Originally Posted by asked_answered
Thanks, MNPlayer! I've just recently worked my second kick/slice serve into good shape, and now I need to construct some points around it, as you suggested. (I still have a tendency to pause and think "Yay! It went in!" before I begin to prepare for my opponent's response.) My return, though, is very much a work in progress: often a cannon shot into the fence or a pathetic puff into the net.
Sounds good, if your serve becomes a consistent weapon for you, you will not have to worry about it going in. You can immediately set up for the next shot, anticipating the return based on the serve you hit - looking for that 1-2 or 1-2-3 punch ideally.
I had a coach tell me recently I should be trying to dominate from the 1st shot on service games, and trying to start return points at least neutral (meaning get the return deep and away from the middle, generally). I like this way of thinking about it because it's a fairly realistic goal against an opponent of similar level. Obviously if you are playing a player with a poor serve, you can attack on the return. Dominating on service points in my case means hit a good serve and set up for a big forehand. Assuming your forehand is your best shot you should be trying to hit as many forehands as possible, at least 2/3 of the court. If you watch the pros these days, they mostly play this way. You see lots of inside out forehand to backhand crosscourt rallies which I have also found a useful pattern because most guys I play have a comparatively weak backhand. I try to pin them in the backhand corner until they cough up a short ball or make an error. The idea is to keep your opponent on the defensive somehow until they make an error our you can finish with a winner.
This is one philosophy anyway, there are other ways to play of course, like serve and volley, which is even more aggressive. Your primary patterns should depend on your particular strengths and to some extent your opponent's weaknesses.