“The serve, I think, is the most difficult, you know, in terms of coordination, because you got the two arms going, and you got to toss it up at the right time so”
– Roger Federer 
First Serve Percentage Pattern (FSPP)
Your child’s first serve percentage bothers you. Sometimes it goes down and affects the child’s ability to hold the serve. The overall match is then played with a higher exertion level. You have noticed that your child’s first serve percentage varies – sometimes it is high, at times it is just okay, and then there are times when they go down very low.
All the good players have an absolute first serve percentage range. If we only focus on first serves, we have discovered that pro players have their first serves between 58-70% .
What comes to your mind when you read these numbers?Low percentage? In fact, it is a hard number to achieve.
Measure your child’s first serve percentage if you are not already doing that. You should have a database of your child’s first serve percentages as they grow from one category to other U-12 to U-14 etc.
Target it to be at least 55-65% first serves in during their U-12, U-14 days. If the child is not able to serve in this range, parents should work with their teams and chalk out a plan to achieve the same . This can be done after carefully finding out the reasons for the low first serve percentage.
A consistent and efficient serve building takes a good amount of time, understanding from expert and experienced eyes. Sometimes, more than one team need to get involved. It is not always easy to understand the reasons behind the first serve low percentage, which makes it a rather daunting task but definitely not an impossible one.
We have come across views from experts stating that it can take up to 2 or, at times, even 3 years of correct hard work to build such serve percentages while serving correctly. Serving correctly would mean having the proper technique and direction. Power comes later as the child grows.
If your child is serving consistently at 55-65% effective first serves, it is a substantial achievement.During the U-14 journey, a good first serve percentage has an impact which eases the service games. At U-12 level, a good first serve percentage does not guarantee ease of service games as other factors do play a significant role to determine the service game’s ease of hold.
U-16 and U-18 will start showing the wondrous signs of having good first serves.
With first serves there are known issues observed under U-10, U-12 & U-14.
Top three known issues not necessarily in the below order are:
1) Slow Slice Serve as First Serve –
Children tend to use slow slice serves as their first serve to keep a high first serve percentage and to avoid getting into second serve hold pressure. These types of low slice first serves are also difficult to return because of the lack of power in the serve and hence more attractive to learn. Another failure which happens while taking this approach is that the child does not learn a proper out-wide serve as this slow slice serve is difficult to develop into a full-blown out wide serve while the child is growing and finally reach U-16 category. This approach also ignores T and middle serves to learn, practice, and understand them under match pressure .
2) Poor First Serve Technique but High Percentage of First Serves –
Sometimes, kids do have a poor first serve technique but high first serve percentage. This should be dealt with as soon as possible as this could eventually lead to injuries. This correction will help the child to achieve a good overall first serve potential at later stages of his or her junior career. When they reach the U-16 and U-18 tours, the serve should be a weapon, to the extent that the server has more control over the service points. This will not be possible with a poor first serve technique.
3) Poor First Serve Technique and Low Percentage of Serves –
Some children have a poor first serve technique and also a low percentage of first serves going in . This is a big no no and probably a worse case scenario. This needs immediate attention and work.