Who Serves First in Tennis?

The most common way to decide who serves first is to perform a coin toss or a racket spin before the match. There are no official rules on how the decision should be made but coin toss and racket spin have proven to be the most common ways.

Who serves first in tennis?

Coin Toss

The coin toss is mainly used in professional matches. In coin toss both of the players stand at the net and one of the players chooses head or tails following a coin toss by the match umpire.

The winner of the coin toss can choose one of these options:

  1. The winning player can serve first
  2. The winning player can return first
  3. The winning player can defer

Defer means that the opponent can choose if he wants to serve first or if he wants to pick the starting side. Picking the starting side can be useful for example in sunny or windy conditions.

Racket Spin

The most common way in amateur matches to decide the player who serves first is to perform a racket toss. In racket toss one of the players chooses whether the opponent’s racket’s bottom logo faces upwards or downwards after the spin.

After the decision, the other player puts his/her racket towards the court so that the head of the racket is facing downwards and then spins it like a top. When the racket stops spinning and falls flat the spinning player picks it up and shows the racket’s bottom logo to the other player.

If the other player managed to guess right the direction the logo is facing after the spin he/she has three options:

  1. The winning player can serve first
  2. The winning player can return first
  3. The winning player can defer

Defer means that the opponent can choose if he wants to serve first or if he wants to pick the starting side. Picking the starting side can be useful for example in sunny or windy conditions.

Who Serves First In a Tiebreak?

In a tiebreak, the serving continues in normal order so the player who was returning the last game before the tiebreak will serve first. After the first tiebreak point, both of the players continue serving two points in a row.

What Are The Advantages Of Serving First?

One of the greatest advantages of serving first is that you have to opportunity to win the first game of the match. The serving player usually wins 70% of his games so choosing to serve first might give you a good headstart. If you happen to win the first game and then break your opponent’s first serve and then win the third game you will have a three-game advantage. This three-game advantage might affect your opponent and weaken his/her self-confidence.

What Are The Advantages Of Returning First?

In general, it is unfavorable to return first but there are some exceptions:

  1. If you tend to start your matches slowly, returning first might help you warm up for your first service game
  2. If you think your opponent tends to start his/her matches slowly returning first gives you a good opportunity to break their serve

FAQ

Who serves first after a tiebreak?

— The player who started as a receiver in the tiebreak serves first after a tiebreak.