I have discovered the secret to 4.0 doubles service returns!

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Holy smokes.

    A few months ago, I became frustrated with my inability to return the serves of strong male 4.0 servers. I took one lesson on hitting slice service returns against hard serves. The basics were Continental grip, bend knees, LH on throat of racket until the last possible second (to avoid reaching and to control racket face), go forward, hit the ball as though a volley.

    This Saturday, I took this new service return for a test drive in social ladies 4.0 doubles. I was playing ladies who S&V behind strong, hard serves.

    That slice service return is gold, pure gold. I am receiving close to the service line, so I get to the net first. My return is on the S&V server while she is deep in the court. The poach is useless because the poacher is robbed of time. My slice return is deep and stays lower than my topspin return would, so it cannot be easily lobbed.

    And best of all, my opponents freaked out completely. They missed serves just because I was disrespecting their serves so much.

    I also took it for a test drive against weak, airball serves this weekend. It works equally well against those serves too. Slice it short, slice it deep -- it's all good.

    So. How come nobody told me about this shot?
     
    #1
  2. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2007
    Messages:
    4,058
    Location:
    NorCal Bay Area
    It's a good return to have. As you pointed out, it allows you to stand in on the serve, take the shot early, and rob opponents of time.

    One disadvantage is that you are more susceptible to wide serves / serves right up the T. You have less time to react and get to these serves.

    I often adopt this strategy against S&V players, especially those rare few that have a decent 2nd kick serve and follow the 2nd to the net. Taking the return early also reduces the impact of the kick/spin. But in return I accept that I will be aced more often.
     
    #2
  3. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Didn't we all advocate a sliced return with a volley grip against any difficult serve? It's just a high volley, then you move forwards.
    The counter is the body shot serve, and the CC lob after you make a good approach shot.
     
    #3
  4. goober

    goober Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Messages:
    8,491
    I have seen people do this return. Good servers though can adjust if they see you standing by the service line and just blocking slice returns back. Kicking a serve high or slice out wide is hard to return when you are close to the service line.
     
    #4
  5. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    14,210
    #5
  6. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2007
    Messages:
    4,058
    Location:
    NorCal Bay Area
    Paes though was never really able to make the full adjustment to 4.0 after getting the bump up from 3.5.
     
    #6
  7. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2013
    Messages:
    437
    That has been my default doubles service return since I was a kid on first serves. I back up and take a swing on second serves. The body serve is actually relatively easy to handle even on big serves as it just is a reaction shot. The only issue with this return is you have be completely focused to consistently make a low cross court shot. I tend to give this up pretty quickly on bad days as this return can also lead to your partner getting hurt.
     
    #7
  8. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    14,210
    Yeah, chose to play up for the money. Rather play 4.0 for the glory
     
    #8
  9. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Yes, but . . .

    I'm talking 4.0 ladies serves. *No one* has a great kick serve. Not many slice. All they can do is hit more and more pace, which is just as easy to handle, assuming the serve goes in.

    Can 4.0 ladies hit their spots in the corners with enough pace or action so that any DFss will be offset by aces? Not so far, based on my experience. I have now played about eight sets doing this, and I have been aced twice.

    The fun part is that I don't have to actually stand by the service line. Nope. I stand a foot or two inside the baseline, wait for the toss, take a few steps in and split. Unless I don't, in which case I don't take those steps forward and instead hit my regular topspin return.

    This slice return is money, ladies. I'm tellin' ya. Money.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2013
    #9
  10. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    And it's often the only way we can return the first serves of big servers, up to the pro level.
    And you'll soon discover the sliced lob, which is better height control than flat or topspin, is easier to hit, but is not hit to get a winner. It's a neutralizer lob, to reset the point.
     
    #10
  11. rufus_smith

    rufus_smith Professional

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2011
    Messages:
    883
    Nice returning.
    If they thought about it enough, the serving team they can play Australian formation against the slice returner to defeat it, but not many teams bother to do it.
     
    #11
  12. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    How would Aussie be a problem? You mean when server and returner line up on the same side? Because then I have to change direction of the return and go up the line?

    I suppose it could conceivably be more difficult for me to take the slice return up the line. Then again, it is also tougher for the S&V server to cross and volley the return because they have a bit more ground to cover.
     
    #12
  13. jonnyjack

    jonnyjack Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Messages:
    381
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    That's how I return serves. That way, I can keep the same grip for both my backhand and forehand. Like Cindy mentioned, it's money against 4.0 ladies and below. It's why I've been so successful in mixed. Most ladies can't get to it in time if I hit it short or they will pop it up weakly and I'm there at the net to put it away.

