Facing a high speed serve

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by SageOfDeath, Oct 15, 2005.

  1. SageOfDeath

    SageOfDeath Guest

    I made kind of a realization I should have made earlier. Well we all quickly learn how to stand closer in when an opponent serves short and with a lack of power but what about too much power? I always stood farther away when facing a high speed serve but maybe just a foot or two. I then experimented and stood 3-4 more feet away, it mas much easier to return, the ball slows down significantly after it bounces so I wondered why didn't I try this before.

    So my 3 tips to handle a fast serve.
    1. stand farther away from the baseline
    2. split step right before he or she hits the ball
    3. short backswing
     
    #1
  2. Marius_Hancu

    Marius_Hancu G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2004
    Messages:
    17,843
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    depends how predictible the opponent is and how well you can anticipate and see the ball

    I would not recommend too much of a distance when opposing lefties with slice

    also, for high kickers, better to take them on the rise

    it's all a compromise, depending on your reactions
     
    #2
  3. SageOfDeath

    SageOfDeath Guest

    Well most players I play have a very predictable flat bomb, and usually a kicker 2nd.
     
    #3
  4. TennsDog

    TennsDog Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2004
    Messages:
    2,277
    SageOfDeath, it depends on what level of play we are talking about whether or not that is true. I play D2 college tennis, and at this level most people have the ability to mix up placement and spin on first serves, as well as a good second serve. I have tried backing up farther behind the baseline, and it just opens up more angles for them to serve to the corners. I have discovered quite the opposite of original poster: I can hit better returns for fast serves when I step inside the baseline and put something on it. It cuts down on their angles, their reaction time, and my time to think, which forces me to just hit the ball. Short backswing, good follow through, and not going for too much spin are some keys that I have found helpful for putting a return in play.
     
    #4
  5. joe1987

    joe1987 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    630
    Location:
    Scotland
    1st try and predict the direction of the serve ie. looking at their ball toss etc. and also identify and habits or patterns in your opponents serve. When your opponent is just about to hit the ball do a split step keeping on your toes, this will help prepare you for the return. Then the rest is up to you.
     
    #5
  6. thejackal

    thejackal Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2004
    Messages:
    2,885
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    I was going to say the same thing. I find that I can hit some really solid returns if I moved forward while hitting the ball, therefore countering the speed of the serve.
     
    #6
  7. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2004
    Messages:
    4,405
    Location:
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Now if the opponent has power and placement, you can't just back up, but that is a rare combo at the lower levels. But if he only has power and you aren't playing doubles, then just back up a step or two extra. That is what I do against the really big bombers.
     
    #7
  8. tom-selleck

    tom-selleck Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Messages:
    965
    a specific point and a generic point.

    i found the best way to handle really hard serves is to relax your grip and allow it to absorb the energy of the ball. trying to hit a firm wrist hard return was pointless for me.

    in general, i have found it much better to move pretty far up in my service returns... obviously if someone serves really, really hard you may not have the reaction time.
     
    #8
  9. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Messages:
    2,792
    Location:
    Big Canoe, GA
    The above is what I always did, until a few months ago. Although I had fairly good success, I'd still give up my share of aces when facing a really good server. A few months ago I was playing with an older guy who was really quite good in his day. Now he doesn't move very well, but he still loves to go out and hit, and he hits the ball VERY well. Anyway, he told me that when the ball is coming toward me I need to "slow it down". I'm just supposed to watch the ball very closely, and 'imagine' that it's going slowly. I'm sorry that I can't describe it better than that, but I started doing that when my opponents serve, and it's made an AMAZING difference. The ball just seems to come in so slow and sit up so nice that I have no problem with the returns. Seriously, I don't think I've been aced ONCE when I remember to focus, and "slow the ball down". Now, there HAVE been times when I've forgotten his advice and I've been aced - but when I remember to do what he told me, it's made a HUGE difference. I'm sorry I can't describe it better. It's just a mental "thing" that makes the ball seem slower and easier to return.
     
    #9
  10. AngeloDS

    AngeloDS Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,676
    I still suck at service returns. It's where my game lacks the most. It's hard to start swinging before the ball hits the ground and know where the ball will be. Takes lot of good coordination and anticipation. I don't see how the pros do it. They don't simply block their serves back, they do a lot to it as it if were a groundstroke. I'm pretty envious.

    I guess it takes a lot of strength/muscle too. When I'm not prepared and hit the ball late and try to swing through it my racquet stops or loses a lot of speed after the ball hits my racquet.

    Any good videos on service returns?
     
