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View Full Version : Best way to return a big serve?


Roddick33
01-30-2012, 02:53 PM
I'm playing an important match in 2 days against someone with a huge serve. he has decent groundstrokes, so I should be able to outplay him at the baseline AS LONG AS I GET HIS SERVE OVER.

Is slice or groundstroke w/ short backswing the best? What is your best way to return big servers? They are usually flat.

Say Chi Sin Lo
01-30-2012, 03:03 PM
Keep reminding yourself, you're not likely to crack a winner right off of a serve, and the rest of your game will take over.

For me, if I can bunt it back a big serve beyond the service line, I count that as a good return.

LeeD
01-30-2012, 03:03 PM
Volley grip, volley stroke.
If that don't work, lob high.
If that don't work, try short backswing body turn groundie.
If that don't work, shake his hand and say "thanks for the match".
Some serves are just too good for us.
Most serves, within our skill level, is returnable.

rkelley
01-30-2012, 03:05 PM
When I return a big serve the thing I'm most concerned about is which side of my body it's going to go to. I look for any sign in the toss, racquet position, or body position that can give that away. Does he always go to a particular serve or location when he's got to get the point?

Then I try to get my racquet in front of the ball. Basically no back swing, just lean in and block it back. If your opponent's is really cranking it then you'll get good pace on the returns. Exactly how to hit it depends on your strokes. I hit a 2hbh, so on that side I can get a pretty solid return just by leaning into the ball. If I get streched really wide I'll let go with my top hand. On my forehand side I often just go with a continental grip to avoid the grip change and block it back.

I don't get too worried about placement. If he's really cranking it then getting back in play is a win in and of itself. Make him hit at least one more ball.

Experiment with where to stand. Does he always go to one side? Then cover that side until he proves to you he can go the other way. Moving up cuts off angles, moving back gives you just a bit more time. If the ball kicks up a lot then you almost have to move in to take it.

Xizel
01-30-2012, 03:48 PM
It's extremely hard to return a big serve without a read (post above) or very good guess. That's usually the hardest part. If his serve is extremely good, you'll have to make random guesses and hope they're good, because reaction alone won't make the return. After that, just block it back. Once you get better at reading it, you can add a short backswing and go for a more aggressive return.

LeeD
01-30-2012, 03:56 PM
I find the "read" thing doesn't nearly work at any level better than 4.0. At that level...and I mean MY 4.0, not recently promoted 3.5's, there are few reads, and everyone can hit into my backhand side, near my backhand side, and away from my backhand side, at will. Same for forehand side.
They don't make their shot most times, which is the reason they are not pros.
I think reflex is the best attempt. You know bounce height for flat serves. You mostly know distance involved. If jammed, you know your jam move. You know spin serve height, you can judge spin serve speed and timing. Use everything you got just to get the serve back, which lowers his serve percentage every time. Then you run him, don't worry about winning the point, worry about making him run and tiring him out.
Big serves need perfect concentration and body control. Run him, and those things get sloppy.

Roddick33
01-30-2012, 04:16 PM
Thank you all so much!

Btw, he's a lefty.

kimbahpnam
01-30-2012, 04:18 PM
make solid contact. redirect the pace.

LeeD
01-30-2012, 04:21 PM
Everything depends on how good his serve really is, and how good YOU are returning flat serves with a short, direct swing and backswing.
If his serves go 140, all I can say is good luck.
If it's within the 120 range, you can change grip, shortbackswing, turn shoulders, and hit topspin off it.
But it depends what experience you have returning those serves.

Roddick33
01-30-2012, 04:22 PM
Everything depends on how good his serve really is, and how good YOU are returning flat serves with a short, direct swing and backswing.
If his serves go 140, all I can say is good luck.
If it's within the 120 range, you can change grip, shortbackswing, turn shoulders, and hit topspin off it.
But it depends what experience you have returning those serves.

its probably 100-110 range? idk.

LeeD
01-30-2012, 04:25 PM
If you're 4.0, just stand 4' back, slightly to his slice serve side, and use both hands on racket, shoulder turn for backswing, and you should be able to topspin his serves back if they're within reach.
Most 4.0's can do that on my lefty serves, even 10 years ago.
That, combined with occasional volley grip SLICE returns, should get the ball back at least 80% of the time.
Really be aware what he does with your returns, and try to change it up once in a while. Cover your backhand if he's hitting forehands.

ace_pace
01-30-2012, 04:28 PM
Thank you all so much!

