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Best Of TQT: What To Do When You Win The Spin – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 183

By Kselz @TennisFixation

Well, here's something I've never doing before. I'm going back into the Tennis Quick Tips archives to bring you a "best of" episode. Today, I'm going all the way back to Episode 3 of Tennis Quick Tips, which was called "What To Do When You Win the Spin." And I'm going back to this episode because I not only had a listener recently ask me about this topic, but it also came up in a tennis match I just played.

Now, I've never done this before, replay a previous episode. And that's because I have a LONG LIST of things I still have never talked about and want to talk about on this podcast. But I decided to re-listen to this episode, thinking I would update it and add some new info, but it turns out that Episode 3 pretty much did a good job of analyzing this episode and explaining what I think you should do when you win the spin.

So, listen in to what I had to say way back in Episode 3 and then I'll give you my thoughts on what I do now when this comes up in my matches. Here it is - a blast from the Tennis Quick Tips past, what to do when you win the spin!

You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player in this post or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in Apple Podcasts by going to

Almost every tennis match begins with the spin of a racquet. If you win the spin, what do you do? Serve? Receive? Choose sides? Defer? While all of these are viable options, my own choice and my tip to you is that, when you when the spin, you should usually choose to receive.

I'm still surprised by how many recreational players automatically choose to serve when they win the spin. For some reason, most recreational players think that, even at their level, it's an advantage to serve first. But I don't think so. And since players like you and I are looking for every possible advantage we can get over our opponents, the decision about what to do when you win the spin is actually an important one.

While we all know that the pros usually choose to serve first, the pros are playing a different game than us recreational players. Most tennis pros have incredible serves that are well-warmed up by the time they start a match. But you and I aren't pros and our serve, especially at the start of a match, is not the advantage for us that it is for the pros. In fact, I'd say that for many recreational players, the serve can be one of the weakest parts of their games. And even if you have a super serve, there are still some advantages to forcing your opponents to serve first.


So, with this in mind, when you win the spin, I say choose to receive. Here's why:

1. Get A Psychological Edge Over Your Opponent

First, believe it or not, you can sometimes earn a little psychological edge over your opponent by choosing to receive first. Most players expect that when you win the spin, you're going to choose to serve. So when you choose to receive, they wonder just what's up. Even at my level, playing 3.5 to 4.0 ladies tennis, I've had opponents act confused or even flustered when I tell them I choose to receive first and they realize the burden of serving first has just been placed, by me, on their shoulders.

2. Force Your Opponent To Serve "Cold"

Second, by receiving first, you force your opponent to serve cold. In the warm-up to most recreational matches, you only spend a few minutes on your serve. Maybe you get to hit 5 to 10 serve on each side of the court. Maybe. Probably less. So by making your opponent serve first, you're forcing them to serve while they're still stiff, tight and probably still a little jittery.

3. Get More Warm-Up Time

Third, by receiving first, you're giving yourself more time to warm-up, relax and get into the game. This extra little "warm-up" time can be a nice advantage when you finally step up to the base line to hit your first serve of the match.

4. If Your Opponent Wins Their Serve, You're On Serve

Fourth, if your opponent wins their serve and you lose that first game, it's really no big deal. That's what's supposed to happen. There's no pressure on you to win the first game because you're not serving. You can lose that first game and you'll still be on serve.

5. If Your Opponent Loses Their Serve, You're Up A Break

Finally, if your opponent loses that first game, well, that IS a big deal. You've just earned a service break right at the start of the match putting you in a very advantageous position in the first set. Theoretically, as long as you hold serve going forward, you should win that set. And you may have even earned a psychological advantage over your opponent since they've now started off the match by losing their serve.

Now, I do have an exception to this "choose to receive" policy.

The Exception - When It's Sunny

If it's really sunny outside, I may choose to pick which side of the court I want to start from, instead of choosing to serve or receive. In that situation, it may be more valuable to me to start the match with the sun at my back and force my opponent to start out playing into the sun. If my opponent chooses to receive in this situation, then I get to serve with the sun at my back. If my opponent chooses to serve first, which can actually happen, then I'm in the best of all worlds - my opponent will be serving the first game, un-warmed-up with the sun in their face.

And I've actually seen this happen in my own matches. For example, here's what I do when I play matches on my own neighborhood courts. My neighborhood courts are laid out weirdly - with the length of the court running East West instead of North South. This means, if you're playing an early morning match on these courts and you're facing east, you're literally staring into the sun on virtually every shot. So what I do when I play on these courts is, first, make sure I grab the bad side, looking into the sun, for the warm-up. And then, if I win the spin, I choose to begin the match on the other side, the side my opponent just warmed up on, with the sun at my back. Then I don't care what my opponent chooses because, whether they serve or receive, they're looking into the sun. Surprisingly, many of my opponents will choose to serve after I've picked my side. So now my opponent is starting the match, possibly serving to start the match looking into the sun, and having never hit a ball from the bad side of the court. I'm not saying this alone has won me any matches, but it's a tiny advantage that I always try to take.

Let Your Partner Know

One final note, if you're playing doubles and you want to choose to receive, you may need to let your partner know why you think this is a better choice. I find that when I explain to my own partners why I think we may benefit by forcing our opponents to serve first, they quickly adopt this as their own new policy in their match play.


S o, how can you take action on this tip? Easy - start choosing to receive when you win the spin. Pay attention to what happens in those initial games - whether your opponents are able to hold their serves or not and how much better you yourself serve when you start that second game. I think you'll quickly see that choosing to receive is the right choice when you win the spin.


Okay, just a few things to update what I think about what I said way back in 2013 when I recorded Episode 3. First off, how stiff did a sound way back then! I can tell you for a fact, I was reading from a script back in the day when I recorded Episode 3 and it was SO HARD for me to get through recording that stuff. I really did not like how my voice sounded and felt like I was doing just a terrible, terrible job. And while I still don't like how my voice sounds when I listen to a recording of it, I pretty much got over that and no longer care.

The other thing I would say is that, even today, I still stick with this policy of usually choosing to receive when I win the spin in my tennis matches. And I do this because I really do believe that having that little bit of extra warm-up time helps me and my partner, whoever she may be, quite a bit.

Finally, I mentioned this in Episode 3 but I really want to emphasize it here. Make clear to your partner that you want to do this, receive first, before the moment comes up in the match when you have to say this. I have had one and only one time where I chose to receive and my partner talked over me, questioning my decision and changing what I said by saying, "we want to serve first, not receive." This was definitely not a good way to start our partnership off in that match. I was unhappy that my partner kind of hijacked that decision and didn't do something more like saying, "hold on a minute" and discussing it with me and THEN deciding. So don't do what I used to do and just make the decision without discussing with your partner.

That's it for this week's Tennis Quick Tips!

Thanks so much for listening and be sure to check out the show notes for a transcript of this episode and for links to the resources that I mentioned. You can find those show notes over at


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And if you're interested in really tuning up your tennis serve, be sure and grab my totally free cheat sheet, 10 Quick Fixes to Improve Your Serve: No Lessons Required. In it, I give my ten absolutely best tips for getting a better serve fast. Just go to:

to get instant access to that free resource. It's a one page cheat sheet that you can keep in your tennis bag and pull out any time you're on court. Even during your matches!

And if you have any questions about any of this stuff, you can always reach out to me by emailing [email protected]. I would love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for listening and, as always, . . . Happy Tennis!

© Kim Selzman 2020 All Rights Reserved

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