How do you return/deal low bouncing serves/tips?

I've been playing some sets recently and people with "no pace" serves are some of the trickiest people to play because the ball dies in no man's land after one bounce. Even if I'm waiting inside of the baseline to return, the ball after the bounce is really low, like shin high. Anyone have any tips/solutions to returning these low balls?
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
If they have the capability to push one deep into the court if you line up too far in, you just cheat in a little, until they toss.
while their toss is in the air, take 2 quick big steps in and split step. Yes, eventually they will figure it out and try to catch you short with a deeply hit serve.
Unless they are VERY good, you are making them do what they don't want to do and probably cant do consistently. They will start trying to get a peek at whether you are taking those 2 steps on this serve or the next one, etc. Then their double faults will begin to flow. While getting breaks of serve due to double faults is not as much fun as smacking winners, it is a whole lot more fun than the frustration of running forward to pop up a sitter return because you had to scrape it off the ground and the guy trots in to poke it past you.

you absolutely still have to stay low, because there is still a pretty good chance the ball is going to be below net level at point of impact.

My personal recc. is to hit flat or a very shallow slice with a very short backswing. If you try a full return backswing and try to get more topspin to keep it in, your chances of an error go up exponentially.

Your aim point should be either corner in singles, 3 feet inside the lines. maximum court length available in case you overhit a little (or your racket face opens too much)

in doubles, you have more court to hit diagonally to, even if it is right back at the server. so, aim for three feet inside the alley (i.e., try to hit the singles sideline)

NOW, if there is a short ball that bounces high enough that it is even slightly over the net at your point of contact, sure, nail one at the net man. also, in doubles, hitting a drop return very short and angled is much more possible against a poop serve. BUT, dont try this unless you are really gonna drop it on the supersharp cross. The net man is usually aware of his partner's weak serve and is used to reading returns and taking off if he sees you are going to try anything like this.
 

socallefty

Legend
You can stand real close to the service line and prevent the slow serve from dropping low by hitting the ball on the rise. If you do this, you have to hit a good return and come to net as you are already too far inside the court to run back to the baseline - so, the question is whether you feel comfortable at the net to finish points. If you are not a good net player, you’ll have to be conservative with where you stand and get used to hitting better returns off low balls.

If you have a problem generating pace off slow balls without making errors, you probably lack topspin on your shots and you might want to invest in some coaching lessons to learn that.
 

shamaho

Professional
If they have the capability to push one deep into the court if you line up too far in, you just cheat in a little, until they toss.
while their toss is in the air, take 2 quick big steps in and split step. Yes, eventually they will figure it out and try to catch you short with a deeply hit serve.
Unless they are VERY good, you are making them do what they don't want to do and probably cant do consistently. They will start trying to get a peek at whether you are taking those 2 steps on this serve or the next one, etc. Then their double faults will begin to flow. While getting breaks of serve due to double faults is not as much fun as smacking winners, it is a whole lot more fun than the frustration of running forward to pop up a sitter return because you had to scrape it off the ground and the guy trots in to poke it past you.

you absolutely still have to stay low, because there is still a pretty good chance the ball is going to be below net level at point of impact.

My personal recc. is to hit flat or a very shallow slice with a very short backswing. If you try a full return backswing and try to get more topspin to keep it in, your chances of an error go up exponentially.

Your aim point should be either corner in singles, 3 feet inside the lines. maximum court length available in case you overhit a little (or your racket face opens too much)

in doubles, you have more court to hit diagonally to, even if it is right back at the server. so, aim for three feet inside the alley (i.e., try to hit the singles sideline)

NOW, if there is a short ball that bounces high enough that it is even slightly over the net at your point of contact, sure, nail one at the net man. also, in doubles, hitting a drop return very short and angled is much more possible against a poop serve. BUT, dont try this unless you are really gonna drop it on the supersharp cross. The net man is usually aware of his partner's weak serve and is used to reading returns and taking off if he sees you are going to try anything like this.
Great ones! I might add a variation for the singles game....that I try to use/deploy and exploit... I make 5/3/2 split between : slice return down the line followed by approach to the Net... Slice return and stay back (actually a step well inside the court sniffing for the short serve+1) for a followup court opening shot, then Slice drop-shot return (but fake with your body for another DTL approach) - instant winners these last ones !
 

