How can I hit a high % return of serve that's not a chip?

EddieBrock

Professional
My basic return of serve I have a short backswing and get my weight into the shot. The problem against better players seems to be that I either hit a very strong, aggressive return that puts me on the offensive or I miss the return. I don't really have anything in between besides just chipping it. So I'll sometimes have very short points where I'll crush a bunch of returns and feel like Djokovic and then mistime a bunch and feel like a dope.

Is there a technique or good video about how to hit a higher % return beyond just chipping it for when my return isn't working?

I'm talking about off a fast 1st serve where I'm taking a step to reach. Not a high spin serve or one into my body.
 

MyFearHand

Rookie
One obvious idea which comes to mind is just taking a step back to give yourself more time. I'm a fairly high level player but against good serves I often forget to do that because I'm too stubborn and convinced I'll be able to return well from the same position all the time.

Second of all, is there any way for you to figure out where the serve is going in advance? Does the server have some kind of tell, or do they often serve to a specific location. A good serve is a lot easier to return if your opponent tells you where it's going.
 

eah123

Rookie
I like coming up about halfway into no mans land and taking the ball early off the bounce with a block return (no backswing). If it’s a hard serve then this will often catch the server by surprise and you get a weak ball that is easy to put away. Or often the return will be a winner. Since the angle is limited by the width of the service box, you don’t have to move more than one step in either direction, which makes this kind of return very easy and consistent.
 

2nd Serve Ace

Hall of Fame
One obvious idea which comes to mind is just taking a step back to give yourself more time. I'm a fairly high level player but against good serves I often forget to do that because I'm too stubborn and convinced I'll be able to return well from the same position all the time.

Second of all, is there any way for you to figure out where the serve is going in advance? Does the server have some kind of tell, or do they often serve to a specific location. A good serve is a lot easier to return if your opponent tells you where it's going.
Yes on the toss reading! Realized an opponent I struggle against usually has a slight different contact position, particlularly on add side, that now it makes returning it much easier.
 

RyanRF

Professional
Heavy topspin with good net clearance.
It's difficult to hit heavy topspin off a flat fast serve. The racquet head speed you need can lead to shanks when the ball is coming in quick.

I prefer more of an abbreviated groundstroke. Short backswing, clean contact. Some spin is okay but don't make it a priority. Goal is depth and using incoming pace to redirect.
 

Dragy

Legend
My basic return of serve I have a short backswing and get my weight into the shot.
You can do the same with putting that short backswing lower, below the ball, and finishing a bit higher. It will suck some pace off the ball and impart spin, improving safety significantly. Focus on clean contact.
 

Gyswandir

Semi-Pro
Yes on the toss reading! Realized an opponent I struggle against usually has a slight different contact position, particlularly on add side, that now it makes returning it much easier.
Aside from the toss, observe their foot orientation. Lots of players set up slightly more towards the direction they will hit. Somewhat better players only move their feet after the toss, but with still enough time to read it, before they hit the ball.
 
Besides taking a few steps back, you can soften your grip a bit... too tight and you might use too much of the energy/pace from the serve in the return shot. Slower, short swing with a lighter grip and you'll absorb more pace which should allow you more control. You'll need to focus on height over the net and direction to make sure you're hitting with depth and to a spot you feel will help you start off the point in neutral once you make the return. My return game sounds similar and I hit a lot of big, heavy returns. I normally do pretty well, but sometimes you get on a bad streak or I don't get enough in and I have to consciously pull back and make a softer controlled swing for a few to get my range and timing back on track. Still accelerate through the ball, but at an easy consistent pace.
 
Depth is more important, even if you chip. It's hard to attack. Yes, it would be nice to take a full swing and hit heavy TS but not everyone is gifted in that area.

Also, the chip typically moves more slowly which gives you more time to get into position.
 

EddieBrock

Professional
Grip is EVERYTHING on the return. Almost.

how is our man holding the racquet?
Not really sure how tight my grip is. My returns when they're on are great, but I could really use a nice spin return. Next time I'll try the softer grip.

With my chip return I tend to hit it wide. So that's something I need to work on as well
 

Nellie

Hall of Fame
I hit my return of fist serves serve kind of like a chip but with no slice. I prepare at height of serve ball with short/no back swing and follow through straight toward an intended target without any breaking of the wrist. As I get more comfortable during the match, I will follow through over my shoulder but from the same preparation spot.
 

Rosstour

Hall of Fame
Not really sure how tight my grip is. My returns when they're on are great, but I could really use a nice spin return. Next time I'll try the softer grip.

With my chip return I tend to hit it wide. So that's something I need to work on as well
Are you holding it like Sampras/Fed or Djokovic? Hand positioning.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
One tip I heard is to think about "pulling" the tennis ball - so hitting cross court from where you get the serve. The advantage of this approach is if you are late - you will still be able to get the ball into the court.

I personally don't think much about shortening the stroke - that is one you hear alot but its kind of automatic..

Footwork and positioning are thought to be key for your serve return as well.. Lots of videos on this if you want to improve it. Also find someone to stand at the service line and bomb you with hard serves.. Good fun.
 
Top