This is Why Tennis Players Bounce the Ball Before Serving

This Is Why Tennis Players Bounce The Ball Before Serving

Ever notice that when watching a pro match, the player tends to bounce the ball before they hit it?

There’s a reason for that.

Ever notice that each player bounces it a different number of times to a certain rhythm that they have going on in their heads?

There’s technically no reason for that, but it’s their ritual, and we’ll explain why pro players think that it’s important to have one.

Why do Players Bounce the Ball?


There’s one perfectly good reason for it, and it’s to check the quality of the ball.

Standard tennis balls are pressurized, and so they have a bit of gas (usually nitrogen) in the center of the rubber core located inside the ball.

Those tennis balls get switched out a lot in pro matches, like after every seventh game.

For some context, the French Open goes through 50,000 tennis balls just in the course of a couple of days.

Pro players don’t want to run into this scenario:

You knock a ball towards your opponent, and at the time that you knock it, it felt a bit off.

They go to hit it back to you, and it falls flat because the gas was escaping.

Now it looks like you rigged it.

Better yet, if you end up missing because of it, then you’ve lost points.

Either way, nobody is going to believe you because you didn’t check the ball first. Pros bounce the ball to indemnify themselves from damage, more or less.

There’s that… and the ritualistic side of things.

Pro players are ridiculous at times, and later in this guide, we’re going to talk about some of the rituals they perform.

How Many Time to Bounce the Ball?

Bouncing Balls

You only have to crack it off the ground two or three times to fully know if it’s leaking or damaged.

After you’ve played with tennis balls enough, you know how they’re supposed to react.

Maybe it’s a bit different when you’re on a different court, but the principle stays the same.

That’s enough time to know if something is wrong with it.

While you don’t have to do it when you’re alone, there’s nothing wrong with getting in the habit of tossing the ball off the ground once or twice before you serve, even if it’s just to the backboard.

Funny Serving Routines and Pro Routines

From serving to just some weird things that pro players do, this is one of the more entertaining parts of tennis.

If you want to develop your own ritual, for some reason it seems to be working for Nadal and Federer, so have at it.

1. Nadal Walks on the Court with a Racket in Hand

No real reason to do this, he just traipses onto the court and walks through it (with his bag on, mind you) with a racket in his left hand.

It’s always his left hand for some reason. There has to be some feel-good or OCD element to this.

2. Not Stepping on the Lines

When you’re passing over the lines to the alleys or to get off the court, when not in play, some players just don’t step on the lines.

There’s a ton of videos of this; it’s not just one specific pro player that does it.

It appears to have something to do with respecting the boundaries of the court.

3. Making the Umpire Wait

Nadal Makes Umpire Wait Ritual

This is another Nadal-specific thing (he’s a really good example of rituals, okay?) and it’s kind of aggravating to watch.

Nadal waits for the umpire to be ready to start, and then he does his warmups while making everyone else wait for him.

It appears to be an all-eyes-on-me kind of thing, but personally, I think it’s him trying to minimize the time between warmups and actually starting the match so he remains in this groove of focus.

4. Net Jumping

This has to be some psyche-out move, but it’s when you just jump at the net right before the coin toss in a pro match.

Maybe the player is amped up, maybe they’re trying to freak out their opponent, but either way, it’s on the cusp of just being plain odd.

5. Drying Off After Every Point

Drying off after every point

Reaching for the towel every time a point is scored, either side, either way.

It seems like the player just wants to feel refreshed and ready to go when the next point is being raised.

6. Strange-Over

Nadal is at it again.

Before he crosses over the alley line, he stops in place and lets his opponent cross through his path to their side.

There’s… not really any way to justify this, it’s just a weird little thing that he does and that’s all there is to it.

Nadal has a lot of odd habits, this is just something that perhaps makes him feel like he’s been granted control of a situation.

7. Excessive Adjustments


There’s a ton of pros who are guilty of this (and perhaps, erm, I might be as well).

You just can’t stop fiddling with your hair, or your earlobes, or the rim of your shirt if it’s all sweaty.

There’s just always something to fiddle with before serving or waiting for your opponent to serve.

It’s just a way to release nerves before the actual match begins, though you might find yourself doing it intermittently throughout it as well.

Is There a Reason to Have a Ritual?

If you want to look at it with an open mind, there are a few good reasons to have a ritual in place. Let’s just jump through some of the quick points regarding it.


Grounded Emotions Tennis Player

There’s something in psychology and therapy was performing an action that can help keep you grounded in a moment.

This is perhaps the biggest reason to have your own ritual. When you’re a pro and you’ve got cameras and a stand full of people watching you, you can imagine nerves will be on high.

Grounding yourself is a technique used to calm yourself during times of anxiety, panic or extreme duress.

Pro players likely use this to calm down the anxiety and stay in the moment.


Focused Tennis Players

It’s recommended that if you want to shift gears into a focus mode, that you have a ritual to get started.

For some people, this can be a certain song to hype them up before working out or a specific action that helps them get ready for work.

Whatever the thing is that you have to do, it’s supposed to be a positive trigger to get yourself going. Focus is important, but it’s also not easy to just flip gears.

This sends a psychological trigger that it’s game time.

Furthermore, as far as pros are concerned, there’s still that whole hype level and ego that comes with their life when the stands are screaming and they know what’s on the line.

It’s harder to focus when you know what you stand to lose.

Being Unique

Serena Williams Unqiue

Sometimes all you need to know is that you’re your own person, that you’re not copying someone else’s tennis techniques or their image.

You can have your own little ritual, your own positive trigger that is immediately indicative of you.

Someone will see it as your signature move.

This is an arbitrary reason, but it’s still something to consider.

Should You Have a Ritual?

Weird Ritual Nadal

Can you flip into focus mode without really having to try?

If so, then you’re likely a God who should be teaching other people how to do this.

Focusing isn’t easy, and if you find it difficult to get in that mindset, then you should consider creating your own positive trigger.

If you’re afraid of looking foolish, make it something subtle.

Scratch your right foot on the alley line two times while going onto the court, get within a few inches of the net and take a deep breath before stepping back, whatever it is that you’ve got to do to switch into game mode.

If you do develop a ritual, you should do it even when you’re practicing.

The difference between a professional and an amateur is how serious they take themselves.

If you even treat your practice matches like they could be life-altering events, then you’re in the mindset of being a pro.

You’re pushing yourself to do better, and that’s admirable.

If a ritual helps with that, then that’s great.

Take This Pro Strategy and Run With it

Are you going to pick up on this pro ritual, or are you going to leave your fate up to the quality of the ball?

It’s an important thing to get in the habit of doing, and even if you develop your own serving routine that might look funny to others, you should still get in the habit of bouncing the ball for quality assurance.

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