I'm horrible at the return of serve.

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by carguy01123, Dec 28, 2013.

  1. carguy01123

    carguy01123 New User

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    One of my friends has a really fast, powerful serve, and I always have trouble hitting it. I can't seem to react fast enough to it and I can never seem to take a full swing at it. I always block it back. What can I do to increase my reaction time and return serves better? Thanks!
     
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  2. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Are you split stepping and getting weight on the balls of your feet as server makes contact so you can react quickly? This is probably the easier adjustment if you are not doing this. I like to keep my right leg a 1/2 step back and take a 1/2 step forward and split step just at or a split-second before sever contacts ball.

    Another option is to move back a bit. I will back up a bit if they have a big bomb.

    Finally, if they really have a bomb, you might have to settle with blocking the ball back. Nalbandian and Ferrero used a lot of blocked FH slices against Roddick in the semis and finals of the US Open in the year Roddick won. Federer uses blocks off both sides when returning a big bomb too.
     
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  3. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    Closely examine your best contact points for fh and bh and block back as close to those contact points as possible. If those points are biomechanically sound you can create consistent firmness to your racquet during contact and even very little swing can make solid returns. Once you get the hang of it you should be able to add some control in direction and depth. Unless your opponent is hitting the corners consistently with those flat serves which I doubt the reaction time should matter less than calm footwork and racquet control.
     
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  4. martini1

    martini1 Hall of Fame

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    Imo, it's a long term progression thing. The more you return the better you will get at it. On top of doing the split steps etc. I am also learning to read the serve sooner and hit the ball in front and on the rise. Don't get frustrated easy as It is not something you can learn over the weekend. And nobody can cover 100% of the angles and get a racket on every ball coming in.
     
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  5. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    split step.

    and shorten the takeback (just shoulder turn) but NOT the follow through. don't just block but always try to get some follow through.
     
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  6. maxpotapov

    maxpotapov Hall of Fame

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    Split step is a must. For any shot, not just return of serve.

    If you land on the balls of your feet at the very moment your opponent makes contact with the ball, then there is no lag between the ball starting at you and you starting to react. No split step means you start reacting only after the ball has left the stringbed, and then no matter how fast you move, you are already late. And then, there is also a rhythm issue: if you do split step right, your next movement will be in phase with how the ball moves.

    And, as others have said, why don't you just step further back from the baseline. Like really far behind, Nadal style.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013
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  7. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    OK so stepping back few feet on Big serves is good advice But when I step back like that, I find it really tough to return heavy slicing wide out serve that land with acute angle in the service box.

    Any advice here ?
     
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  8. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    if you face a player who can blast AND hit sharp slices serves we are talking a really good player (probably at least 4.0 or more likely 4.5).

    A 110+ first serve combined with a hard slider or kicker is tough for anyone.

    if he only has one spin serve you might consider cheating a little out to the spin side if you stand back.
     
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  9. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    what about reading the serve ? I am facing 4.5 opponents with serve in the 90's MPH for the 1st serve. and they can hit slice out wide and also flatish at the body or up the middle.
     
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  10. maxpotapov

    maxpotapov Hall of Fame

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    Well, you can't have it both ways. It's better to let some out wide serves go, than to be nervous all the time. Safe position which inspires confidence will lead to some positive results, eventually.

    If someone is giving me a hard time with the variety of serves, I just step deep into the court and try to block everything, double handed. At least I can irritate the opponent if not return deep :)
     
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  11. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    The classic advice would be to move forward on the diagonal when they slice wide as you get to the intersection point of your racket and ball quicker. But, the truth is if they can pop it hard when you step in and slice it wide when you step back, they have a good serve and you are going to have to work hard to return it.
     
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  12. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    NO. I want a better way. Like Reading the serve and knowing where it will go before they hit the ball. this a advantage that all greats had like Connors, Agassi, Wilander, and Federer even
     
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  13. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    This is your problem. If you are playing 4.5 opponents you can't expect to be able to take a full swing at very many serves and need to think of returning serve differently than a typical groundstroke. The ball is coming in with a lot of pace, you don't need to take a full stroke to be able to return it with pace. It's more about timing.

    Yes you want to shorten that backswing, keep your weight going into your shot, slow down that swing, follow through if you do have time to swing - but blocking it back can be just as effective. You don't have to win the point on the return, but you can certainly lose it on the return by trying to do too much. Against a big server you should be thinking about using the return to stay in the point or resetting the point to neutral/rally situation so you can play out the point. If you're trying to hit a bunch of winners you're going to give away too many points. Also, think about adding a slice or chip return to your toolkit.

