitzpatrick et al. 2021.  

In their 2021 research paper facilitated by the LTA, Anna Fitzpatrick et al. found players that won more short points (0-4 shots) than their opponent won the match in over 90% of cases. The short point is the dominating factor in success. These results support findings by other researchers and tennis practitioners who suggest that short points are crucial in tennis success and should be a key interest for coaches.


Craig O’Shannessy is the strategy analyst for the ATP World tour

“Serve +1 is a specific serve tactic that combines the serve and the first groundstroke after the serve into… One.Devastating.Unit. Hit a serve. Immediately follow it up with a forehand. Win the point. That’s how it typically goes for the Swiss legend Roger Federer.

Analysis of Federer’s Serve +1 strategy from 28 matches at the Australian Open including winning the title in 2017 shows just how dominant this lethal one-two combination really is.

In short, the earlier in the point the better, before opponents can extend the point to a neutral battleground. As you can clearly see, the Serve +1 forehand strategy is a supercharged tactic – that can absolutely be used by players at all levels of our sport – even you!”

Serve Plus One Expert View
Serve Plus One Craig O’Shannessy Summary

Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis

“Today’s best players focus on and try to execute a good serve and a good first shot following the serve. Most of the points are won with one of these shots and the player who successfully hits the first two balls well more often is almost always the winner of the match.”

The advantages of Serve Plus One – George Margi Founder & CEO – Global Agent Academy

The serve is the first shot that opens the game but most of the time we work it serving buckets at the end of the training. We usually do a lot of tactical work on the baseline, but rarely link it to the serve. Thinking of game patterns as Serve plus One opens up the possibility of seeing certain important details to take into account.

We pay attention to the footwork and the recovery from the serve. We optimize the preparation for the next shot. That is important since it is very different from recovery between groundstrokes.

We visualize patterns of 2 shots before starting the point. We start the points having a higher order.

Creating simple sequences of plays and having them very clear, increases your effectiveness on the court. Working them in practice you will start the points by having a plan, a scheme, and also you will train in a smarter way.


Tom Avery

Most points end within what, 4 shots. People practice their serves, but they just practice the serve and then they stand there. Work on practicing your serve and the recovery, the one-two punch.


Gene Desrochers’ Tennis Coaching: Tennis Tips From A High Performance Workshop At Mcc

Most everyone has a lot of practice with baseline rallies, but good game to play works on Serve +1. This type of practice prepares you for match play, not just aimlessly rallying and because so much of tennis is about the serve and return of serve, it will give you reps on these vital strokes that rallying or even regular match play cannot duplicate.


BrainGameTennis: Combine the Serve & the 1st shot after the serve into 1 unit.

Don’t think of the serve as just a one-way weapon. Too often we think of the primary role of the serve is to crush aces. Well, when you look at the top 14 ace totals on the ATP Tour 8 of those players lost the match. Hitting aces is not all it’s cracked up to be because you still have to have a plan for the majority of the points that still have to be played in the match.