Btw, he's a lefty.

oooo. Makes it interesting. Just makes him all the more dangerous aye? especially in the ad court. But yeah, the same tips still apply. Really this is how I should tackle the problem (I usually forget to):

1. Look for any signs that correspond to where he'll aim e.g. ball toss, stance
2. If that wont help, then use mathematical probability. If most of the time hes hitting to your backhand, assume he's going to serve to your backhand :D. Note that you can use this in conjunction with the tip 1.
3. If even that wont work, guess. Thats what Bernard Tomic does.

Also try to run them to the ground. When your tired, one of the first things to go is your serve. Remember to hold your own serve as well as you can.

Roddick33
01-30-2012, 04:30 PM
oooo. Makes it interesting. Just makes him all the more dangerous aye? especially in the ad court. But yeah, the same tips still apply. Really this is how I should tackle the problem (I usually forget to):

1. Look for any signs that correspond to where he'll aim e.g. ball toss, stance
2. If that wont help, then use mathematical probability. If most of the time hes hitting to your backhand, assume he's going to serve to your backhand :D. Note that you should only do this when you cant use the first step.
3. If even that wont work, guess. Thats what Bernard Tomic does.

Also try to run them to the ground. When your tired, one of the first things to go is your serve. Remember to hold your own serve as well as you can.

Lol I have a weak serve, it's not terrible but it's definitely not "big".

However, he isn't too consistent with his 1st serve and sometimes double faults. he usually doesn't hit it toward the T or out wide, it usually goes RIGHT down the middle.

LeeD
01-30-2012, 04:58 PM
Right down the middle is the easiest. You have to defend yourself, so conti grip and VOLLEY that ball after it's bounce.
You not having a big serve is your biggest advantage. Just get the first one IN, heavy spin, little pace, to never allow him to rest. He needs to create pace to force the point.
Don't trade big serves, he wants the points to end quickly. Your job is to make him run, stay out on the court, and NOT make mistakes.

Roddick33
01-30-2012, 05:17 PM
Ok thanks, so basically what I've gotten from you all is:

1) Volley grip, just get it over
2) Try to read his serve and adjust accordingly
3) stand way behind the baseline and hit a topspin
4) Luck.

GoSurfBoy
01-30-2012, 05:33 PM
At the level I compete at, 120's is 'the norm'. It takes tremendous focus to pick up on nuances or 'tells' of a service toss, and many times, you just guess based on someone's patterns. I think Agassi was quoted for saying that he was so good at ROS because he guessed. And got aced because he guessed. Hard to argue with his success...

I start further back than I need, and as the toss goes up, I rise up, moving forward into a hop-and-split; step up and hop as he tosses, split as he strikes. NOTE: I am always trying to move forward, at angles, not along the baseline.

1. Stay low. It will help on blocked returns.

2. Try to follow the ball all the way in, and KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN PAST CONTACT. This is The Killer. Most people 'pull up' - which pulls DOWN on the ball. We all 'want to see where it's going'. Fast serves/fast pace will rush you. Watch Fed's and Nadal's 'head down' return. Fed is probably The Model for head-down-after-contact for all groundstrokes. There is a reason he does it.

3. If you DO have time for more of a swing, or find yourself adjusting a bit, shorten the backswing BUT FINISH THE SWING/FOLLOW THROUGH. Sooooooo important.

4. If you're getting aced or hurt from THEIR FAVORITE PLACEMENT, cheat over slightly and take it away. Make them hit the slider or the one they don't like as much. Against a big server, most people still try to 'split the difference', and the server will keep pounding his fav'.

5. Have someone serve a bucket at you - FROM THE SERVICE LINE. You're going to be surprised after a bucket how much your reaction time will improve.

6. Walk to receive, take a deep breath, and relax. Focus, enjoy the challenge, and realize you're going to get aced or winner'd at times. Keep plugging, keep your cool, and remember, even though it's life and death - to us, it's still fun....

Here's some good stuff. A lot about footwork, but watch the 'head down's, often shorter backswings, etc:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBjzOeAP6Lg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-oOA-Y2ws8

Roddick33
01-30-2012, 06:19 PM
At the level I compete at, 120's is 'the norm'. It takes tremendous focus to pick up on nuances or 'tells' of a service toss, and many times, you just guess based on someone's patterns. I think Agassi was quoted for saying that he was so good at ROS because he guessed. And got aced because he guessed. Hard to argue with his success...

