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View Full Version : Drills to Return Quick Serves


Roy125
11-23-2009, 09:51 AM
One of the things that I practice the least in tennis is returning fast and flat serves, mainly because I only know a few of them that can hit at speeds 100 mph+. Usually, when I return those serves, I keep on hitting the ball into the net. Does anyone have any drills to practice returning the quick serves or any drills to increase my reaction rate?

fuzz nation
11-23-2009, 10:00 AM
A few years ago at the US Open, I saw one of the best doubles teams in the world getting some work done on the practice courts. They both served to each other from up at the service line and I've encouraged some of the kids that I coach to do this with each other. It lets the receiver time returns to an actual service motion and the server/feeder can hit a lot of balls without getting worn out. The serves can be fast and flat or a bit spinny, plus the feeder can land them rather accurately from closer in.

jrod
11-23-2009, 10:02 AM
^^^ Exactly. Fuzz Nation nailed it.

Roy125
11-23-2009, 10:20 AM
I think that I saw Federer do that once when he was preparing for Karlovic.

LeeD
11-23-2009, 10:52 AM
..or learn to volley.
Most players don't have time to successfully return first flats with full swings, so why not chip it back underspin?
Short prep and backswing with full shoulder turn does it for topspin. Unfortunately :oops::oops: when the server knows you're planning to top it back, they just serve wide either side to negate your return! Or into your body.
The volley chip return works for all fast and slow serves, if you can vary it with some top, some flats.

tennisdad65
11-23-2009, 07:10 PM
^^ agree with LeeD on this..

I have the worst ground strokes in my group of friends, but my service returns are the best amongst the same group. I think this is because I have the best volleys and reflex volleys amongst my friends. This is especially obvious for faster first serves. I just 'volley' the service return back with a continental grip.

Making someone stand in and serve to you is also very good.

USERNAME
11-23-2009, 07:48 PM
If u just chip returns against a good player they will go on offense real quick and dominate most points, even Fed in the pros has trouble winning points when he just chips his return. U have to learn to use a short controlled stroke off both wings when returning, placement is key! If u stroke the ball to the corner off a good hard serve u will b in at least a neutral position at the begining of the point. Returning serves hit from the service line is a great drill that I use often, give it a try.

Storm_Kyori
11-23-2009, 08:01 PM
Quick and good reflexes I think. Also shortening your swing a bit. I saw a vid by the serve doctor on yourtube where he was focusing on returns. He step at an angle with your left foot if your a rightie and swing at the ball. I do that and get the ball back. I also think it's good to have a plan or certain spot to aim for. I think to myself at times. "if i get a serve to my fh side, i'm going to crush it down the line. if i get one to my weaker bh side, i will slice it back and work myself into the point" I think that helps too.

Bagumbawalla
11-23-2009, 08:09 PM
FNs answer is the standard.

You can also do the opposite. Have the server serve from a normal position and you return from 1 foot behind the service line (not as hard as it sounds).

Blake0
11-23-2009, 10:14 PM
First off, against huge servers..feed off their pace.

All you need is to split step, body momentum moving forward, and a swing with no backswing. Being able to see and react to the ball will help too. Keep your stroke simple, with a straight takeback and hitting through the ball and almost no backswing.

if that doesnt work too well..try chipping some balls..

These 2 combined is how federer usually returns big servers..:)

LeeD
11-24-2009, 07:02 AM
Username...
And you can beat TommyHaas?
He chips 90% of flat first serves back!
Of course, if you can, mix it up with tops and sidespins as well.
But getting the serve back is most important, all the great topspin in the world doesn't work if you don't get it back.
Try standing in against a real serve and see if you can get it back with your topspin groundie shortened to a punch stroke.

In D Zone
11-24-2009, 10:44 AM
^^^
Agreed!

Priority one is being able to return the serve. There is no rule that it has to be pretty - chip, short compact swing,lob or even a drop shot.

