Tennis serves and returns.

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by f.truong, Oct 13, 2013.

  1. f.truong

    f.truong New User

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    Hey everyone, i'm not sure if it's only me but most times when I play a match I have trouble hitting the ball back after my serve is returned. I serve relatively fast probably in the 100-90mph for my first serve. But the problem is when my serve is returned I have problems hitting it back over, either I over hit it or under hit it. It feels like I can't get back in the groove after. Is there any tips for this problem?
     
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  2. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    If you find your serves come back too fast, take away some speed from it and use spin instead or placement. If they come back easily, it means your placement isn't good enough. My guess being that you rely too much on your serve speed and become panicked when it comes back. However, you should see the weak return as a chance.

    If you really have a good serve, it's also time to do some drills. For example, you could train how to serve a slice out wide and finish in the open court. Even it it comes back, you're most likely in the driver seat for the rest of the rally. Use your serve as a setup shot for a strategy you thought of before you served.
     
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  3. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Most likely, your 90+ mph first serves are hit very flat. Therefore, you are probably missing them more than half the time. Hitting all those faults will destroy your rhythm, so when the ball actually does come back, you're not ready for it. My suggestion is to hit the first serve with spin, so you can get more of them in and get in a better rhythm for the actual point.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2013
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  4. KMV

    KMV New User

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    I play a couple of flat hard serves who regularly hit 110 mph. The easiest serve to return is a flat serve hit straight at your stikezone. There are 2 effective returns for these serves:
    1) The block return. When played well, it keeps low and uses the pace of the serve. You need to practice moving forward and finishing the point
    2) The short-arm drive return. More offensive and high risk but redirects most of the pace of the serve.. There is little you can do about it if placed well.

    When serving, try and anticipate the direction of the return based on the type and direction of the serve, and start your initial movement accordingly. For example if you serve a good slider out wide, its most likely to be returned crosscourt.

    Also when serving, focus more on the angles, makes a big difference if you serve flat. Try adding a bit of overspin to it, will help you get the extra marging you need to get those angles.
     
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  5. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    You're probably also propelled into court as you hit the serve, meaning that when you recover from your service action you'll be in the outer edges of no mans land. This could be what robs you of time to handle the return. Take two quick steps back directly after serving and split step. These quick steps should almost be part of your motion and should put you slightly behind the baseline.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2013
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  6. Adles

    Adles Rookie

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    Watch some video of Radwanska vs. Williams (or really anyone who hits hard). She is always defensive on her first groundstroke after the serve, but usually is able to get low and hit a short swing to get herself in the point. I think it is her signature shot.
     
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  7. tennis_pr0

    tennis_pr0 Semi-Pro

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    Couple things. You should have an idea after the first service game of what kind of returns your opponent is hitting. Is he taking it early, chipping it back, coming in after, which side is his weaker return, is he mostly returning cross court, etc.

    Next, one thing I see so many people do is when they hit a good first serve, they stand there admiring it hoping it doesn't come back instead of getting ready in case it does. Always assume it will come back.

    Are you split stepping right after your return. You should be serving and then essentially split stepping right away in anticipation of your opponents return. Make sure you look at your opponents contact right after you hit you serve and split.
     
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  8. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Pics or it didn't happen.
    [​IMG]

    Anyone else dubious about this? OP is claiming to serve at near-ATP levels on his first serve, yet needs tips on hitting ground strokes on the return?

    What level are you playing at, OP? Futures, challengers, D1?

    Perhaps you're talking about the second serve, because only 10% of your first serves land in? Are you six foot five inches tall?

    Little help here, please.
     
    #8
  9. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    90-100 mph is not ATP level speed. And there's more to a pro serve than just speed. The OP is not claiming to have a pro level serve.

    If you have something constructive or helpful to say, please offer it. Otherwise you might want to spend some time looking up serve speeds on the pro tour and what other factors go into a pro level serve.
     
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  10. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Hi OP, the first ground stroke after a serve can be difficult because you're recovering from your serve and the ball could be coming back at a pretty good clip, especially if you've really put a good first serve in.

    A couple of thoughts:
    - Try to make sure that you recover as quickly as possible after your first serve. The more balanced you can be at the end of the serve the faster you'll be able to recover.