    #10
  11. nViATi

    nViATi Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Messages:
    2,223
    federer blocks some returns on his backhand side. i think the key is to atleast return the ball deep.
     
    #11
  12. VictorS.

    VictorS. Professional

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,227
    I was playing a heck of server the other day and I honestly was beaten very thoroughly. However, initially I was standing far back which did allow me to take bigger cuts at the serve but to no avail. I tried switching it up moving right on the baseline and I was essentially just blocking the serve back and I actually had better success. My opponent had very little time to react and I often had him on the defensive.

    I'd be interested to hear what others' opinions are on this topic.
     
    #12
  13. Marius_Hancu

    Marius_Hancu G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2004
    Messages:
    17,843
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    you did the right thing. you might need just a tad of lead tape on your racket too.
     
    #13
  14. i would chip or block the ball deep and low, because this will be pretty effective in the end, and it will reduce your unforced error count off of serves if you are just trying to take full swings at it.
     
    #14
  15. AngeloDS

    AngeloDS Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,676
    I really hate topspin serves, there's an amount of heft behind them when they reach past 100+ mph. It's nothing like a flat serve at 100+ mph, that's fairly easy to predict. It comes down and after the bounce it's hard to predict how high it will go and where it will go, and by the time you can think the ball is already at you. You need super reflexes or amazing timing, to be swinging before it hits the ground. Really tough serve to handle.
     
    #15
  16. troytennisbum

    troytennisbum Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2004
    Messages:
    353
    Yeah, facing heavy, 100+ mph serves is a daunting challenge no matter what strategy you try to employ (in terms of how far you stand behind the baseline ). It's simply a trade off.....the father you stand back the slower the ball but the more angles you give to your opponent.
     
    #16
  17. JeffH1

    JeffH1 New User

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2005
    Messages:
    63
    I think the biggest attribute

    is relaxation. Have you ever noticed that when a serve is noticably out and you just take that relaxed nonchalant swipe at it, that it's usually the killer return. You've put absolutely no thought into it, it's just pure reaction. That's what I aim for. Assuming that you have decent technique.
     
    #17
  18. twocents

    twocents Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Messages:
    182
    On the Old message board a few years ago there was a very good study done on the speed of the serve. It said that the slowest speed of the serve was definitely right after the ball hits the ground. It then picks up speed again. So if you can time it some how in that area (on the rise) you have the best chance of returning a hard hit ball. I was amazed though when I went Cincy this summer to watch the pros. On second serves (in singles) a lot of the players would stand way back and just hit out on the huge kick. Contrary to what I thought they do.
     
    #18
  19. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Messages:
    2,792
    Location:
    Big Canoe, GA
    How is that even possible? The serve bounces and slows down, then it - somehow? - picks up speed again?
     
    #19
  20. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    Messages:
    13,916


    Physics 101, when the ball makes contact with the ground, it's velocity = 0 (or was it acceleration, I forgot). The ball must then again pick up speed. That is why when you hit a ball on the rise (especially when pros like Andre hit it without the ball barely bouncing) you gain alot of power.
     
    #20
  21. sarpmas

    sarpmas Rookie

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    229
    I'm not sure whether my way of dealing with fast serve is unorthodox. What I did was I actually sacrifice some reach and hold my racket higher up the handle. This gives me more control in my return. I will also stand just a feet or 2 behind the baseline in the beginning before moving forward towards the baseline to meet the fast serve. With the added control, I'm able to block the serve back even faster and deprive valuable reaction time from the server.
     
    #21
  22. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Messages:
    2,792
    Location:
    Big Canoe, GA
    Well, if the ball were to hit a WALL (or a racquet) it's velocity would be zero for a nano-second before it rebounds, but when the ball hit's the ground it doesn't STOP it's lateral movement, it just slows down. If the example were a slow-hit ball with heavy topspin, I could see that it could pick up speed after the bounce, but that's not what we're talking about.
     
    #22
  23. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    Messages:
    13,916


    Um, yes, the ball does stop. The velocity DOES equal 0 right when it makes contact with the ground. It STILL has to pick up speed after it bounces, which is WHY hitting on the rise adds alot of power, because you can plow through the ball alot easier than waiting for it to bounce back to you.
     
    #23
  24. twocents

    twocents Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Messages:
    182
    I took advanatage of John Yandells one week FREE offer at Tennis Player.net
    and found this interesting article and thought someone might be interested. I found a lot of great stuff out ther and it's free for ONE WEEK for a limited time. Just submit him a userid, password, and give him your Email address.