I start further back than I need, and as the toss goes up, I rise up, moving forward into a hop-and-split; step up and hop as he tosses, split as he strikes. NOTE: I am always trying to move forward, at angles, not along the baseline.

1. Stay low. It will help on blocked returns.

2. Try to follow the ball all the way in, and KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN PAST CONTACT. This is The Killer. Most people 'pull up' - which pulls DOWN on the ball. We all 'want to see where it's going'. Fast serves/fast pace will rush you. Watch Fed's and Nadal's 'head down' return. Fed is probably The Model for head-down-after-contact for all groundstrokes. There is a reason he does it.

3. If you DO have time for more of a swing, or find yourself adjusting a bit, shorten the backswing BUT FINISH THE SWING/FOLLOW THROUGH. Sooooooo important.

4. If you're getting aced or hurt from THEIR FAVORITE PLACEMENT, cheat over slightly and take it away. Make them hit the slider or the one they don't like as much. Against a big server, most people still try to 'split the difference', and the server will keep pounding his fav'.

5. Have someone serve a bucket at you - FROM THE SERVICE LINE. You're going to be surprised after a bucket how much your reaction time will improve.

6. Walk to receive, take a deep breath, and relax. Focus, enjoy the challenge, and realize you're going to get aced or winner'd at times. Keep plugging, keep your cool, and remember, even though it's life and death - to us, it's still fun....

Here's some good stuff. A lot about footwork, but watch the 'head down's, often shorter backswings, etc:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBjzOeAP6Lg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-oOA-Y2ws8
Thanks man, I appreciate it the advice.

Limpinhitter
01-30-2012, 06:29 PM
At the level I compete at, 120's is 'the norm'. It takes tremendous focus to pick up on nuances or 'tells' of a service toss, and many times, you just guess based on someone's patterns. I think Agassi was quoted for saying that he was so good at ROS because he guessed. And got aced because he guessed. Hard to argue with his success...

I start further back than I need, and as the toss goes up, I rise up, moving forward into a hop-and-split; step up and hop as he tosses, split as he strikes. NOTE: I am always trying to move forward, at angles, not along the baseline.

1. Stay low. It will help on blocked returns.

2. Try to follow the ball all the way in, and KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN PAST CONTACT. This is The Killer. Most people 'pull up' - which pulls DOWN on the ball. We all 'want to see where it's going'. Fast serves/fast pace will rush you. Watch Fed's and Nadal's 'head down' return. Fed is probably The Model for head-down-after-contact for all groundstrokes. There is a reason he does it.

3. If you DO have time for more of a swing, or find yourself adjusting a bit, shorten the backswing BUT FINISH THE SWING/FOLLOW THROUGH. Sooooooo important.

4. If you're getting aced or hurt from THEIR FAVORITE PLACEMENT, cheat over slightly and take it away. Make them hit the slider or the one they don't like as much. Against a big server, most people still try to 'split the difference', and the server will keep pounding his fav'.

5. Have someone serve a bucket at you - FROM THE SERVICE LINE. You're going to be surprised after a bucket how much your reaction time will improve.

6. Walk to receive, take a deep breath, and relax. Focus, enjoy the challenge, and realize you're going to get aced or winner'd at times. Keep plugging, keep your cool, and remember, even though it's life and death - to us, it's still fun....

Here's some good stuff. A lot about footwork, but watch the 'head down's, often shorter backswings, etc:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBjzOeAP6Lg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-oOA-Y2ws8

Excellent advice, especially the part about staying low and taking away the opponent's favorite placement.

bhupaes
01-30-2012, 09:58 PM
Agreed, GoSurfBoy makes very good points. Of late, I have been trying out another tip that I got recently to pick up the direction of the ball as quickly as possible. Basically, one watches the opponent's racquet face as the opponent strokes the ball. Of course, at contact the eyes start following the ball. I haven't got it down 100% yet, but I feel like it really improves my reaction, since the ball pretty much goes where the racquet is facing. I heard about this in the context of volleying, but I am trying to do it for all strokes, and I really like it!

stormholloway
01-30-2012, 10:20 PM
he has decent groundstrokes, but I should be able to outplay him at the baseline AS LONG AS I GET HIS SERVE OVER.