    - You might want to think about a conservative shot for the first ball after the serve just to get the rally going. Your opponent survived your serve - good on them - and you're still recovering.

    Good luck.
     
    #10
  11. psv255

    psv255 Professional

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    Actually, OP seems legit (and familiar to me). Serving a tennis ball flat, 95 mph, isn't too difficult. It's consistency and placement that separate ATP and park rec, speed aside for a moment. Imo, if we're talking serve stats and speeds, ATP-level tends to start at hitting 70% top-slice first serves at approx. 110 mph with a target 6 inches wide. Few ATP players hit flat 95 mph serves.
    From personal experience, my returning skills lag extremely far behind my serve, which has lead to problems in my matches. I couldn't start the point because I couldn't put a return into play, and when I played excellent returners, I would essentially have to end the point in 3 shots to have any chance of holding.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2013
    #11
  12. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Look guys, there's enough trolling on this forum for me to be dubious about this claim. Do you disagree? You can push back, that's fine, but I don't think I was way out of line (even though I was being slightly fun with my post, which should have been obvious too). I did say "near-ATP levels," talking strictly about pace. I don't think that's way off either. Donald Young, according to some US Open stats, AVG 1st Serve Speed is about 101 MPH. There are some other guys close to this as well.

    Obviously there is more to a serve than pace, but that's what we're talking about, so that's what I was comparing. I would argue that if you can serve, on AVG at 90-100 MPH, then that is near ATP levels. Why even push back on that?

    Plus, it's pretty common to request video and level of play when someone is asking for instruction around here. Is it not? What kind of returns are these guys hitting off of 100 MPH serves? This sounds like a pretty high level of rec play to me.
     
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  13. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    You're simply wrong, so you should just give it up. Donald Young, much like Nadal, mainly hits a heavy spin lefty serve. There's a difference between hitting a flat 90mph serve and hitting a 101mph topspin slice serve that is well placed.

    Most likely the OP is falling off balance when hitting the serve and is not preparing for the ball to come back. If you block a fast flat serve back to the server, you can often force an error. The OP needs to practice on landing and then transitioning to a split step off of the serve. He also needs to be able to back up quickly to get a decent shot at the return.
     
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  14. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Yep. You're right. You cannot compare the pace of a 101 MPH serve to the pace of a 100 MPH serve :twisted:

    You guys continue to discuss this guy's unsubstantiated claim of 100 MPH first serve return game issues. I will back off.
     
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  15. Chance326

    Chance326 New User

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    A 101 AVERAGE serve, compared to the RANGE of 90-100. Anyways, he is asking for tips on returns, why would he post a video of his serves?
     
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  16. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    No, you can't. 3.0s have returned 100mph+ flat serves I've hit at them (I own a radar gun). They would not be able to do that against Nadal's 100mph standard serve. I know this because I've watched Nadal's serve from court level. Nadal's serve and mine are completely different things.

    There needs to be less focus on perhaps inaccurate estimates of ball speed here and fewer hurt egos. The OP's original question was legitimate. Returning a serve at the server's feet can garner you a lot of free points. Djokovic has a very good return game and this is what he often does. The OP either needs better serve placement or he needs to learn how to quickly recover from the serve to be ready to return the ball.
     
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  17. Power Player

    Power Player Talk Tennis Guru

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    Chill out. 90-100 is not unrealistic and definitely not worth such a childish post.
     
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  18. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    A -- Lighten up and take an effing joke, guys. Holy wowza!

    B -- I've already bowed out of this conversation. Please continue without me.
     
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  19. Power Player

    Power Player Talk Tennis Guru

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    Oh that was supposed to be funny? Nice save..lol

    Anyway OP, footwork after the serve can be drilled by having a partner throw balls at you right after you serve. Preps you for fast returns.
     
    #19
  20. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Yes, dude! Ha. Jokes are so much less effective when you have to explain them :cry:

    "Pics or it didn't happen," is a decade old Internet meme that I find rather hilarious. L2p, brotha.