    By John Yandell
    Printable Version

    The Project

    In 1997 and 1998 Advanced Tennis researchers, working in collaboration with Cislunar Aerospace in an educational program funded by NASA, set out to do the first ever study of ball speed in pro tennis. To do this, we filmed several matches played by the great Pete Sampras. We used two cameras set at right angles high above the court, one shooting across the net, and the other across the baseline.

    Advanced Tennis principal scientist Nasif Iskander then digitized dozens of Pete's shots, capturing the trajectory of the ball in its flight between the players' rackets. Using an original piece of motion analysis software he created, Nasif was then able to measure the speed of the ball and how it changed over the course of the flight of each shot. (AdvancedTennis.com)

    All told, Nasif analyzed over 50 Sampras hits by plotting over 4000 separate points in the flight of his and his opponent's shots. For the first time we had data on the speeds of the shot patterns of a world class player. This included the initial speed of the ball on every stroke and what happened to this initial speed both before and after the bounce, and at the time the opponent hit the next ball.


    To understand the speed of the ball over the flight of the shot, we filmed the trajectory with two wide cameras.

    Results

    Nasif found that the maximum speed recorded by the radar guns on the serve corresponded pretty closely with our digitized shot analysis. The average speed for the Sampras first serves in our digital analysis was 120mph. The average radar gun speed for the same serves was 117mph, a difference of less than 5%.

    What spectators see on the radar guns is probably fairly accurate (although possibly less accurate on wide serves which travel at more of an angle to the radar gun beam.) But that's just the initial speed. What about the rest of the flight of the serve? What happened to it in the 3/4s of a second or less it took for Pete's serve to reach his opponent's racket?

    The answer is that over the course of its flight, that 120mph serve actually slowed down to under 60 mph. It was going less than half its initial speed at the time of the return. This dramatic deceleration occurred in only a fraction of a second--3/4s of a second or less. So why and how does this happen?

    There are two factors. The first is air resistance prior to the bounce. By the time the ball had bounced on the court, every Sampras shot--serve, groundstrokes, volleys--had lost roughly 25% of its initial speed due to the effect of the air on the ball, technically, the "drag".

    The second factor is the friction of the bounce on the court. At the bounce, the ball lost another 25% of the initial speed, or slightly more, due to the friction between the bottom of the ball and the court surface. This is a radical change in speed that occurs in only 4 milliseconds or 1/250th of a second.

    In total, Nasif analyzed 29 first serves. The analysis program showed that the average maximum speed of these serves was 120mph. Before the serve bounced in the service box, this average speed of these serves was down to 87mph due to the air resistance or drag on the ball as it traveled toward the receiver. After the bounce, the average speed serve was down to 62 mph. In the 4 milliseconds that the ball was in contact with the court, it lost 25mph.

    Number of Serves MPH Pre-Bounce Post Bounce End
    29 120 MPH 87 MPH 62 MPH 54 MPH

    Then, as the ball traveled toward the opponent after the bounce, it continued to lose even more speed. At the point the player hit the return--or the ball passed the baseline in the case of an ace--Pete's serve lost on average another 8mph. So that first serve may start off at 120mph, but it reaches the receiver at about 54mph. The following chart breaks it down so you can see the serves in both courts, both wide and down the middle.

    Sampras 1st Serve:

    Number of Serves Location Max MPH After Hit Pre-Bounce MPH Post Bounce MPH End MPH
    4 Deuce DTheM 127 MPH 89 MPH 67 MPH 58 MPH
    7 Deuce Wide 113 MPH 81 MPH 57 MPH 50 MPH
    13 Ad
    DTheM 123 MPH 90 MPH 63 MPH 55 MPH
    5 Ad Wide 117 MPH 86 MPH 60 MPH 53 MPH

    The Return of Serve

    If the first serve in pro tennis is losing half its speed prior to the return, what about the speed of the return itself? Is it possible that the perception that the return can be "faster" than the serve actually true?

    Nasif was able to measure the speed of 10 returns hit by Pete's opponents, as well as 3 returns hit by Sampras.

    So is the return ever "faster" than the serve? Let's clarify the question. Is the initial velocity of the return faster than the initial velocity of the serve? Definitely no.


    Is it possible that a great return comes back faster than the serve?
    The initial velocity of the return is nowhere close to the initial velocity of the serve. The fastest return measured was a backhand hit by Sampras opponent Jonathan Stark that reached 70mph. The fastest return measured for Sampras was a forehand at 65mph. So the returns we recorded had an initial velocity equal to at most 60% of the initial velocity of a first serve. But put the question another way. Is the speed of the return faster than the speed of the serve just before it is hit? That answer is yes.

