"You’re only as good as your second serve” is a popular tennis adage. There are two chances for a player to get a serve into the proper court; a player often tries a hard serve the first time, but then follows with a much softer serve the second time so as not to lose the point. A tennis player without a solid second serve, the adage instructs, is not a solid tennis player.
“You’re only as good as your second serve” has been cited in print since at least 1972.
2 August 1972, Christian Science Monitor, “Parent and child parents’ ‘second serve’” by Cynthia Parsons, Children, pg. 10:
At Wimbledon this year the Australian tennis player, Evonne Goolagong, was beaten by the American Billie Jean King for the ladies’ singles championship.
During the match and the next day in the London newspapers, much was made of the weakness of Miss Goolagong’s second serve. “You’re only as good as your second serve,” a familiar saying in tennis, was quoted often.
In tennis, the server has two chances to get the ball into the proper court. Generally a player tries for a very hard fast serve the first time. If that one doesn’t go in, he has a second chance. Usually he gives up a little speed for accuracy so as not to lose the point. But he tries to spin the ball to keep his opponent from scoring easily against him.
Google News Archive
14 February 1975, Lewiston (ME) Evening Journal, “Ye Sport Sandwich” by Norman S. Thomas, pg. 13, col. 1:
We note that Pancho Gonzales, U.S. singles king in 1948-49, comments that in tennis, “You are only as good as your second serve—practice it.”
My Life and Game
By Bjorn Borg with Eugene L. Scott
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
The old theory that “you are only as good as your second serve” is one of the few lessons from the past that are still true — even for the superstars.
Lifetime Treasury of Tested Tennis Tips:
Secrets of winning play
By Bill Murphy, Chet Murphy and Dave Fitzsimmons
West Nyack, NY: Parker Pub.
One of the popular axioms of tennis is that you are only as good as your second serve. If you have a hard, fast first serve but miss a large percentage of them, you’ll be serving a lot of second serves during a match.
New York (NY) Times
Sampras’s Fourth Wimbledon Crown Is a Breeze
By ROBIN FINN
Published: July 07, 1997
But Sampras, who likes to remind himself “you’re only as good as your second serve on grass,” got back to deuce with a service winner on a second serve and claimed the game with a pair of crisscrossing volley winners that put Pioline in a 5-3 hole.
David Smith’s Coaching Mastery:
The ultimate blueprint for tennis coaches, tennis parents, tennis teaching professionals
By David W. Smith
St. George, UT: David Smith
The saying, ‘you’re only as good as your second serve’ has real meaning. While many intermediate players have big first serves, the ability to hit big second serves, with the right spin, is very apparent when watching intermediate players. Often, you will see kids boom a first serve (that lands no where near the court!) followed by a puff-ball second serve.
New York (NY) Times—Straight Sets (tennis blog)
September 14, 2011, 3:16 pm
On Second Serves, Stosur Was No. 1
By CRAIG O’SHANNESSY
The old saying that you are only as good as your second serve rings true, and it is normally the best indicator of all the statistics for who wins the match.