How to best improve 'starting the point'?

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
If I remember correctly, one of the coaches on here.. I think it was either @Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla said something like "If you want to be good at competitive tennis, get really good at starting the point"

And this seems the be the problem I have. Against guys that are ranked higher than me, I seem to be able to go toe-to-toe with them in neutral baseline rallies. However, when it comes down to "starting the point" they seem super superior - its rare a neutral baseline rally even starts, because they've creamed either the serve or the return and i'm on defense from the get-go.

I figure we have to break 'starting the point' down into to catergories:

Serve return:
I thought perhaps one of the reasons was because I use a 1hbh, and they all use 2hbh (and the 1hbh seems to need more time) - so I took some inspiration from Wawrinka and decided to slice the serve return back. It works pretty well, still trying to figure out how to get my forehand slice to stay lower but the BH is solid.
I also seem to have 3 modes for my return now...
mode 1: they're a big server, or they have the wind behind them, and its their first serve. I opt for a conti grip and slice it back on both sides.
mode 2: they're a medium server, or the wind is against them, its first serve. I opt to hold my racquet in a conti grip, ready for a slice backhand but also to change it to my SW forehand grip if it comes to that side.
mode 3: its a second serve or they're a slow server, I change grips to my topspin grip on either wing.

What do you think the best method to improve the serve return is? Maybe having your mate serve from the service line at you?
Am i over complicating this by having 3 modes?

Serve:
I really don't know how to improve this other than spending a lot of time on it, either videoing it and posting it here for constant feed back (the long but cheap way) or paying a coach who has a good serve themselves to give you lots of feedback. I wonder how many sessions you'd need to improve it? Any coaches here have a rough estimate?
I don't really have the $$$ to invest into private serve lessons, so any free/cheap advice to improve the serve - please share!

@J011yroger @nytennisaddict
 
D

Deleted member 23235

Guest
serve... practice a lot. over the summer I almost served 100 balls daily. video, compare, tweak, practice,... rinse and repeat. highly recommend emailing the serve doctor - pat dougherty... his vid is excellent.

returns... again practice a lot. make sure to play games or tie breaks every hitting session... make sure the last 20-30 minutes is always serve & returns (I usually do tie breaks).... experiment

I have 3 modes too:
1. swfh/2hbh drive... hold in fh grip... short backswing, get low, aim for back fence or server
2. conti block/slice return (be able to lob/block deep and chip short and low (ie they will eventually s&v if you just bunt deep all the time))
3. conti chip and charge
video, compare, tweak, practice,... rinse&repeat


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

ReopeningWed

Professional
If I remember correctly, one of the coaches on here.. I think it was either @Ash_Smith or @tennis_balla said something like "If you want to be good at competitive tennis, get really good at starting the point"

And this seems the be the problem I have. Against guys that are ranked higher than me, I seem to be able to go toe-to-toe with them in neutral baseline rallies. However, when it comes down to "starting the point" they seem super superior - its rare a neutral baseline rally even starts, because they've creamed either the serve or the return and i'm on defense from the get-go.

I figure we have to break 'starting the point' down into to catergories:

Serve return:
I thought perhaps one of the reasons was because I use a 1hbh, and they all use 2hbh (and the 1hbh seems to need more time) - so I took some inspiration from Wawrinka and decided to slice the serve return back. It works pretty well, still trying to figure out how to get my forehand slice to stay lower but the BH is solid.
I also seem to have 3 modes for my return now...
mode 1: they're a big server, or they have the wind behind them, and its their first serve. I opt for a conti grip and slice it back on both sides.
mode 2: they're a medium server, or the wind is against them, its first serve. I opt to hold my racquet in a conti grip, ready for a slice backhand but also to change it to my SW forehand grip if it comes to that side.
mode 3: its a second serve or they're a slow server, I change grips to my topspin grip on either wing.

What do you think the best method to improve the serve return is? Maybe having your mate serve from the service line at you?
Am i over complicating this by having 3 modes?