    As outlined above, the analysis showed that by the time of the return, a 120mph first serve has slowed down by more than half, traveling at roughly 55mph. Our analysis also revealed that the initial velocity of many returns was higher than than that. On Pete Sampras's fastest return, for example, the speed of the serve had slowed 60mph at the time of the return. Sampras's return had an initial velocity of 65mph, about 10% higher than the speed of the ball at the time of the hit .

    The fastest return we recorded, a backhand hit by Jonathan Stark, left Stark's racket at 70mph. This return was on a Sampras serve with an initial velocity of 125mph. that 125mph serve had slowed to 54mph just before Stark's hit. Stark's return added 16mph to the ball speed, increasingl the speed of the ball by about 30%. For the 3 Sampras returns studied, Sampras averaged 56mph, an increase of about 4mph over the speed of the incoming ball.


    Pete's returns averaged 56 mph off the racket--about 4 mph faster than the speed of the ball prior to contact.
    It should also be noted, however, that the average initial velocity of the return could also be less than the speed of the oncoming ball. For example, one Sampras backhand return left his racket at 49mph, 6mph slower than the incoming ball which was 55mph.

    Based on the limited number of returns analyzed, it is difficult to conclude what the maximum potential speed of the return might be. Most all of Sampras's returns showed a slight increase in speed. One return by an opponent showed a 30% increase in speed. We can speculate that the most aggressive returners in the game could hit returns with even more velocity, approximating or exceeding the velocities of the groundstrokes as analyzed below.

    Returns Over the Course of the Flight

    After leaving the racket, the returns showed substantially loses in this initial velocity over the course of the flight. In fact the percentage of speed lost was slightly more on the returns than it was on the serves. Sampras' returns averaged an initial speed of 56mph, but slowed to an average of only 20mph at the end of their flight.

    These 3 returns were typical of the returns of Pete's various opponents, which also lost well over a third of their speed before the bounce. The bounce of the ball on the court caused the shot to lose over a third of the remaining speed. After the bounce, the return continued to slow down, losing another 15-20%.

    Sampras' Forehand Return:

    Forehand Returns Pre-Hit
    Speed Max MPH After Hit Pre Bounce MPH Post Bounce MPH End MPH
    1 60 MPH 65 MPH 40 MPH 30 MPH 24 MPH

    Sampras' Backhand Return:

    Number of Backhand Returns Pre-Hit
    Speed Max MPH After Hit Pre Bounce MPH Post Bounce MPH End MPH
    2 48 MPH 51 MPH 32 MPH 21 MPH 18 MPH




    Click Here for Page 2






    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    John Yandell is widely acknowledged as one of the leading videographers and students of the modern game of professional tennis. His high speed filming for Advanced Tennis and Tennisplayer have provided new visual resources that have changed the way the game is studied and understood by both players and coaches. He has done personal video analysis for hundreds of high level competitive players, including Justine Henin-Hardenne, Taylor Dent and John McEnroe, among others.

    In addition to his role as Editor of Tennisplayer he is the author of the critically acclaimed book Visual Tennis. The John Yandell Tennis School is located in San Francisco, California.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Contact Tennisplayer directly: jyandell@tennisplayer.net



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Copyright Tennisplayer 2005. All Rights Reserved.
     
    #24
  25. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,074
    I don't mean to be rude, but did you get permission before posting that article?
    Posting a link to an article doesn't require permission, but if you're going to copy and paste, you should get permission from the author.
     
    #25
  26. mark1

    mark1 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2005
    Messages:
    517
    have fun with that if they are a serve and volleyer or if they see how far you play back and decide to serve and volley. You dont even have to have a good dropshot to hit a winner at the net when your opponent is that far back...
     
    #26
  27. srv vlly

    srv vlly Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2005
    Messages:
    380
    Location:
    on a tennis court. mentally if not physically
    block the serve back. just stick the racquet out at it. the faster it comes in the faster it comes back.
     
    #27
  28. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Messages:
    2,792
    Location:
    Big Canoe, GA
    Then, as the ball traveled toward the opponent after the bounce, it continued to lose even more speed.
     
    #28
  29. twocents

    twocents Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Messages:
    182
    SLAZENGER,
    No offense taken. Your right, I'm wrong.
    I just thought it was a very interesting article and thought I would give tennisplayer.net a plug.
    The top of the article had the following:
    By John Yandell
    Printable Version
    When I signed up for the ONE WEEK FREE I asked him if he still had that article that was created a couple years ago. I didn't really think he would care.
    He hasn't emailed me back to complain yet.
     
