You are left-handed. You are serving at 30/40, and naturally opt for the slider out wide in the Ad court to give yourself the highest percentage chance to save break point. Not so fast…
An Infosys Serve & Return Tracker analysis of the eight left-handed players currently in the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings identifies that, from the Ad court, serving wide and serving down the T deliver the same winning percentage, at 78 per cent.
The eight left-handed players primarily served wide on break point with their first serves, but not at the volume our instincts would suspect. The data set comes from 2017 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals.
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First Serves Made at 30/40
Wide = 55%
Body = 11%
T = 34%
Some players, such as Mischa Zverev, stayed true to the traditional lefty pattern of slicing out wide at 30/40. Zverev hit 100 per cent (12) of his first serves there. Denis Shapovalov, Fernando Verdasco and Adrian Mannarino also favoured this primary pattern.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal mixed it up much more, hitting more body serves (11) at 30/40 than the other seven players combined (nine). Nadal made 18 first serves wide, 15 down the T, and 11 at the body.
Other lefties, such as Feliciano Lopez, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Gilles Muller actually hit more first serves down the T at 30/40, undoubtedly trying to surprise their opponent who was sitting on a wide delivery.
First-Serve Direction at 30/40
First Serve Win Percentage at 30/40
What’s amazing is that the eight lefties combined to win 78 per cent (75/96) with their wide slider, and 78 per cent (46/59) with the surprise delivery down the T. The body serve actually had a losing record, winning only 45 per cent (9/20) of first serves at 30/40. The main reason for that is that most body serves come back in play, while returners tend to miss much more when defending from the corners of the service box.
Ramos-Vinolas didn’t drop a point serving wide at 30/40, winning eight of eight first serves, while Mannarino was a peak performer down the T, winning nine of 10. This is a great lesson for players at all levels of the game. Surprising the opponent by going to a secondary location can have big benefits when the scoreboard brings extra pressure to the point.