Important thing is to get to the serve and return it. I've had opponents who would mishit my fast serve and basically dropping the ball short and close to the net and would win the point.

Of course, its expected that you'll get smacked by a good server. But it does not mean you just stand there and do nothing. Each ball return, gives you 50-50 chance of winning. Its betta to be creative, try something that works than just keep getting over power or not even being able to answer back.

USERNAME
11-24-2009, 07:11 PM
Username...
And you can beat TommyHaas?
He chips 90% of flat first serves back!
Of course, if you can, mix it up with tops and sidespins as well.
But getting the serve back is most important, all the great topspin in the world doesn't work if you don't get it back.
Try standing in against a real serve and see if you can get it back with your topspin groundie shortened to a punch stroke.

I play against college players often (Iv had the honor to hit with Klahn and Clayton.) My coach is a former pro. I play nationals and a few ITF junior tournys. Im gonna be playing a few Futures tournys (if I can qualify.) Im pretty sure Iv played some good servers... Against the players Iv come up against if you constantly chip they will constantly switch to offense very fast and I will lose most points on return! I chip some serves back but for the most part I use a nice short takeback and stroke the ball back into play, Im not saying or trying to overload the ball with spin or power u moron.

bertrevert
11-24-2009, 09:30 PM
I run into big servers a bit infrequently too. It really is something that doesn't get practised enough agreed - the drill you want is the one already described. You can intensify it by say demanding you stand on the baseline that sort of thing. Compact return. And in match situation, stand back for the flat one up the T, recently I found standing further back than you imagined can help.

LeeD
11-25-2009, 08:00 AM
Username...
When you chip the return, you can vary it's height, bounce, depth, placement, angle, and speed. When that doesn't work, then maybe you should have listened to my advice and mix in some flats and tops.
Not sure about other guy, but Clayton doesn't have a big serve. Not like Roddick, not like Safin, not close to Karlovic. Those levels are your competition that you will soon face.
And can you beat Haas? Haas would cream your friends zip and zip.

fruitytennis1
11-25-2009, 08:04 AM
Don't chip it with backspin unless your amazing at it. Block it back with topspin.

LeeD
11-25-2009, 08:07 AM
Nope, use both AND flats.

USERNAME
11-25-2009, 07:35 PM
Username...
When you chip the return, you can vary it's height, bounce, depth, placement, angle, and speed. When that doesn't work, then maybe you should have listened to my advice and mix in some flats and tops.
Not sure about other guy, but Clayton doesn't have a big serve. Not like Roddick, not like Safin, not close to Karlovic. Those levels are your competition that you will soon face.
And can you beat Haas? Haas would cream your friends zip and zip.

Wow... U really must be VERY full of urself. No matter HOW u chip a return, it is still mainly defensive, doing that against a 6.0+ player will put u in a bad spot most of the time on return points. Against a big serve that stretches me out I got no problem chipping that, but most of the time I like picking my spots and putting a little bit of top on the ball to give myself a little more room for error. Now against a 2nd serve Ill flatten up a bit more and be more aggressive.
And on Clayton and Klahn, I doubt ud be able to touch them on their serve and they would kill u returning to. If their serves aint big enough, Iv played against Reid and Tomic (big serving Aussies) and Domijan (big serving American.)

papa
11-26-2009, 05:49 AM
..or learn to volley.
Most players don't have time to successfully return first flats with full swings, so why not chip it back underspin?
Short prep and backswing with full shoulder turn does it for topspin. Unfortunately :oops::oops: when the server knows you're planning to top it back, they just serve wide either side to negate your return! Or into your body.
The volley chip return works for all fast and slow serves, if you can vary it with some top, some flats.

Yeah, to a certain extent anyway. Problem I have with this approach, although probably sound at certain levels, is that once the opposition realizes what your doing, and it doesn't take very long, your going to get pounded. If you can move it around, might take a little longer but watch out.