    Some 4.0 guys are frustrated with it too since there's no pace and they just try to crush it but it's low and many times, they will hit it out. Obviously when I play against 4.5 guys and high end 4.0 guys, it's not as much of a weapon but I usually follow the forehand slice return to the net and attack the net. You better have decent volleys if you're doing this against guys though.

    I just need to learn how to hit a slice return on the backhand side.

    Cindy, keep working on the shot and when you're able to hit it harder and place it, it'll become a really good offensive weapon.
     
    #13
  14. Overdrive

    Overdrive Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2012
    Messages:
    5,301
    Location:
    Garden of Gethsemane
    I hate players who return like this... :mad:

    But when this happens, me (over 6'1) would just bend my knees and lob the player and net and then their partner would have to return the shot. If it's weak, my partner at net would put it away, if not and returned the ball to me, I'd just hit the ball near the doubles alley. :)
     
    #14
  15. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    4,092
    wow, I never thought of that.

    that return is designed to combat really BIG serves at a high level (because there is no time to swing and the left hand just gives enough momentum to absorb the pace)

    you can also use the left hand to help get the racquet around in a hurry.

    the idea is to use the pace of the serve, like Lee said, it's essentially a volley like stroke and should produce an absolute bullet if correctly timed.
    (lol at the guy who is going to lob it over the net men, I'd like to see that!)

    but of course the same technique would work a treat against a slower serve taken super early!
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2013
    #15
  16. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Oddly, this new return is yet another reason to learn a 1HBH volley.

    See, I always struggled with this shot because it would pop up or float. This was due to reaching and inability to keep a firm wrist rather than flail.

    Pro had me hold the throat very securely with the LH and hold on until the last second before contact. That way I can just treat it like a 1H volley. If i was used to having two hands on the grip for BHs, the throat grip wouldn't work.

    I am helpless when someone returns like this against me. So how come it took me so long to learn to do it myself?
     
    #16
  17. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2004
    Messages:
    7,117
    That's the standard way to return serve in doubles - or any time someone is serving and volleying. Keep it at their feet if they are coming in. You can hit it deeper if they stay back. You should be able to move forward to the net behind it.

    I would have thought you would have learned that the first lesson that you had that even mentioned doubles.
     
    #17
  18. Buford T Justice

    Buford T Justice Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2011
    Messages:
    424
    Another good double service return IMO especially when facing a big kick serve on the ad side is to hit a CC backhand high and with as much topsin as you can muster on it.
     
    #18
  19. fleabitten

    fleabitten Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    Messages:
    697
    Location:
    surfing through tennisopolis.com
    He might mean, because I have seen this done, that the net player can sit in the middle of the court and jump in either direction to cut off your bump return. Often when we bump or volley back a strong serve our return is weaker which gives the net guy a chance to cut it off and put it away.
     
    #19
  20. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Yes, of course it is smart to put the return at the feet of the server.

    What I didn't fully appreciate is how much easier and effective it is to do this with a slice return instead of a topspin return.

    See, if I am going to hit my regular topspin return, I cannot be at the service line. I need time to move around the ball if it is a body serve, and my spacing has to be correct or I will miss. Body serves are especially challenging.

    With this slice return, I don't need any movement other than forward on the diagonal. Body serves are no big deal because I don't have to get out of the way. And because I can receive so close to the service line, even a higher return isn't too bad. Server is still deep in the court and has to hit an approach volley well enough to pass my partner and me.

    I would guess the real vulnerability would be if the server (from her position deep in the court) can hit a lob volley. If she could get the ball over my partner's head, that would likely be a winner. 4.0 women with consistent lob volleys off of slice returns? Nah. Not gonna happen.
     
    #20
  21. Govnor

    Govnor Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,333
    This would be my concern if I was going to return every serve like this.
     
    #21
  22. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Yeah, I could see how this might be an appropriate counter.

    I suppose the thing for me to do would be hit my volley to the net strap. That's the one place you know the net player won't be standing, 'cause she is going one way or the other.

    You know, I haven't found I formation for 4.0 ladies doubles to be very effective. Let's face it -- none of us ladies is a spring chicken. We are mostly around 45-50 years old. The net player has to come out of her crouch so early that it is no mystery which way she is going.
     
