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V003 – Simple and Effective Tennis Charting System

In podcast episode 002 of the RealTennis Network, “You Are Only As Good As Your Second Serve,” we talked about the two variables that will most always determine the winner of the match:

1. Winner to unforced error ratio (W:UE)

2.  Percentage of points won on your SECOND serve.

After trying to come up with a simple charting system that I could use at tournaments with the junior players I travel with, I started looking at the match statistics in the pros trying to design a real simple system.  This charting system that you can download at the bottom of the show notes, at http://realtennisnetwork.com/002, is what I cam up with and it now makes sense when all the “old guys” when I was a kid would always say, “You are only as good as your second serve.” Listen why in this video, watch me actually use the chart during a couple of games in a college match, see an actual finished chart and watch me look up statistics of the 2013 French Open and tie it all together.

Check it our here:

The following are the show notes for the accompanying podcast.  ( to listen to the podcast, CLICK HERE)

Do you want to know what is important when it comes to winning the match, well then this episode will tell you what you might want to start thinking about to become more successful NOW!Today, you will learn how to take your game to the next level with the game you presently own.  Not a game that you hope to own or rent to own.  Yes, we want to learn new things, but I want to play better TODAY.

What is important when it comes to winning the match

Answers I get most of the time include:

  1. Unforced errors – who has less
  2. 1st serve percentage
  3. The player with more winners
  4. Total points won
  5. Who wins the big points


Let’s go over some basic ideas on why the winner wins the match

In the March/April 2013 Issue of tennis magazine it has a great article on the error ball.They recorded data from the three most recent grand slams, both men and women, totaling 87,000 points for the men and 53,000 points for the women.The consensus, even in the pros, 71% of the points ended in errors in the mens game and 77% of the points in the women’s game ended in errors.This is a combination of forced and unforced errors.

 Let’s define these

Forced Error: Caused by your opponent forcing you to make the error because of an effective shot he/she hit (ex. on the run…..)

Unforced Error: An error that you make on your own ( a shot that you should have made)

In tennis, we keep track of these statistics and many others by charting.

What I did:

1. Started to study the match statistics and found out what was really important when it came to “Why” the winner won the match

2. This allowed me to make a much simpler charting sheet and have it make sense to my students right when they walked off the court (attached at bottom)

Well if you look at the match statistics, and the PDF I made for you, you will see:

1. The winner did not necessarily have less unforced errors, but a better ratio of winners to unforced errors.

We shoot for 1:3 …..The pros shoot for 1:1 and use the +/- system

2. The winner won a higher % of points on their SECOND serve, not necessarily their first (most of the time)

For example the player that has 10 winners in 20 unforced errors is not going to be to be as well off as a player that has 5 winners but only 7 unforced errors most of the time

When we coach our students, we try to stress that yes, trying to keep the unforced errors down is important, but we expect you to go for it when you have your favorite shot as well, because it is the ratio of winners to unforced errors that is important.A forced error is the same as a winner when it all come down to winning the point and if you only concentrate on “NOT MISSING” then you are taking a huge piece of the pie out of the equation.

 If you look at the NTRP descriptions, you will see that as you get better, you are starting to develop weapons.

Just think about what your favorite shot is (federer – FH, serena – Serve….etc) I bet your favorite shot is not your favorite, because you miss it a lot.

Have you ever heard anyone ever say, “ I missed my backhand all the time, It is my favorite shot?”…..Of course not, it is probably your favorite shot because you make it all the time (Well then get real and do something with it…….. Help out your percentages)!

 Here is another way to look at it:

If Our objective of each shot we hit is to try to set us up for our next shot. What should happen?

  • Make less errors
  • more forced errors
  • More winners – You might ask Why? You are not going for it as much.  

Here are some examples of how we can set ourselves up for the next shot 

Serves –
1. Hitting it to a weakness (can you do this on a second serve)

2. Wide to open up court (are you brave enough to do this on a second serve)

3. Into the body

4. High kicker ( do you own this effective serve?  Do you even rent it from time to time?)

 Groundstrokes –

1. Hit them deep, forces opponent to hit short more often to set us up

2. Varying Spin.  High balls that kick and low balls that slide are high percentage shots that can set us up for opportunities

3. High balls to backhand side (usually) are high percentage shots that set us up

4. Hitting to a weaker side.  Hit to their strength when you have a forcing shot

Approach Shots – 

1. Keep them deep

2. Slice them low

3. Hit to a weakness


Volleys – 

1. Keep first  one deeper if behind service line

2. Low and angled if close)

3. Doubles – Hit in the direction you are moving

4. Doubles – Hit down the middle

All of these are ways that you can set yourself up for the next shot and don’t necessarily force you to aim for “the line “or a low percentage shot.Don’t fall for the strategy of hitting the ball back and hoping things work out.

You can make them work out or create more opportunities for yourself!


This forces you to recover and not celebrate after you hit the right ball which makes the next shot even easier. An example might be a lob that you think is a winner you start walking away from the court and get caught with your pants down while they hustle on back there and go get it and you look silly. Sounds far-fetched, but I’ve seen this time and time again at every level

I was hitting with a student named Bailey yesterday and asked her what the objective of every shot should be. Knowing that I would be talking about this today.

She said, “To win the point.” (THINKING ABOUT OUTCOME) 

 What will thinking like this cause us to do?

  • will cause us to hit  more unforced errors
  • OK, Definitely more 1 shot winners
  • A lot less forced errors (remember these count the same as winners.  Who cares if they barely touched it or not),   because your unforced errors have risen because you are going for it all the time, you are going to inevitably miss more.