    No matter what type of serve is coming at you, where you position yourself, and whether you intend to swing, block, or slice it back, the most valuable piece of advice I can give you is to use your feet to keep it all in front of you.
     
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  14. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    Sorry, too lofty of an expectation and something you won't get with tips on the internet. The great returners in history were not clairvoyant, they just had the ability to process the information and physically react to it quicker than everyone else. You can 'read' things alignment, toss, swing and use that along with any knowledge of tendencies/habits to make an informed guess, but no matter who you are you are still reacting to the serve.
     
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  15. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    Improve both balance control and the power of step from the single leg in all direction. Key to fast reaction and good footwork.
     
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  16. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    When you are facing a server who is mixing it up and hitting their spots, picking apart the lines, there is nothing you can do but applaud your opponent and keep saying "Nice serve" over and over again.

    There is absolutely nothing you can do except for try to pick up cues about where the serve is going to go and make your best guess. The problem with the slice serve is that it is tossed in almost in the same spot as the flat serve. Very tough to pick up.

    In these situations, on the deuce court, I pretty much give my opponent the wide slice first serve. If he can hit it over and over again, good for him. But more often than not most servers can't hit it that consistently. Just be patient and protect against the T serve.
     
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  17. anubis

    anubis Hall of Fame

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    Personally, I NEVER take a full swing at a first serve. I always do a super compact stroke and attempt to redirect the shot as deep as I can. If I do my normal forehand, it always sails long. Just experiment with taking a shorter takeback and just guide the shot in. Remember the serve is usually harder than a typical forehand anyway, so you don't need much power behind it. It takes more skill to remove pace from a hard serve than it does to hit it back with equal pace (or more).
     
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  18. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    YES. that is what I mean. HOW do I read the Alignment, Swing, or habits ?
     
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  19. cjs

    cjs Semi-Pro

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    Practice. Observation. Understanding the mechanics of a serve. The ball toss reveals a lot, though some of the best pros have good disguise. At rec level its much easier.

    Even when I'm watching a match I like to try and make a prediction as to what serve the server is going to hit from the ball toss.
     
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  20. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    I already know how to read the Toss. Other stuff you mentioned. How do you READ them
     
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  21. cjs

    cjs Semi-Pro

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    Unfortunately its hard to explain or teach intuition and anticipation. Wish I could explain better.
     
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  22. MGK1965

    MGK1965 New User

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    Lean into the ball too and keep feet moving. Watch how much pros lean. Blocking is good just learn to block with a short backswing and follow through. Just have a goal- get it into play, then deeper, etc.
     
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  23. srimes

    srimes New User

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    If they are reacting to where you stand (ie, far back he hit's wide, up close he goes down the T) then you can play games and move during the motion. Stand far back to bait a wide shot, and move in during the toss in anticipation, etc. Doesn't always works but mixing it up can increase your odds. It takes a little control away from the server.
     
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  24. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    This is what I am talking about. Finally someone talking some real smart way to return serve.

    Now what about reading the body position, or foot alignment. or his Jestures that may give away the serve like picking his nose or something.
     
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  25. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    Get a practice partner and have him or her serve to you from the service line. That simulates big servers very well.
     
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  26. thehustler

    thehustler Rookie

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    I say this all the time when it comes to returns and I'll say it again: Have your mind made up before the serve is ever hit. Have a return pattern ready so you don't have to think, you just have to react.

    It's very simple. If you're a righty and on the deuce side and the serve is out wide to your FH hit the shot cross court. If it's down the middle to your BH hit it back up the middle or DTL. On the ad side of the court if it's a FH return hit it cross court, if it's a FH return and a lame duck serve crack it down the line. If it's out wide to your BH hit it cross court. If it's a body serve decide ahead of time what you want to do. You may have to block it with a backhand. If you have good footwork you might be able to dance around an crack a forehand. These are easy angles that go with how the ball came over and it makes things simpler. If you stick to a pattern like this you won't fear any serve. I've played a lot of people with 'monster' serves and I used a pattern like this and just watched them stand in awe as their serve came back in a spot where they couldn't hit it.

    This past Saturday I had an opponent who hit a pretty good serve out wide to my FH on the deuce side. He was charging the net. Without thinking, without hesitation I cracked my FH cross court right at his feet where all he could do was watch the ball go by. He stood there in awe, my partner said wow good shot, but I didn't say anything because it was what I've worked on, what I plan for and what I execute. That was a normal shot to me. It was what I expected to happen.

    Do what I mentioned above and shorten your swing a bit. You'll be fine. Your opponents won't. I stay on the baseline and force my opponents to knock me back. When your opponent knows that you have a great return it puts a lot more pressure on their serve. They know that one mistake, one misplaced serve, one with too much fluff and you'll kill them.
     
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