    #29
  30. Marius_Hancu

    Marius_Hancu G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2004
    Messages:
    17,843
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    absolutely.
     
    #30
  31. bluegrasser

    bluegrasser Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Messages:
    2,342
    If you watch Federer on the first serve return, he almost hits it like a half volley, little backswing, that's why he can handle many of Roddick's serves.
     
    #31
  32. doriancito

    doriancito Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2005
    Messages:
    2,189
    whwn i recieve a very fast serve a hit it like old people, very short swing so that the ball gets in where ever i want and the speed that the oponent served with is enough for the response
     
    #32
  33. joe1987

    joe1987 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    630
    Location:
    Scotland
    Just take a short back swing and use the serve's power to push the ball back( something like a counterpuncher, using the opponents power) . Try and control the direction of the return and I usually try and play it crosscourt it usually has the server scrambling if hit to the corner.
     
    #33
  34. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Messages:
    11,885
    Marius, baby! Coming out of that research mode and posting some good things! Good to hear the mind behind the research! By the way, you know if you keep typing posts you will slow down. I might have a chance to catch up to you on number of posts. But then again, I did notice you are keeping them short. ;)
     
    #34
  35. ballmassager

    ballmassager New User

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2006
    Messages:
    7
    Use Mental Imagery!

    Imagine you are an Octopus or a Mad Chimp.
     
    #35
  36. CoconutGT

    CoconutGT Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2006
    Messages:
    125
    I'd take whichever one that has the better backhand return.

    This could very well be a new topic but... I have this habit of slicing EVERY SINGLE backhand return no matter how fast or slow the serve is (I have a 1bh). Whenever I try to block or attempt a swing at it, I would fail to return the ball miserably. This leads to the doubles matches I played the other day where I was the returner on the ad side (backhand side). My little slice backhand returns were crushed 90% of the time by the net opponent. Is there anything that I may be overlooking when practicing returning serves? Any info would do :)
     
    #36
  37. psp2

    psp2 Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2006
    Messages:
    2,102
    I too play the ad-side in doubles. Here are my choices in service returns for serves coming to my bh side:

    1. fast/flat hard 1st serves: block them back low xc. (a firm wrist and a 12+ oz. racquet really helps here; really shorten up your backswing; I try not to give up too much of the baseline, as I don't want to block back serves from knee level or below; waist level is perfect; move THROUGH the ball with forward momentum, try to lean INTO the ball and not backwards.)

    2. fast/kick 1st serves: take it EARLY by moving forward and chip it sharply xc. Make sure your racquet is in front of you like a bh volley. Don't let the ball reach the apex of the kick or else it will be too high.

    3. slow/flat 2nd serves: ts bh dippers xc; or run around it and hit an inside-out dipper xc. if the ball sits up... drill it back to the server's ankles while he's still at the baseline!! Try to take these serves on the rise...take time away from the netman. That split second difference may be 6 inches of netman's lateral coverage. 6" can easily equate to a difference of a passing shot or an easy volley for the netman.

    4. slow/kick 2nd serves: you have many choices here dependent of how much kick and how short it lands in the service box. I run around many of these and drill a fh xc (mostly) but will go dtl from time to time depending on the score (15-30, 0-40 or even at ad-out). Also, a slice lob over the netman landing few feet from the baseline is a great tactic since that will force the server to cover lots of real estate.

    I would suggest that you take more notes of the netman's habbits. If he/she poaches constantly, start going dtl more..with a bh chip, slice or ts. Even if you miss few of those shots, you're still creating more room when you go xc. Don't let the netman take too much of the net away from you if you can.

    Hope this is helpful.
     
    #37
  38. LoneGun

    LoneGun New User

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2006
    Messages:
    74
    Oh I think I have seen the guy somewhere before. Is he kinda short, looks old, have pointy ears and greenish skin?
     
    #38
  39. maverick1

    maverick1 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2006
    Messages:
    573
    NO!!

    Only the vertical velocity(i.e., the component of velocity perpendicular to whatever surface the ball hits) is zero at contact with the court. The horzontal velocity, which what matters, is slowed down(but never zero) by friction. If the court were completely frictionless, the horizontal velocity would not reduce at all.

    Also, I am not sure what you were trying to say about taking the ball on the rise.
    One thing is sure - The sooner you hit it after the bounce, more pace you have to deal with.
     
    #39
  40. Squall Leonheart

    Squall Leonheart Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Messages:
    223
    I usually stay in roughly the same place when returning serves. I play on the baseline to two feet or so behind it. If I'm up against a big serve, I try to use a short backswing and punch it back, almost like a deep volley.
     
    #40

Share This Page