Serve:
I really don't know how to improve this other than spending a lot of time on it, either videoing it and posting it here for constant feed back (the long but cheap way) or paying a coach who has a good serve themselves to give you lots of feedback. I wonder how many sessions you'd need to improve it? Any coaches here have a rough estimate?
I don't really have the $$$ to invest into private serve lessons, so any free/cheap advice to improve the serve - please share!

@J011yroger @nytennisaddict
Just practice more, you can only good at the shots you actually hit.
 
Serve return:
I thought perhaps one of the reasons was because I use a 1hbh, and they all use 2hbh (and the 1hbh seems to need more time) - so I took some inspiration from Wawrinka and decided to slice the serve return back. It works pretty well, still trying to figure out how to get my forehand slice to stay lower but the BH is solid.
I also seem to have 3 modes for my return now...
mode 1: they're a big server, or they have the wind behind them, and its their first serve. I opt for a conti grip and slice it back on both sides.
mode 2: they're a medium server, or the wind is against them, its first serve. I opt to hold my racquet in a conti grip, ready for a slice backhand but also to change it to my SW forehand grip if it comes to that side.
mode 3: its a second serve or they're a slow server, I change grips to my topspin grip on either wing.

What do you think the best method to improve the serve return is? Maybe having your mate serve from the service line at you?
Am i over complicating this by having 3 modes?
"A man with two watches never knows what time it is."

I typically vote for simple over complicated so I would keep the same grip schema and instead of switching, learn to recognize your 3 [or however many] modes and maybe adjust your swing instead [larger swing for the slower serve, smaller swing for the bigger serve].

Once you get good at that, maybe then worry about multiple grip changes.

I think having your partner serve from the SL is great practice. I think most people emphasize the speed aspect when practicing returns but what they often overlook is the angle: a serve comes in at a higher trajectory than a typical GS and that can cause just as many, if not more, problems than raw speed.

If you don't have a partner, stand fairly close to a wall and serve and then return.
 
D

Deleted member 23235

Guest
...
What do you think the best method to improve the serve return is? Maybe having your mate serve from the service line at you?
...
this IMO is the best way to practice...
that said i never do it, because i don't have anyone that will do that (unless i pay them)...
next best is to just play alot of points,... focusing on the serve & return (tie breaks, games, whatever,...)
pressure yourself (force yourself to take a shorter backswing), by standing in against weaker servers
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
Serve:
I really don't know how to improve this other than spending a lot of time on it, either videoing it and posting it here for constant feed back (the long but cheap way) or paying a coach who has a good serve themselves to give you lots of feedback. I wonder how many sessions you'd need to improve it? Any coaches here have a rough estimate?
I don't really have the $$$ to invest into private serve lessons, so any free/cheap advice to improve the serve - please share!
Serve: most important shot in tennis.

Need good technique (coach).

Then need thousands of reps.

How many coaching sessions depends how "broken" your serve is. Coach will likely only focus on one or two things at a time. Toss, service grip, off-arm, foot position (platform or pinpoint nuances), hips, leg engagement, trophy pose, contact point and swingpath for kick/slice/flat, pronation, etc. Many potential variables :)

If you post video, members could give you an idea of how much you'll need to work on, and what the top priorities would be. But then you should hire a good coach and go from there. The serve is one of the most technical shots in tennis (lots of moving parts) and it's very difficult to teach yourself all the necessary variables to serve above ~4.0 level, IMHO.
 

NuBas

Legend
I found that even up to 4.5 level, many players do not actually attack your serve. So if your serve is average then that's OK, you should think about the point after the serve.

Reason why better players are better at starting the point cause they have confidence and trust in their strokes, to go for more or open up the court than what you might be willing to do.

Return of serve is quite easy, you just have to stand your ground and know that the serve can only travel after the bounce so far or so wide. You can practice these things within a game itself if you can find someone whose willing to play with you often and if you don't mind wins and losses.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
Return of serve is quite easy, you just have to stand your ground and know that the serve can only travel after the bounce so far or so wide. You can practice these things within a game itself if you can find someone whose willing to play with you often and if you don't mind wins and losses.
Return is pretty easy if you are athletic and do a couple key items well.....But very tough if you don't.
 