And that’s the problem when we look at tennis by trying to win the point with “This Next Shot” in stead of setting ourselves up.

 When I ask players why did you win or lose that last point after it is ended, 90% of the time I get something regarding the last shot hit but really, most the time it’s because of what happened two or three shots earlier, that just set up the last shot, good or bad

You can’t think like this! You’re making way too many last-minute decisions which will Cause. too many errors.


You should know where you’re going based on the ball you are RECEIVING (we will talk about this in a later episode).  This is called PLAYING THE BALL, NOT THE PERSON.  Only break “the rules “if it’s blatantly obvious.

 All of this will help you:

  • create less unforced errors,
  • create more forced errors,
  • and even more winners (2 shot winners, not 1 shot winners)

I get asked a lot, “Why will you hit more winners if you are not going for it?” Because you will hit more 2nd shot winners or “follow up winners”  or indirect winners this way.

Let’s say your opponent is at the net and instead of trying to rip a passing shot by them you just get a lowball crosscourt at their feet. If you recover properly, you will move in before your opponent even initiates the volley and when your opponent struggles with this Ball eight out of 10 times, you will be in position to hit the easiest volley of your life, and most likely a winner! (this is the follow up)

This is why those players beat you 6-0, 6-1 and look like they are not even trying. They know how and where to hit  the ball but most importantly where to move after they hit the ball to make the next shot easier for them because they are playing the percentages and good geometric tennis. Plus, this calms  you down as well and keeps you more relaxed which is a good thing

Where does the second serve come in?

If you look at the PDF, the winner most every time has a better % of points won, not necessarily on the first serve, but on the 2nd serve

And the winner who wins a higher % of the points off the 2nd serve most every time has more break chances and a higher number of break points won because this directly relates to the 2nd serve.

Remember, the minimum requirement to win the set is to:

1.    Win every service game

2.    Break their serve once (unless you go into a breaker)

Some Exceptions: If there is a 3 set match where the scores are 6-4, 1-6    7-5, this may not be as obvious because of a nasty second set that was played. I will show an example of this in our video that I plan on producing for you in the next couple of days

Think about this

When you are receiving a first serve, thoughts like, “just get this back in play” “keep it simple”……. Go through our head. But when the first serve is missed, we go on the offense, or are at least relieved that we don’t have to return that first one. You start to think about what you want to do with this serve on a more offensive level.

For example, let’s define an approach shot. And approach shot is when you move into the court, usually on a shorter weaker ball that enables you ( if you don’t chicken out) to come to the net. Well guess what? 50% or more of the second serves that I see in 4.0 tennis Would be defined as approach shots. They are weaker, they usually land in the same place 80% of the time which will make it easy for us to position ourselves, and they have to be shorter or it’s out!

So when your first serve is not going in , and your second serve does not put them in a defensive position, you should slow the first serve down and stay away from the second serve

Remember that your opponent is thinking more offensively on your second serve now and not defensively.  Their whole attitude has changed mentally so remember , by slowing down your first serve, you still keep them on the defense mentally and your percentages will start to go up anyway and so will your confidence.

 Don’t focus on your second serve as much as you do trying to get your first serve in more frequently.

 But remember, the objective is not necessarily to always slow your first serve down. If you have a good second serve. Then you can still put your opponent in a defense position when you’re hitting it. I have played many a match where I hate returning someone’s high Kicker second serve. You have to be able to count on a second serve under pressure, so the more you work on it, under pressure, the better. (explain drill)

 A good second service will still need to put your opponent in a defense of position, if you can’t do this, then concentrate on a more consistent first serve, so you still have the mental advantage and a better serve. For me, I love the wide angle serve on the deuce side. I know that if I missed the first try, I can adjust and Execute the same served  90% of the time. This takes a lot of practice. Not just me telling you how to hit a good second serve.



 I have included a PDF for you on the website of some actual charts that we have our junior players take while at tournaments we travel to. By getting them to chart, they begin to realize what they need to do when it is their turn to go out and play. As you will see, they come up with some interesting names for their opponents, but we show in each set:

  1. Ratio of winners to unforced errors of both players (+/- system too)
  2. Percentge of points won on the first serve
  3. Percentage of points won on the second serve

This is just a start.  As they get more advanced, we might keep track of double faults, what side their unforced errors are from or where in the court, but this simple system get players to focus on what they need to do to be successful.  The game plan will be different for each player, depending on their style and tactics, but the bottom line still remains the same.

Who won the matches? Match 1 = A , Match 2 = A, Match 3 = A, Match 4 = B, Match 5 = A, Match 6 = B, Match 7 = B, Match 8 = B, Match 9 = A , Match 10 = B.  Look for the names on the attached PDF in the show notes on the website

Something New: at the top of the post, I will have a NEW one-page template that will sum up what this episode was about.

You might even want to get a 3-ring binder to keep the templates handy.  I will have this for each episode.  If you are really into it, you might want some tabs in your binder titled:

  1. Technique
  2. Tactics
  3. Mental
  4. Singles
  5. Doubles

And anything else that may help you keep this content organized.

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Have a question, comment or feedback about this episode?  Then click this BIG RED BUTTON on the website and ask or comment.  I want to get to know you better and talk about what you want to hear!

Episode 002 TEMPLATE – You Are Only As Good As Your 2nd Serve – Download This for your binder

The Answers – Match Ststistics For Analysis (Outcomes)

Charting Example

Simple Charting Sheet Sheet1


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  • Donald Brick

    I totally agree with the all questions you raised. Now we know all pros and cons of the form. I’ve found some decent tutorials on how to fill a form out online here http://goo.gl/VNuU4c