Double Fault In Tennis: Meaning, Causes & Examples

Having the ability to hit a quality serve in the game of tennis can largely dictate how good a player actually is. At the start of each point, a player has two chances to get a serve in. What happens if they miss both of them? This is known as a double fault.

Want to know more about double faults in tennis? We take a look at just what type of impact a double fault makes on players at all levels. From beginners to pros, double faults can come at the worst times, but learning how to manage them is key to growing.

What is a double fault in tennis? A double fault is whenever a server in tennis fails to get their first and second serve inside the service box. When this happens, the receiving player is automatically awarded the point.

What Causes Double Faults?

Getting two chances to hit one serving might seem fairly easy to do for anyone who plays tennis consistently. This is especially true for pros. However, double faults still occur for a variety of reasons. These are just a few of the main reasons why double faults might turn into a problem.

Toss Issues

A lot of tennis coaches believe that the toss is the most important part of a serve. If the toss is not consistent, players are setting themselves up for failure. Make sure to dial the toss back in so that everything else lines up correctly.

A quality toss will keep a player sideways when they start their serve and forces the chin up instead of pulling the head down too quickly.

Trying Too Much

Players can occasionally fall into a habit of trying to do too much with their serve. This leads to double faults, but trying too hard can cause a few different things.

On first serves, people trying too hard usually overhit their serve where it’s not even close to the service box. On the second serve, players might be trying too much to spin the ball or be extra precise. Even though it might not miss by much, it’s not as smooth of a motion as one should have.

Servers should always be looking for consistency and giving a similar type of effort on all serves. Trying to switch things up and increase the intensity in the middle of a match can throw off the rhythm, making it hard to ever get back to the same place as well.

Nerves

Players who start to feel the nerves and are serving can sometimes change how they normally hit a serve without realizing it. These are nerves creeping in and taking a player out of their normal rhythm.

Even the best players in the world will get nervous from time to time, but it’s best to try to relax as much as possible to avoid this problem.

Lack of Consistency

Players need to practice both their first and second serve in order to have success. This means a lot of hard work to build up the level of consistency needed to put constant pressure on opponents.

The saying goes that every player is only as good as a second serve. Hitting the ball as hard as possible and having a good first serve helps, but there needs to be a reliable option for a second serve so that a lot of free points are not given away.

The best way to build up consistency is to simply hit serves and practice them as much as possible. The good news is that serve practice doesn’t require anyone else to be there, as people need a bucket of balls and an empty tennis court. Most people can find something like this around their neighborhood so they can practice.

How Common Are Double Faults In Tennis?

While 2-3 double faults per match is normal, some pro players like Alexander Zverev can sometimes hit up to 10 double faults in one set.

Here’s how many double faults the best servers in the world averages per match:

PlayerAverage Double Faults/Match
John Isner2.2
Milos Raonic3.7
Reilly Opelka2.8
Nick Kyrgios2.6
Roger Federer1.4
Matteo Berrettini1.8
Kevin Anderson2.8
Sam Querrey4.3
Stefanos Tsitsipas2.1
Novak Djokovic2.7
Daniil Medvedev3.1
Alexander Zverev4.6

Doubling Faulting An Entire Game

Serving an entire game’s worth of double faults, meaning eight consecutive misses in a row, happens more than people realize at the recreation level.

However, at the professional level, it happens from time to time as well. In the last few decades, players who have had great careers, such as Boris Becker, Fernando Verdasco, Matthew Ebden and Benoit Paire, have committed this embarrassing feat.

When this happens, it is more of a mental block than a physical error. Clearing the mind and having a short memory is the best way to bounce back.

Double Faulting & Winning

The surprising thing about some of the double fault records on the ATP and WTA tour is how many still end up winning the match.

For example, Anna Kournikova has the WTA tour record for most double faults in a match, which is 31 in the second round of the 1999 Australian Open. She went on to win that match, despite putting herself in a huge hole.

The same can be said for the player responsible for holding the record for most double faults in a three-setter on the ATP Tour. Guillermo Correia committed 23 double faults in a three-set match at the 2006 Monte Carlo Masters. This was during a stretch of his career where he was having a lot of difficulty serving consistently, but he still beat Nicolas Kiefer in this matchup.

Are Double Faults Always Bad?

Believe it or not, hitting a few double faults in a match is not necessarily a bad thing. Some players could fall into the habit of not going for too much, and therefore hitting a mediocre serve that doesn’t provide that much of an advantage.

There are a lot of professional players who will go for a little bit more from time to time in order to try to get easy points. If a receiver is sitting on their second serve, hitting a more challenging second serve could be as efficient as laying one in. It might lead to an additional double fault or two, but it balances out by picking up some winners off of harder second serves.

The sweet spot seems to be about getting a first-serve percentage to about 60 to 70%, while the second serve percentage should be around 90% or more. Taking zero risk on a second serve is eventually going to come back to bite players once they reach a certain level, so the second serve still needs to hit decently well.

The Balancing Act of Double Faults

No tennis player is in a great mood after hitting a double fault. However, even the best players in the world do it on the biggest stages, so it’s a minor hiccup in most cases more than anything.

The last thing a player needs is to get in their head about the double fault, as it will snowball into more and more issues.

Learning how to bounce back from double faults and correct things on the go usually ends up helping players. It involves being mentally strong, and trusting the muscle memory built from all the past practices.

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coach upcoming talents.

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