NuBas

Legend
Return is pretty easy if you are athletic and do a couple key items well.....But very tough if you don't.
I never intended or anticipated that my ROS would be a strength in my game but it just developed into one. Key things that helped me were:

1. Standing my ground, picking a comfortable distance to stand which depends on whose the server and knowing my reach.
2. Getting familiar with the server, his pattern, pace, rhythm and tendencies.
3. Being balanced then pushing off in which ever direction I'm gonna return. One large, purposeful and athletic leap I suppose.
4. Just making good, solid contact and having a general area I'd want it to return to.
5. Last the recovery which goes back to being balanced and standing your ground, not allowing anything to knock you off your place.

ROS I think technically could be one of the easier things to do but takes lots of confidence, trust, and clear simple decision making.
Another component is reading the serve, some players naturally have big serves and in those cases you just have to be instinctual cause they can hit the lines at rare speeds.

I think if you look at Nishikori, his body language on the ROS is good to imitate. Its full of confidence and willingness to move forward.
Federer is also another one to mimic. Keeps everything in front and makes one confident move towards the serve.
 

NuBas

Legend
I found that if you focus on the ball and where it travels after the bounce then you might have too many options in your head. I prefer to see where it hits the service box and take it ideally on the rise, head on. Its more coordination than anything.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
I never intended or anticipated that my ROS would be a strength in my game but it just developed into one. Key things that helped me were:

1. Standing my ground, picking a comfortable distance to stand which depends on whose the server and knowing my reach.
2. Getting familiar with the server, his pattern, pace, rhythm and tendencies.
3. Being balanced then pushing off in which ever direction I'm gonna return. One large, purposeful and athletic leap I suppose.
4. Just making good, solid contact and having a general area I'd want it to return to.
5. Last the recovery which goes back to being balanced and standing your ground, not allowing anything to knock you off your place.

ROS I think technically could be one of the easier things to do but takes lots of confidence, trust, and clear simple decision making.
Another component is reading the serve, some players naturally have big serves and in those cases you just have to be instinctual cause they can hit the lines at rare speeds.

I think if you look at Nishikori, his body language on the ROS is good to imitate. Its full of confidence and willingness to move forward.
Federer is also another one to mimic. Keeps everything in front and makes one confident move towards the serve.
good stuff you list there but not so easy for most players....
 
D

Deleted member 23235

Guest
I never intended or anticipated that my ROS would be a strength in my game but it just developed into one. Key things that helped me were:

1. Standing my ground, picking a comfortable distance to stand which depends on whose the server and knowing my reach.
2. Getting familiar with the server, his pattern, pace, rhythm and tendencies.
3. Being balanced then pushing off in which ever direction I'm gonna return. One large, purposeful and athletic leap I suppose.
4. Just making good, solid contact and having a general area I'd want it to return to.
5. Last the recovery which goes back to being balanced and standing your ground, not allowing anything to knock you off your place.

ROS I think technically could be one of the easier things to do but takes lots of confidence, trust, and clear simple decision making.
Another component is reading the serve, some players naturally have big serves and in those cases you just have to be instinctual cause they can hit the lines at rare speeds.

I think if you look at Nishikori, his body language on the ROS is good to imitate. Its full of confidence and willingness to move forward.
Federer is also another one to mimic. Keeps everything in front and makes one confident move towards the serve.
my checklist:
1. center myself to possilbe returns (eg. if they slice more, take 2 steps to right, etc...)
2. prep tip down... eliminate loop
3. watch the toss intently... look for clues, tendencies, etc... slice, kick, etc,...
4. split and land on their contact,... get weight moving forward... this helps use your body like a backboard, so you don't need to power the shot with your arms/hands.
5. half unit turn (like 45 degrees)... tip should be down... resist urge to further bring racquet back with arm
6. follow ball to contact + swing to contact... (aim at the head of returner - trust topspin will bring it back down)
7. extend to contact (make sure eyes still on contact... don't peek at where the ball is going!)
8. recover.
 
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