    #22
  23. rufus_smith

    rufus_smith Professional

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2011
    Messages:
    883
    The one-hb slice return down the alley is a tougher shot for most returners and it also goes right into the servers forehand, usually the stronger side of the server, who then has all sorts of options. It works for us against certain returners. Of course if the server is "pattycaking" the serve than the returner team will have problems no matter what they do and they probably shouldn't S+V.

    Anyway glad your returning better. gl
     
    #23
  24. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2013
    Messages:
    437
    This is very tough to do when someone hits this shot properly. The advantage of this shot (as well as disadvantage) is a slight wrist turn can change the direction of the shot. I always did this when I was younger. The faster the serve the closer I came in, but as I get older it is getting tougher to react quickly enough.

    My opponents this weekend in a relatively strong 4.5 match tried the Australian and some other strange positioning which might have actually cost them the match. The low flat block return was putting them at a slight disadvantage but the change in positioning cost them the points pretty much outright as a low flat ball down the line is not easy to pick up.

    I have had other days where that same slight wrist turn pops the ball up. On these days I back up pretty quickly as my partners don't seem to be too happy with some of the shots that are fired at and around them.
     
    #24
  25. Rui

    Rui Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2007
    Messages:
    407

    When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

    You were; he did.
     
    #25
  26. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2004
    Messages:
    3,773
    A chip/slice return is a great weapon to have, especially if you are hitting the return when coming forward. However, you should not lose the ability to hit a regular (topspin) drive return, or the opponents will start crowding the net.
     
    #26
  27. MesQueUnClub

    MesQueUnClub Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    Messages:
    334
    Location:
    Colorado
    I am glad that you found the sliced return and figured out to stand closer to the service line.

    As "goober" said, if you are playing against 4.0 men with strong serves, you are in for a lot of kick, body and slice serves followed by overheads on the balls that you just popped up. It's a great return to have especially if you have good hands. I guess that's not the case here or you would've been doing this all along.

    Against 4.0 ladies, it would work fine.
     
    #27
  28. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Actually, CindyS has pretty good volleys, is not afraid to volley, and consider's it a strong suit in her game.
    It's just that she refused to believe we actually use the volley stroke for returns of serve, and still refuses to believe we also slice a lot of our lobs.....using the volley grip.
    She believes what her coach tells her, and little else.
    Can you imagine trying to return a real first serve without adopting a conti grip and underspinning the return?
     
    #28
  29. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,055
    Many "hard" first serves at the club level can be returned by a non-slice backhand block. I do it all the time.
     
    #29
  30. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    But is that what you consider a "REAL FIRST SERVE"?
    Club style, to me, is 4.5 at best.
    That is what we consider advanced recreational tennis. Is that really a "hard" serve?
     
    #30
  31. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,055
    I don't play pro tennis and neither do you.

    First serves can be returned with backhand blocks. Pros do it all the time. Fed is the one who tries to slice it all the time.
     
    #31
  32. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    How about a 6'5" ex number 4 for CalPoly, still 27 years old?
    How about a ex no 2 for Harvard, now trying to make the first round of an ATP tourney?
    Do those guys have "real" first serves? I think so.
     
    #32
  33. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    What are you on about?

    I understood the mechanics of hitting a return like a volley. I just couldn't execute it.

    The revelation was how valuable this return is for winning the race to the net.
     
    #33
  34. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,055
    Chip and charge
     
    #34
  35. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    CindyS....
    Would you not agree your coach has a big influence on your game, as shown by lots of referals to lessons and coaching?
    Just last year, we debated on the relevence of a sliced underspin lob. You opted for a topspin lob ONLY.
    That is my point of reference.
    And.... future wife, I was defending your volley skills and hand eye coordination for MesQnClub.
     
    #35
  36. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Sure. I have a good pro, so I listen to him.

    Regarding topspin lob v. Slice lob, the topspin lob is a weapon because it is tough to run down and cn bounce high enough to be unplayable.

    The slice lob is less of a weapon. It is possible to run down a slice lob.

    If I could only hit one kind of lob for doubles for the rest of my life, I would choose a topspin lob.
     
    #36
  37. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    I shouldn't argue with you, knowing our future and all, but....
    Don't you think a topspin lob is often inconsistent? It can create a clean winner, but only if you hit it perfect.
    A sliced lob can more often make it over the netperson's head, nuetralize the point, and reset the rally.
    Since most of us don't hit nearly as many winners as we make errors, I'd choose the defensive sliced lob, to neutralize the point when my opponent establish's his net position.
     
