Statistics reveal why the second serve is losing its effectiveness at the 2023 French Open
It is often said that your first serve is a weapon and your second serve is a coin flip, and the French Open is full proof of that this year.
Second serve performance at Roland Garros through the first two rounds is underperforming for men and women compared to the past five years, despite hot, lively conditions in Paris that should favor the server.
French Open Men
Second Serve Win Percentages
- 2018 = 50.08%
- 2019 = 50.37%
- 2020 = 49.44%
- 2021 = 50.00%
- 2022 = 50.22%
- 2023 1st Two Rounds = 49.60%
It’s incredible to think that the best servers on the planet can only play even on average with their 2nd serves.
Lorenzo Musetti is top of the 2nd serve points won leaderboard, winning 72% (41/57). He has done it by mixing the direction of his second serve around the service box in his first two rounds.
Lorenzo Musetti 2nd Serve Direction
Round 1 vs. M. Ymer
- Wide = 5
- Body = 18
- Center = 8
Round 2 vs. A. Shevchenko
- Wide = 10
- Body = 4
- Center = 11
When analyzing the 31 completed matches from the second round, you uncover a sizeable difference between match winners and match losers.
2nd Round Men: Average 2nd Serve Points Won
- Match Winners = 57%
- Match Losers = 47%
That’s a substantial 10 percentage-point gap between the winners and losers. Only seven match winners were able to lose the second serve battle to their opponent and still walk away with a victory.
French Open Women
- 2018 = 45.39%
- 2019 = 45.10%
- 2020 = 44.55%
- 2021 = 44.90%
- 2022 = 45.05%
- 2023 1st Two Rounds = 42.95%
It’s interesting that second serve performance is not as good so far this year as other years, dropping to just under 43%. The average for first serves won for both men and women is 61%. Making your first serve is definitely a strategic advantage.
More than half (17) of the match winners in the second round won under 50% of their second serve points.
Qualifier, Mirra Andreeva (WTA No.143), is making the most of her main draw opportunities, winning 78% (29/37) of her second serve points through the first two rounds. Like the men, there is a 10 percentage-point gap between match winners and match losers.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 1, 2023
2nd Round Women: Average 2nd Serve Points Won
- Match Winners = 48%
- Match Losers = 38%
It’s incredible to think that even the match winners are not averaging winning more than 50% on second serve points in the second round.
A contributing factor knocking second serve performance around are double faults. The men have served 871 through the first two rounds, while the women are at 745.
Here are five takeaways to improve second serve performance at every level of our sport:
- The number one place both men and women double fault is into the net (versus long or wide). That’s mainly due to a low toss and low contact. Get your toss up and reach as much as possible.
- Mix 2nd serves around the service box. Don’t be afraid to surprise to the forehand return.
- Make sure the 1st serve is protecting the 2nd serve. Both men and women are making 61% first serves at the French Open this year. Don’t be at 50% or lower.
- Play defensively on your Serve +1 shot. When facing a strong return, you need to block more with the first shot after the serve to keep it in play.
- Mix spins. Have slice as well as kick. Use the wind and also stand in different spots on the baseline to serve. Don’t give the returner what they want. Keep them on edge.
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Craig O’Shannessy is the creator of Brain Game Tennis. For 20 years he’s been involved in tennis as a coach to players like Kevin Anderson and even Dustin Brown when he famously beat Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon. More recently Craig’s been working as a match analyst at Wimbledon and for the ATP Tour. He has also used the unique insights from his match analysis software dartfish to guide players such as Novak Djokovic with analysis of opponents and performances.
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