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And that, friends, brings me to my last impudent trick. I shall now bury the controversial puzzler, the serve.
One serve or two?
The arguments for two serves are good. Tennis does not have the "ultimate" shot. It doesn't have the home run, the touchdown or the goal. The nearest equivalent to those is the ace, made possible by granting a player two serves. Fine. The big bomb, the ace, must stay. Tennis needs it.
The arguments for one serve are also good. Under a one-serve rule more crowd-pleasing baseline play would develop. Or one might add that allowing Arthur Ashe a second serve after missing his first is the same as giving Jack Nicklaus a mulligan. Again fine and logical.
I side with the one-servers. With me, it is again a matter of slack time. Sure, I marvel when Ashe hammers in a blistering ace. Who doesn't? But Ashe misses his first serve about 50% of the time and a much smaller percentage of those that go in are aces. And we pay a big price for those aces. Half of the time Ashe, moving to net with his serve, must return to the baseline, reset himself and serve again. Missed first serves are the main reason why the play in tennis has a disconnected, staccato character.
Is there no solution? Can't tennis adopt a one-serve rule yet still keep the marvelous ace?
I suggest that tennis experiment with the idea of giving the server a single serve only, but allowing him to make it from inside the baseline. In other words, closer to the net! Perhaps two feet closer. First, this would make play more continuous. Second, it would add baseline play, for on most points the receiver would be returning a "second" serve—strengthened, of course, because the target is closer—but still not as strong as two serves. But neither would the ace be eliminated. Faced with the penalty of losing the point if he faulted, the server's total of aces would be less. He couldn't swing away freely. But his percentage would be improved, and he would go for his ace whenever the score or strategy indicated it.
The rules of any sport must be dynamic. To do the job they were intended to do they must change as the sport changes. Today's tennis is different from the game in which players rallied from the baselines for minutes on a single point. Yet the rules stay the same. Be assured that if next year's batters come to the plate as favorites to hit homers, baseball will enlarge the strike zone, just as it reduced it in 1969 to remove the pitchers' bind on the batters. The sport must rule the rules, not the rules the sport. Perhaps the sultans of tennis should take a hint from Humpty-Dumpty, who told Alice: "When I use a word it means what I choose it to mean." Tennis should make its rules do what it wants them to do.