In football, the winner of the coin toss can elect to "receive" or "defer." The advantage of "deferring" is that you get to receive after halftime, meaning that teams will often elect this option.

In tennis, the winner of the coin toss can elect to serve (or not). Are there any compensating reasons to decline the serve, as in football? Does any world class player routinely do this?

3 Answers 3


If a player (or doubles team) wins the coin toss the somewhat-standard strategy is:

  1. If you feel like you have a superior return of serve and have a better chance at breaking your opponents serve than they do breaking yours, elect to receive serve first. I would imagine players like Nadal, Djokovic and Ferrer choose to receive if they win the coin toss.

  2. If you feel like you have a superior serve and your opponent is going to have a tough time breaking your serve, and you feel like you would mentally benefit from "having the lead" after holding serve and making your opponent feel the pressure of "keeping up" with you in the set, elect to serve first. I would imagine players like Raonic, Isner and Karlovic choose to serve first if they win the coin toss.

Having said all the above, sometimes these strategies go right out the window depending on how the player feels, how the warm-up went or who their opponent is and the player might change their mind "on a whim" and make a certain decision either way.


The rule is that the player who wins the toss can either:

  1. Choose to serve or receive.
  2. Choose his initial end, which gives the opponent the choice of serving or receiving.
  3. Give the opponent the choice between (1) and (2). This is rarely done but I've seen it, and done it.

JS Connors almost invariably chose to receive first, on the theory that he liked his return better than his own serve. You see other players do it from time to time. I've done in situations where I was very confident about breaking in the first game. Whatever is most calculated to get you 2-0, basically.


The rule is that if a player wins the coin toss (racket spin), that player may:

1) Choose to serve or receive in the first game of the match, in which case the opponent shall choose the end of the court for the first game of the match.

2) Choose end of the court, in which case the opponent chooses to serve or receive first.

If you choose the court side first, and if your are playing outside, you can pick a side that adds to your advantage, like wind direction or sun in your eyes, etc.

Depending if you are a good server, or returner, you can choose to serve or return first. Also, letting your opponent serve first sometimes is an advantage because his serve might not be quite warmed up yet.

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