Sometimes it’s amazing how a slight improvement can make a big difference and the second serve of Andy Murray has been a big factor in getting him to number one in the world. The second serve was always the weak part of Murray’s game but now it has more steel and the numbers don’t lie as the Brit has improved quite a lot on this serve.
Second serve points won%
2014 – 50.9% (49th)
2015 – 52.2% (32nd)
2016 – 53.9% (18th)
3% improvement in a couple of years may not seem much but it is big. To go from 49th ranked 2nd serve on the tour to 18th is very good, you could say there is still room for improvement but there is for any player on the tour. If you ever get to a stage of your career and your happy that is where complacency creeps in.
Down under 2015
So, first service game of the final from Murray against Djokovic and we see that fragile second serve from the Brit down the middle of the court.
The serve get’s thrown in 127kph which is around 78mph and in the centre of the court is just asking for trouble. You can see Novak on the other side of the court lining that backhand down the line as shown using the green arrow looking to pepper the backhand of Murray which he did forcing the Brit to use the slice to keep himself alive in the rally but it didn’t last for long as Novak won the point…
Fast Forward a couple of months to Miami and we see less of the serve down the middle of the box more towards the serve out-wide with that kick with a bit of slice in. It comes in around 93mph which isn’t bad but still lacks bite.
You can see above the serve is good and deep but like in the previous example from Australia Novak is lining up the backhand again but going on the ad court with this serve it’s open for the return down the line or cross-court.
On top of the world…
Well he’s finished as world number one, the improvement on this serve has helped. It has been massive but just a slight alter to the serve has made a big decision.
Second serve v Novak at the O2 in the final. Looking at the still you can see it goes in at 91mph which is ok. But remember earlier on in the piece I spoke about going to the centre of the court but now the Brit is playing in close to the line and is being efficient and effective making Novak move to the ball which is shown by the green circle and the red shows where it was going before.
Follow on a couple of seconds and look at the ground Novak has had to make and spin Murray get’s on the ball forces him to play that awkward return with the backspin taking it into his forehand.
So let’s compare the serves from the Australian Open and O2 Arena…
The change is massive. Body serve is effective off a 135mph first serve but second serve it’s inviting, it’s safe but inviting so Murray has now mixed it up with going down the T on the ad side and on the deuce side can mix it up with the out-wide serve. The examples at the top of the piece show Novak lining up the backhand but that slice spin serve just caused havoc for the Serbian as Murray went on to win the World Tour Finals and finish the year as world number one.
Screenshots credit to SkySports and BritishEurosport