FTFY......

Chyeaah
01-30-2012, 10:34 PM
If his like Raonic with below average groundstrokes, play like Nadal, get him to make an unforced error. Bunt it back high to the baseline and play from there like Nadal.

NLBwell
01-30-2012, 11:24 PM
Stand in at the baseline and just get your racket in front of it. It should pop over the net reasonably deep if he hits it hard.

stormholloway
01-31-2012, 10:06 PM
If his like Raonic with below average groundstrokes, play like Nadal, get him to make an unforced error. Bunt it back high to the baseline and play from there like Nadal.

Below what average exactly?

LeeD
02-01-2012, 08:50 AM
Below HIS level average.
Raonic is 7.0. Below the 7.0 average.

tennismonkey
02-01-2012, 10:05 AM
no big server likes to see returns - even if they are ugly as heck - come back over the net. no backswing. continental grip. chip both backhands and forehands back to the center of the court. aim 5 feet over the net. give yourself lots of room for error. again - big servers don't like seeing their beautiful 100-110 mph "bombs" floating back over the net.

mike84
02-01-2012, 10:06 AM
most servers struggle hitting serves down the T on both sides, so just leave that open and take your chance

Power Player
02-01-2012, 10:28 AM
GoSurfBoy nailed it. Moving forward into the ball helps a lot.

pvaudio
02-01-2012, 10:34 AM
Read the serve as a huge groundstroke. This helped me immensely more than anything else. If you watch the ball from toss to bounce, you're essentially returning a huge stroke. Think about it: if your opponent hits 70mph groundstrokes on average, a 90 mph serve if you can get in position is simply a matter of redirection. Watch Federer v. Del Potro. That was simply a clinic of serve returns. Deep sliceinto the middle of the court, changing spins, not going for lines. Keep this in mind: most big servers do not expect their serve to come back, and if it does, not with anything on it. Simply placing the ball back in the court past the service line as someone said is plenty sufficient. They then have to restart the entire point from a groundstroke instead ofa massive serve. It's this reason that I no longer hit 110+ flat serves on my first, and instead stick to low 100s with lots of action. Even if you get a read on it, it's still unpredictable. With the flat bombs, if it got sliced right up the middle of the court and I didn't S/V, I was fried. I had transferred weight into the court, so I was already in no-man's land. Moving backwards to return a half-volley from your opponents return is very difficult.

pvaudio
02-01-2012, 10:36 AM
And yes, transferring your weight forward into the ball is essential. It neutralizes some of their pace by giving it back to them with more spin.

Seth
02-01-2012, 11:45 AM
I'm a 6'5" left with a pretty fast serve (highest MPH clocked on radar was 120). Usually I'm in the 100-110 range, and I had to face someone who played very similar to me, with the same type of big, lefty serve. I saw success, as others have said, by using a volley grip to redirect pace while moving forward. Just don't hit the ball as you're falling back.

r2473
02-01-2012, 11:50 AM
Does he serve and volley or stay back?

sureshs
02-01-2012, 11:52 AM
Since I played rkelly a while ago, I have made a big adjustment to my service return for big servers. I find it more profitable now to "digest" the overall trajectory of the ball before going for the return. By that I mean watching the big picture rather on getting blurred vision by focusing only on the ball. It is surprisingly easy on the serve return - because you don't have to cover a big distance as in ground strokes. Last night, I was able to get in good returns to serves even in the ad court by a 6ft+ lefty known for his crazy curving out-wide deliveries.

LeeD
02-01-2012, 12:52 PM
Anytime a lefty has a big curveball wide ad, he still needs a quickie up the middle AND a body shot or two. One alone only gets him a 4.0, no better. Two barely gets him 4.5.

Raul_SJ
02-02-2012, 01:02 PM
Volley grip, volley stroke.


Is the follow-through the same as the volley? Or bigger?

LeeD
02-02-2012, 04:16 PM
Depends how you volley.
A reflex volley has a short followthru, as does a reflex return of serve volley.
A slice underspin volley has a longer followthru to hit thru the spin, as needed on most real serves.
So I'd say "longest followthru that doesn't throw you off balance".

PrinceMoron
02-05-2012, 12:40 AM
Call foot fault