Another approach, might be to work on your slice and see if you can get more of a "drive slice" going for you and keeping the shot deep. I would almost bet that LeeD uses this shot more than just the chip but I don't know.

But he's right, its a good shot at all levels and probably the easiest to execute - just try to vary it up a little.

LeeD
11-26-2009, 06:56 AM
If you would read my posts again, you'd find I advocate the chip volley when you cannot return the serve!
When you CAN return the serve, by all means go for it.
Username.... I can return JoaroSoare's serves. The year after I played him, look it up, he was ranked top 30 MENS pros. He was OK then too.
RussellSimpson has a stronger serve, and a more proven serve, than your list of guys. Yes, I had trouble with his serve, but mainly with his volleys and quickness. He did beat me zip and one, but most games went to duece and at least 4 went multiple ads.
Both not goofing around tennis, one was 4th round of Qs and the other 5th.
Once again TommyHaas would bagel all your friends, and chip back every first serve!
I can barely beat a 4.0 player IN SINGLES, but I've faced more than a fair share of top mens serves up to and including 130+ speeds. You don't swing on those fast ones.

USERNAME
11-26-2009, 11:13 AM
If you would read my posts again, you'd find I advocate the chip volley when you cannot return the serve!
When you CAN return the serve, by all means go for it.
Username.... I can return JoaroSoare's serves. The year after I played him, look it up, he was ranked top 30 MENS pros. He was OK then too.
RussellSimpson has a stronger serve, and a more proven serve, than your list of guys. Yes, I had trouble with his serve, but mainly with his volleys and quickness. He did beat me zip and one, but most games went to duece and at least 4 went multiple ads.
Both not goofing around tennis, one was 4th round of Qs and the other 5th.
Once again TommyHaas would bagel all your friends, and chip back every first serve!
I can barely beat a 4.0 player IN SINGLES, but I've faced more than a fair share of top mens serves up to and including 130+ speeds. You don't swing on those fast ones.

Reid hits serves in the 130s, Domijan easily in the 120s, Tomic can get up to 130 but stays in the 110-120 mark, against those serves i could take a short takeback and stroke the ball (all it takes to do that is a brain and early prep.) And Haas would never chip every 1st serve back in any match against a quality player cause he would get run by the following shot on every point. Chipping serves that are not in ur strike zone or have u stretched is fine but most of the time u want to put urself in at least a neutral position at the beginning of all points, chipping is defensive (no matter how u look at it) and will put ur opponent in a position to attack.

LeeD
11-26-2009, 11:26 AM
Have you WATCHED TommyHaas lately?
Seen against Safin and DJ, Haas chose to chip at least 90% of returns! He won against Safin and lost to DJ in those matches. Those opponent's are not rummies in anyone's book.
NOT saying you should chip EVERY return, but variety will throw your opponent off his game.

Dags
11-26-2009, 01:48 PM
My coach has an interesting drill for serve reaction time.

The receiver stands in position, but turned around with his back to the court. The server then gets ready, and shouts 'Go' just as he is about to strike the ball. This is the receiver's queue to turn around and try to return.

The server doesn't need to hit it that hard: my coach uses an abbreviated service motion for this drill. It doesn't even matter where the server stands - you could do it from the service line it that helps with accuracy - provided the server adjusts the call to give the receiver enough opportunity to pick up the flight of the ball and react.

It's a fun drill, and after ten minutes of these it feels like you have all the time in the world when you start facing in the right direction.

JISTUINS
11-26-2009, 05:49 PM
We also use the serve-from-service-line drill, as well as targetting-during-returns (adding consistency requirements especially one or two weeks before tournaments). During training, we encourage the abbreviated backswing. During actual games, if the coach can sit on the bench and the player cannot get the hang of the serve, then getting it in anyway possible, especially via chip return, is encouraged because during the tournament, if you don't have the hang of the short backswing return for the particular opponent's serve, you don't want to waste a whole lot of return errors and points. A very unconventional return drill that we also do have for doubles one-back one-front (with designated stroker and net man) is for the net man to lob the return and charge the net, but that is a very specific drill for a specific formation (usually lower level players who can't do the two-front doubles formation). Hope that helps.

