Why do professional tennis players demand a specific thing like the number of balls and the number bounces prior to serving? Because there are very superstitious. Like nearly all sports persons tennis players are keen to gain the edge over their opponents and certainly not offend the spirits by tempting providence. They are prepared to observe repetitive behaviours, no matter who is watching them, or how ridiculous they appear. Following a set routine helps athletes get into a flow and, so the theory goes, if you do the same thing on every serve the ball will go exactly where you want it to go. Competitors will almost always try to repeat behaviours like bouncing a ball before serving.
Serena Williams (USA) likes to bounce the ball five times before her first serve and twice before her second. She has publicaly blamed her poor performances in the past on not following her usual rituals such as tying her shoelaces and not bringing her shower sandals to the court. She also admits to not washing her socks when on a winning streak. John Isner (US) bounces the ball between his legs before each serve. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) has an obsession with bouncing the ball and has made the ball bounce 38 or 39 times before serving. He also insists his poodle travels with him to Wimbledon and will never uses the same shower twice. Jelena Dokic(Australia) bounces the ball five times before her first serve. She also prefers to sit to the left of the umpire and refuses to look at a draw sheet more than one round at a time. The Australian tennis player has the ball boys and girls throw her the balls underhand and while waiting for serves will blow on her right hand.
Jack Sock (US) insists the ball handlers on his either side have three balls only. Denis Istomin (Uzbekistan) insists the ball girl or boy handling the towel also deliver the ball after he wins the point. Only when the point is lost does he insist another ball person does the honours. Richard Gasquet (France) will always use the same ball after he wins a point. He is also noted for frequently changing his racket grips during changeovers.
Roger Federer (Switzerland) is obsessed with the No. 8. He wants to serve eight aces before beginning a match, wants eight towel rubs at the end of a set, sets up eight bottles of water courtside and carries eight rackets. He also habitually tosses his hair when walking from one side of the court to the other. Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) likes to smell her new tennis balls before serving them. Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina) always stays in the same room at the same hotel when in New York for the US Open and used to roll his shorts up on his left leg only when preparing to receive serve.
Rafael Nadal ( Spain) likes to positions his water bottles before each match and during the contest, he has a certain order of drinking. Rafa also places his hair behind each ear and fiddles with his shorts before every serve and always makes sure his opponent crosses the net before he does on a changeover.
Jarmila Gajdošová (Australian) will always drink the same amount of water during changeovers. Jerzy Janowicz (Poland) refuses to shave when he is winning. Maria Sharapova (Russia) avoids standing on court lines between serves. So too does Ana Ivanovic (Serbia ). Andy Murray (Scotland) sways from side to side, often with his tongue protruding when waiting for serves. And if he misses a first serve, he will often tug on his left sweatband. If you see him tug on his shirt, it often means he feels he is in trouble. Tomáš Berdych (Czech Republic) will lead with his right leg when serving. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) comes to court wearing earphones and a hoodie. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) a former US Open and French Open champion would spin 360 degrees on her way to returning serve.
Before Pete Sampras prepared to serve he followed the same routine every time, bouncing the ball a set number of times, then placing it against the stock of the racquet. When former champion Goran Ivanisevic won an important match he would repeat everything he did the previous day, such as eating the same food at the same restaurant, talking to the same people and watching the same TV programmes. He also used the same ball after firing an ace, Romainian, Alexandra Dulgheru would always put her her right foot forward to step onto the court. Veteran, Marion Bartoli (France) used to jump up and down on the spot then swing her arms left and right before serving . She was also renowned for racquet swishing, odd practice service swings, and sprinting to her chair at the end of games. Nicolas Kiefer likes to lightly tap the corner of the court with his racket before returning serve. Art Larsen , an American left-hander who won the United States Open in 1950 and was nicknamed Tappy. He made a habit of tapping everything with his racket: a light touch for the umpire, the ball boy, his opponent and the net. Andre Agassi, the eight-time Grand Slam champion, got positively dictatorial if a ball boy or girl was out of standard position before a point started, refusing to play ball until his feng shui standards had been met.