Why Do Tennis Players Bounce the Ball Before Serving

  • Focus
  • Think About the Serve
  • Calm Nerves

   Your Guide

Gavin Davison   Gavin Davison

I must admit, having played tennis for more than 20 years at this point, bouncing the ball prior to serving has just become second nature.

But if I take a step back, I can understand why this action might seem a little strange for those who aren’t all that familiar with tennis.

Why Do Tennis Players Bounce the Ball Before Serving

Of course, when you start to watch tennis being played you will realize that the VAST MAJORITY OF PLAYERS actually do bounce the ball before serving.

Some do this more than others, with a certain Novak Djokovic being well-known for excessive ball bounces prior to big points.

For a little bit of fun, check out this video that highlights Djokovic’s ball bouncing prowess:

Obviously, this video isn’t a real reflection of what he was doing during the match.

But in all seriousness, he has been known to bounce the ball up to 30 times before hitting a serve.

This is obviously a bit of an EXCESSIVE EXAMPLE, but most players will bounce the ball several times before they proceed to hit their serve.

I have mentioned the three main reasons why players do this above, and these reasons hold true for all tennis players, regardless of whether they are a beginner or a professional.

But why are these areas so important and how does bouncing the ball help? Well, let me discuss this in greater detail right now.

The Ball Bouncing Mystery Explained

It doesn’t matter who the player is, what surface they are playing on, or what kind of serve they have – tennis players will usually bounce the ball before kicking the point off.

Assuming you already play the game, you will likely have your own reasons for bouncing the ball.

You may even have your own preferences as to how many times you bounce the ball before hitting a serve.

But while this is all a matter of personal preference, I still believe that the three fundamentals mentioned previously are consistent for all.

(i) To Focus

It goes without saying that if a player was to just step up to the line and hit their serve, they probably wouldn’t be all that focused.

Not only that, but they wouldn’t have had time to set their balance and get into the correct serving position either.

Of course, bouncing the ball before the serve helps to slow down the game and create a bit of THINKING TIME.

This is where the element of focus comes into play.

Personally, when I am bouncing the ball, I am looking at where my opponent is positioned, and I’m also considering my serving options. 

These are the two things that I am primarily focusing on, and thinking about these things before serving has helped me throughout my career.

However, other players may prefer to focus on other things when bouncing the ball.

For example, you might like to focus on what your first shot will be after the serve, what direction the wind is blowing, or what kind of spin you want to apply to the ball.

Again, this all comes down to PERSONAL PREFERENCE.

In addition to this, as a bit of a bonus, some players like to do this purely as a ritual. And some of these rituals are a little more bizarre than others.

Take John Isner as an example – he doesn’t just bounce the ball, he passes it between his legs before each and every serve!

(ii) Think About the Serve

Speaking from personal experience, as I’ve touched upon above, I am always thinking about the serve when bouncing the ball.

If it is the first serve, these are the few seconds in which I can compose myself and decide what spin, speed, and wherein the box I will be AIMING MY SERVE.

Of course, I will also be planning what kind of shot I may be looking to hit after my serve.

But the only downside to doing this is that the return is unpredictable, and if the ball doesn’t come back as you’d expect, YOUR ENTIRE PLAN HAS EVAPORATED.

Either way, it is still good practice to consider what you will be doing with the serve when bouncing the ball.

And if it is a second serve that you are facing, you may want to think about adding some topspin or slice to the ball.

This can all be considered in those few seconds that you spend BOUNCING THE BALL.

You may even want to think about what kind of serves have been successful for you so far against that particular opponent.

If you’ve had decent success going to the backhand, you may want to think about doing this again, or switching things up depending on the point.

(iii) Calm the Nerves

This reason for bouncing the ball isn’t quite as prolific as the first two I have mentioned.

But when it comes to a big point, bouncing the ball in order to steady your nerves is actually a VERY COMMON PRACTICE.

If you’ve ever faced pressure situations in a tennis match before, you will definitely know what I’m talking about.

As you approach the line, your arm might be shaking, the sweat might be running into your eyes, and your mind may FEEL A LITTLE CLOUDY.

Therefore, it is critical that you then bounce the ball and take some deep breaths while doing so to calm yourself prior to hitting the serve.

Note that deep breaths are almost as important as bouncing the ball itself.

By slowing your breathing you will send signals to your brain that you are in a calm state, and this can really help with nerves ahead of a BIG POINT.

This is just my own advice based on experiences I have had in the past.

However, you might prefer to engage in other rituals that help you to steady your nerves.

Has this piece clarified the reasons why tennis players bounce the ball before serving? Let us know down below!

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