Slazenger07
11-26-2009, 06:51 PM
One of the things that I practice the least in tennis is returning fast and flat serves, mainly because I only know a few of them that can hit at speeds 100 mph+. Usually, when I return those serves, I keep on hitting the ball into the net. Does anyone have any drills to practice returning the quick serves or any drills to increase my reaction rate?

Have someone serve at you standing at the service line, its really tough to return these serves but it will help you shorten your backswing and force you to prepare earlier for the serve. Used to do this in highschool practices back in the day and it helped me with my return of fast serves alot.

USERNAME
11-26-2009, 10:04 PM
Have you WATCHED TommyHaas lately?
Seen against Safin and DJ, Haas chose to chip at least 90% of returns! He won against Safin and lost to DJ in those matches. Those opponent's are not rummies in anyone's book.
NOT saying you should chip EVERY return, but variety will throw your opponent off his game.

I can vary the pace, height, depth, placement, and spin on my returns. It throws alot of guys of when I decide to switch from a loopy deep ball down the line to a flatter crosscourt shot. Or when I decide to return it straight at them with more pace.

LeeD
11-27-2009, 07:33 AM
Did anyone ever say you couldn't vary your returns?
YOU are the one saying that we shouldn't chip our returns because they don't vary. I say chips can vary, AND, you should only chip when it's hard to return with a normal shortened groundie.
You think only a shortened groundie should be used to return fast serves. Meaning your idea of a fast serve is not all that fast, OR, you stand 6' behind the baseline, allowing the server to ace you with a short, wide serve.
Obvously you are a 17 year old, star struck, , self centered, and think only of yourself.
It shows in your posts where you reference only YOUR style of tennis.

bertrevert
11-27-2009, 04:49 PM
Did anyone ever say you couldn't vary your returns?
YOU are the one saying that we shouldn't chip our returns because they don't vary. I say chips can vary, AND, you should only chip when it's hard to return with a normal shortened groundie.
You think only a shortened groundie should be used to return fast serves. Meaning your idea of a fast serve is not all that fast, OR, you stand 6' behind the baseline, allowing the server to ace you with a short, wide serve.
Obvously you are a 17 year old, star struck, , self centered, and think only of yourself.
It shows in your posts where you reference only YOUR style of tennis.

So, to recap, vary the chip returns, but use them a lot more than you are used to because they provide certainty, and can be underspun to good effect? And some modern players, you note Haas, chips a lot.

The last really unsuccessful implementation of the chip-charge (volley) method was Henman. I recall that really not working out at all for him on hard court.

I play on artificial grass and the serve slips through fast and low - I chip a lot in order to get the darn thing back, but I think the weakest part of my game is the service return. Too many people bang big serves past my ears, metaphorically, really they are going past my ankles!

So any more drills folks?

LeeD
11-27-2009, 05:26 PM
Mentally focus on height of the fast serves. Get your racket there and half the battle is won...by you.
Now study where the majority of fast serves are headed, and DO NOT lean that way or show you know. You favor that side after the ball is tossed.
Sometimes, you will get aced. No big deal, we all practice our first serves to ace you.
But I don't understand the whizzing by your ear thing. If it's that close, you should have an easy swing at the ball, well within reach. If it's fast, you can block it back even with SW forehand and 1hbh eastern grips. Part of the circular motion of both in modern men's tennis allows for a quicker than normal incoming ball to be blocked before the racket gets fully taken back.
If it's a big serve, start out 4' behind the baseline and move in half a step to hit your returns.

jmhs
11-27-2009, 06:48 PM
The receiver stands in position, but turned around with his back to the court. The server then gets ready, and shouts 'Go' just as he is about to strike the ball. This is the receiver's queue to turn around and try to return.
It's a fun drill, and after ten minutes of these it feels like you have all the time in the world when you start facing in the right direction.