    And which is funnier to look at, the Grinch, or this little devil guy: :twisted:

    I was going for a little variety with my iron-clad wit. Certainly, using the hiarious described meme AND the Grinch would solidify the tongue-and-cheek opening to my post, but apparently not ... No worries. Like I said, I have nothing further to add to the OP's discussion. You guys are covering it well, imo.
     
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  21. Power Player

    Power Player Talk Tennis Guru

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    It's getting awkward reading you trying to explain all this like we didn't read your first post. Don't get insecure about it.

    It happened, it's done, and people called you on it. No biggie.
     
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  22. WARPWOODIE

    WARPWOODIE Rookie

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    Not knowing your level/rating, and your ability to track and react to the ball as it is coming back at you is critical to give you feedback. Assuming you are a 3.0 to 3.5 player, what I noticed in most cases with these level players is that, on the return of the ball (after your serve) is that the player has poor reaction skills, either out of position after split step, or taking an unnecessary full swing at the ball. Keep it simple, track the ball as best you can, create space between your position and the ball, take a half swing or punch at the ball, and work on your contact point. Good luck.
     
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  23. f.truong

    f.truong New User

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    Here's a quick short video of me serving during pre-season. I calculated the frames and it says my serve was 91mph, and 93mph.
    During season i've served bigger, in high school tennis I have no problem because most people can't handle it very well. I have a consistent kickserve for a second serve. Which helped me, but once i'm outside playing 4.0 tournaments i have trouble with my next shot after my serve because i'm always so much into the court and don't have time to react.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvXjdTKcqss&feature=youtu.be
     
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  24. Ballinbob

    Ballinbob Hall of Fame

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    This is a good question posed by the OP.

    Something that helps me is to have a plan while serving. For instance, on the ad side, I'll very often hit a kick serve to a righty's backhand and I will always hit the next shot to their forehand side to get them running. It's just something instinctive I do and it's a go-to play for me.

    I've always been a big fan of serving out wide on both sides (as long as you don't serve cream puffs) because it sets up the next shot well and you don't really have to overthink it
     
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  25. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Firstly a few serving tips from my experience playing strong returners.

    • Work on mixing up your first serve, as different spins and placement will stop your opponent launching the ball right back at your feet.
    • Against a player who returns by hitting big, throw heavy kick serves at them. Then retreat behind the baseline, but be ready to charge in for the put away. This is good tactic as returners who hit hard are more likely to miss by overhitting a kick serve, and if they do get the shot in you have had enough time to prepare.
    • If you have the net skills, serve and volley occasionally, as this will encourage the opponent to stop returning with deep shots. This is because deep shots are the easiest to put away as you approach the net.
    • A low skidding slice shot out wide or into the body, will usually be returned, but it will rarely be a strong return - allowing an easier first shot.
    • Punish the weakest return, rather than hitting your strongest serve if they are returning well. For example I hit 75% of my second serves as wide heavy topspin serves to the backhand, as this is my strongest serve, but sometimes an opponent will get their eye in and start to tee off on the shot - in this case rather than playing into their strength I will start using a different serve which targets a weakness of theirs.

    So assuming you are serving well with a variety of placement, spins and paces; and you still are getting good returns here are some first shot tips.

    • Move quickly to a ready position with good balance, immediately after the serve. You are aiming to be back behind the baseline as the return crosses the net.
    • It is better to move back expecting a good return and run in to the short ball, than staying forward expecting a bad return and having no time.
    • There are three scenarios which can occur when the ball is returned. Either the ball is short and should be hit confidently for a winner/set up (somewhat likely); the return is very good and the ball should be kept deep to make your opponents attack harder (unlikely), or the ball has been returned fairly deep as a neutral or defensive shot (most likely). This last scenario often leads to mistakes, as it appears attackable and the player feels the need to attack on their serve (sounds like your problem). The correct response requires patience, intent (you need to know what you want to try in the point) and confidence in your ability to make the shot you are attempting (by selecting sensible shots you have practised). You need to play a moderately attacking shot in order to maintain your control of the point, by hitting a shot you know you can make consistently which allows you to set up a point.
    • If you are overhitting, be a bit more patient and play with larger margins and more topspin.
    • If you are underhitting, remember that you only stand a chance of winning if you hit the strokes you have practised. This should mean hitting with a relaxed, fast swing; aiming for relatively easy targets.
    • Practise the 1-2 punch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zGo0T_hZEI notice how they practise well placed spin serves and a consistent mid paced follow up shot. The idea isn't to blast a winner, but to get the opponent in a bad position for the rest of the point (if they aren't pulled so far off they can' run it down). Also practise the 1-2 wrongfoot, where you aim the first shot back at the same position as the serve, as experienced opponents will quickly recognise the 1-2 punch and will start running early to cover the wide angles.
     