    #37
  38. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Gotta use the right tool for the job, My Beloved.

    If I am in good position and can set up, I will hit an offensive topspin lob very time.

    If I am lobbing to get out of trouble, a slice lob is a good play.
     
    #38
  39. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Good point, to quantify when and why.
    Since my topspin lob can be erratic, if I'm set up I'd rather hit a dipping passing shot, move forwards, and try to volley the resulting popped up volley.
     
    #39
  40. tennis_ocd

    tennis_ocd Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Messages:
    2,002
    You shouldn't get away with this in doubles....
     
    #40
  41. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Well, shoot.

    I played a match and botched every one of my super-awesome new service returns. I returned serve like a blind man, and that is an insult to blind men.

    Back to the drawing board.
     
    #41
  42. goober

    goober Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Messages:
    8,491
    That was a short honeymoon.

    :)

    Lesson learned: use it as one in your arsenal of service returns. Don't use it all the time in every situation.
     
    #42
  43. Govnor

    Govnor Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,333
    You got to mix it up.
     
    #43
  44. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    14,210
    #44
  45. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    I'm sorry.
    Now work on it. Shoulder turn, move forwards, have the target (low CC) selected and accepted, visualize approximate bounce height of the ball, and prepare you racket with that height in mind. Watch ball, volley thru it without going for too much.
    If netperson start to lean towards the middle, hit one DTL with lots of backspin.
    Keep working on new shots. They are new, and you haven't "got" them yet.
    You WILL.
     
    #45
  46. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    14,210
    LeeD, shake it up

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYKquSt0UEs
     
    #46
  47. SwankPeRFection

    SwankPeRFection Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,509
    You stand too close to the service line on me and my flat serve might not be hitting the court first. ;)

    Seriously though, while this may be your new found defense, get yourself motivated to have a better offensive return than a pusher block. If you start playing like this too much, you'll end up pushing everything back too much. Learn to return hard and wide/cross court on serves to your forehand and either inside-out backhand or strong down the middle just by the net person and back deep at the server that's coming a few feet in after a proper service motion. It'll catch them by surprise and they won't have time to set up a good return. Then your partner or you put the weak return away.

    BTW, serve and volley players will kill you on this type of return, especially if they're really quick on their feet. You'll need to perfect it to get past them, but if they're coming in hard after a kicker, expect your partner or you to get passed with a nice strong volley put-away after your slice. Either that, or their partner should be reading your return better and poaching to put it away. Tick off a really good team and they'll I formation you on serve and your stand-in return is pretty much useless at that point because either the net person is in a super strong position to put your return away or you get it past them down the line and the server has plenty of time to get to it and smack it back at you or down the middle splitting both you and your partner.

    Don't misunderstand, I'm not knocking your new found golden weapon, but don't expect to use it all match long unless you're not really playing 4.0 players. Add some other returns to your game and then mix things up.
     
    #47
  48. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    36,365
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    As usual, I find the opposite is true....
    A low chip slice is the best return against a S/V player, as the low ball makes him hit up, but the slice and slow pace makes him hit thru the ball while hitting upwards. And, it's easy to control the ball height over the net.
    Wouldn't this depend just how powerful your groundies are, how consistent, and how that matches up against your volley return skills?
     
    #48
  49. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,070
    Are you a 4.0 woman? :)

    Seriously though, while this may be your new found defense, get yourself motivated to have a better offensive return than a pusher block. [/QUOTE]

    Ahem. I wish I could groove this new return. See, I already have a topspin return, which is fine. Except when it isn't. If the server is coming in behind a hard flat serve, this return is much, much better than trying to hit a regular return.

    But it doesn't matter now. I can't seem to find my mojo with this return anymore. I guess it is like anything else: It is going to take a boatload of practice to own it.
     
    #49
  50. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2013
    Messages:
    437
    This is my default return which worked well even in open tournaments against Div 1 college players although sadly other things did not. When this shot is hit properly and low, it is incredibly difficult for the other team to do anything with it as their time is taken away. Poaching this is nearly impossible.

    This is what I really hate about lower level doubles which I am sadly playing now. I'm cool if my partners can make this "hard" shot 95% of the time, but most of them make it 70% on a good day, and worse yet it isn't really effective if the server is coming in or not. I also have the hard return, but when my block isn't working tend to hit a slower heavy topspin shot which is more consistent and a lot more effective.
     
    #50

Share This Page