Cool. This thread/post is really timely. I play a USTA quarter tomorrow on a lightening fast court against a kid who I have seen clocked at 120. I'm going to use your drill in preparation. Thanks.

USERNAME
11-27-2009, 08:23 PM
Did anyone ever say you couldn't vary your returns?
YOU are the one saying that we shouldn't chip our returns because they don't vary. I say chips can vary, AND, you should only chip when it's hard to return with a normal shortened groundie.
You think only a shortened groundie should be used to return fast serves. Meaning your idea of a fast serve is not all that fast, OR, you stand 6' behind the baseline, allowing the server to ace you with a short, wide serve.
Obvously you are a 17 year old, star struck, , self centered, and think only of yourself.
It shows in your posts where you reference only YOUR style of tennis.

My style and many other top players in the 18s style! Im not the only one doing this. Its really not hard to stroke the ball (even if its fast) if u have pretty good coordination and timing! Its easier imo to vary a topspin or flat shot cause ur actually stroking the ball, when I chip (even when I choose to and am not forced) its harder to place the ball exactly where I want it to go and even if it hits the side line its not hard to run down and hit offensively against.

crash1929
11-27-2009, 08:26 PM
One of the things that I practice the least in tennis is returning fast and flat serves, mainly because I only know a few of them that can hit at speeds 100 mph+. Usually, when I return those serves, I keep on hitting the ball into the net. Does anyone have any drills to practice returning the quick serves or any drills to increase my reaction rate?


This is exactly what I have been wanting to work on too!!!!

USERNAME
11-27-2009, 08:44 PM
This is exactly what I have been wanting to work on too!!!!

1) Find a player who can crack a 1st serve and get it in alot
or (this is the easier one)
2) Have some one stand at the service line and serve moderately fast
a) Start out with the person hitting all to the fh then all to the bh, once u got that down have them vary the serves position

[d]ragon
11-27-2009, 10:06 PM
I think you can chip it back or block it back, whatever feels comfortable to you. Both are effective approaches depending on how well you can play them. I for one cannot chip returns back very well off my forehand side so I use the block more but I know alot of good players who can. Both work.

I don't really like the idea of having a partner serve from the service box. Sure they can get more serves in taht way but the trajectory of the shot tends to be alot higher than from the baseline. I like the idea of standing closer to work on the shorter backswing. But during a real match, if I'm playing against a big server, I like to stand further back to have abit more time

papa
11-28-2009, 05:12 AM
ragon;4153059']

I don't really like the idea of having a partner serve from the service box. Sure they can get more serves in taht way but the trajectory of the shot tends to be alot higher than from the baseline. I like the idea of standing closer to work on the shorter backswing. But during a real match, if I'm playing against a big server, I like to stand further back to have abit more time

I hear you and you make a valid point. However, keep in mind that its easier to hit the serves from the service line (when you do a lot of this you need all the help you can get) and it does take away some time from the receiver. Also, if your working with someone who cannot give you the pace you might/think you need, having them come to the service line helps.

LeeD
11-28-2009, 07:08 AM
I suspect old farts who learned to S/V before solid groundies can chip with varying spin, placement, heights, and pace.
I suspect younger players who learned with Western strokes who emphasis backcourt play would return much better with shortened groundstrokes.
Seems Fed and Haas chip returns AND groundie returns, so maybe we should strive for both.

fuzz nation
11-28-2009, 09:02 AM
Have someone serve at you standing at the service line, its really tough to return these serves but it will help you shorten your backswing and force you to prepare earlier for the serve. Used to do this in highschool practices back in the day and it helped me with my return of fast serves alot.

You're welcome...