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Why do tennis players bounce the ball before serving?

If you have ever watched a game of tennis on television, you will have noticed that the majority of players bounce the ball several times before each of their serves.

The reason for the ball-bouncing are manifold and include both tactical and psychological explanations which we will go into in this article.

Rhythm

As we have previously covered in our article about how to produce a consistent service action, achieving reliable and repeatable body movement is fundamental to becoming good at serving.

Following a set routine helps tennis players to achieve a sort of meditative flow state and helps focus the mind. By incorporating repeatable, rhythmic action into the beginning of the service action, players are able to start their serve from a position of consistency before focussing on aiming the ball.

Practical

This is less of a concern at the professional level where the balls are changed every few games, but if you are playing in a less formal setting, you will find that some balls bounce differently, so it is helpful to have an idea of how high (and whether!) a ball will bounce before hitting your serve.

Body positioning

This may not be immediately obvious but there tend to be a number of minor body adjustments professional tennis players make before hitting a serve, depending on which direction they are aiming in, which type of grip to use and what type of serve they want to hit. The ball bouncing before serving provides time to consider and prepare the serve.

Mental focus

Tennis can be a mentally taxing and agonising sport to play as is evident in the vast number of world class players who hit double faults on big points in matches, despite being able to place the ball within centimetres of a target consistently during practice sessions. The ball bouncing routine provides much needed thinking time for players during the high-pressure moments, allowing time to visualise the next shot and settle the nerves before starting a point.

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