shamaho

Professional
Great ones! I might add a variation for the singles game....that I try to use/deploy and exploit... I make 5/3/2 split between : slice return down the line followed by approach to the Net... Slice return and stay back (actually a step well inside the court sniffing for the short serve+1) for a followup court opening shot, then Slice drop-shot return (but fake with your body for another DTL approach) - instant winners these last ones !
and be prepared for the overhead finishing shot...
 

tonylg

Legend
You can stand real close to the service line and prevent the slow serve from dropping low by hitting the ball on the rise. If you do this, you have to hit a good return and come to net as you are already too far inside the court to run back to the baseline - so, the question is whether you feel comfortable at the net to finish points. If you are not a good net player, you’ll have to be conservative with where you stand and get used to hitting better returns off low balls.

If you have a problem generating pace off slow balls without making errors, you probably lack topspin on your shots and you might want to invest in some coaching lessons to learn that.
I thought this was going to be about digging out slice serves on grass.

If it's simply that bunts are dying: the problem is where you are standing to return. No use lining up like you are facing Isner when it's actually your grandma down the other end.
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
couple of keys here,

Surprisingly, if you ever look at it from the side and watch carefully, a poop serve or short serve will almost always bounce up well above net level, where you can actually hit down on the ball slightly, if you can catch it while it is still high, so getting topspin to keep it in the court may not be as important as most think. The problem is standing back on or behind the baseline and not getting up there until the ball is only 12 to 18 inches above the ground and dropping rapidly. There is no good solution to this problem except some really good drop/chip short returns in singles (which a marginally competent net man in doubles can usually step across and cream) or the chip lob over the net man's head. (and it better be at least 10 feet in the air and rising by the time it reaches the net, but still able to get down in the court)

If the opponent can do nothing but bunt over a short ball, then yeah, step up right to the service line and swat away catching the ball at the tip top of its bounce (apogee? showing my age by using terms from the Gemini space capsules) then try to find a more challenging opponent.


If the player has the capability of hitting one deep in the box, then you cant do this 100% of the time or before he even puts up his toss.

I know and play with a guy a little older than me. Most of his power is gone through age, but he is very crafty. he can still occasionally crack one flat down the middle with decent pace, but he USUALLY poops it in short and will often poop it in short but with a VERY sharp angle wide. This is the kind of server I am talking about. If I come right up short before he even tosses, then I have a very good chance of getting aced down the middle. Now, it is a kinda low percentage shot for him, but the more he does it in a match, the more he gets it dialed in and the percentages go up. That is why you have to be a little active in that you wait until his toss is in the air before you take your 2 quick steps in and dont do it every.single.time..
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
Bend you knees, keep low and hit up with a long follow through. Or... hit with a firm slice
Great advice, that is so correct. I am opposite, i have problems with high bouncing serves with semi kick or kick spin on it. How do you deal with these high bouncing serves ? Some people say oh these high bouncing serves are easy to deal with.. but i find them tough to deal with.
 
Great advice, that is so correct. I am opposite, i have problems with high bouncing serves with semi kick or kick spin on it. How do you deal with these high bouncing serves ? Some people say oh these high bouncing serves are easy to deal with.. but i find them tough to deal with.
I hope that helps, also if you're going to attack with a high forehand/backhand be sure you're loading onto the correct leg. I'm right handed so high forehands I would load onto my right leg, backhand I would load with my left. If you're left handed you'd load the opposites
 

LOBALOT

Hall of Fame
There is a guy that plays on my 40+ team that hits a classic old man slice backspin low scooting serve with really good pace. I have no idea how he hits a ball so hard but with so much slice and backspin at the same time. The thing bounces about an inch off the ground. It is not a short serve that is for sure.

I have to ask him the trick as it drives other teams nuts! We just watch and chuckle.
 
Top