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  26. f.truong

    f.truong New User

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvXjdTKcqss
    since you wanted to see it you can count the frames if you don't believe me.
     
    #26
  27. f.truong

    f.truong New User

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    I think my main issue is that fact that i'm so short so when i serve i really jump into the court and end up in no man's land and end up not having enough time to recover. Most times in high school i can get away with it because most of them just either block it back or don't get to it. Then when i play in 4.0 tournaments they can block it easier. and from the motion from my serve (which is pretty big and fast) I have trouble getting back into the groove. The advice given above has helped me realized what i need to work on and i want to thank you all for contributing it is very helpful. Thank you all.
     
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  28. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    #28
  29. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    Exactly what I said in reply #5 above.
     
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  30. easywin

    easywin Rookie

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    Actually i think you have enough time to recover - just got to learn to automatically go back to the baseline - immediatly. If you want to improve your overall positioning I'd tell you to not turn your right leg as much as you do.

    Try more jumping up into the ball then into the court using more of your left leg to jump up.
     
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  31. dknotty

    dknotty Semi-Pro

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    Either that, or follow the serve right up to the net.
     
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  32. mbm0912

    mbm0912 Professional

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    I was very curious to see as well. I would LOVE to have that serve!
     
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  33. f.truong

    f.truong New User

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    one last question, what does OP mean?
     
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  34. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    OP stands for original poster. Since you started this thread, you are the OP on this thread. And I'd like to know, what is your first serve percentage? I still think a low first serve percentage may be at the root of your problems, even after seeing the video, which shows some decent serving.
     
    #34
  35. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    ^ this is correct, and is also used to mean: original post.

    Examples:
    1. Hope this helps, OP! (you've been addressed at the Original Poster)
    2. Well, in the OP it cleary states [THE ARGUMENT] (the original post has been addressed).
     
    #35
  36. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    Nice serves. I think your problem is that you're too accustomed to either making an error, either to your opponent missing the return/the ball not coming back. So as I said earlier, you should work drills on point construction around your serve, how to prepare for the returners' return, and maybe take a bit some speed of your serve and add more spin to make it harder to return. And as other here said, it would be interesting to know your 1st serve percentage and the zones you hit at serve. Both are important, but at least the 1st serve percentage would be useful to us.

    For example you could try the 1-2 punch strategy in which you assume the ball will come back anyway. That's using your serve as a setup tool. You also have serve and volley for example if you know how to approach the net. The videos are in order, so it's preferable to watch them in order.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNUBeTCyfpc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGo8oQfp4y0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ4C3gYlNdE
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
    #36
  37. f.truong

    f.truong New User

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    I would probably say my first serve percentage is around 50-60%.
    I think the post above is right sometimes I really do think that the ball most likely isn't going to come back. I think the 1-2 punch and serve/volley is what I need to practice more.
    I usually have no problem hitting the ball after the first return on my second serve because I have a lot more time to get back into position and I don't jump in as much.
    and thanks for the reply on OP the only term I know for OP is from gaming and it means over powering. xD
     
    #37
  38. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    To the OP: you have the same problem that I do sometimes: we watch our first serves for too long! :) In a match, after serving, just push back immediately after the hit and split step for the return. See if that improves things.
     
    #38
  39. gwing

    gwing New User

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    Your serve is too good :)

    I remember when I suddenly developed a really good (by our standards) serve back in school and would stand there and admire winner after winner. On the rare occasion one came back properly I was invariably left for dead watching it in astonishment.

    Fortunately it was a self correcting problem. As you play against stronger opponents and get used to serves coming back fast the astonishment disappears pretty quickly and you can start working on the return. That's pretty hard if not many come back so, as has been said, easing off on the serve so you get more good returns to practice with might help.
     
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