How to get good at the return of serve?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by BirdWalkR, Oct 29, 2011.

  1. BirdWalkR

    BirdWalkR Rookie

    Jun 14, 2011
    Everyone I know blasts the first serve out and dinks the second serve in. So I never get any real good practice. And when the first serve does go in it's coming so fastI can't seem to put a racquet on it. Are there any drills I can do with two people that would help? The only problem is the other person I usually play with doesn"t have a particularly fast serve at all. Advice? Drills?
  2. dozu

    dozu Banned

    Feb 19, 2004
    first serve - just block it back with a volley type stroke.

    2nd serve - if it's a dink, you punish it just like a short ball - hit to the open court and follow in.
  3. Giannis

    Giannis Rookie

    Aug 26, 2010
    Get your partner to serve from the service line to all directions randomly and find your preferred distance from the baseline to wait for the ball, depending on your level, height etc.
  4. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

    Feb 13, 2009
    Join a tennis league.
  5. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

    Apr 20, 2010
    For returning a fast serve, think of it like a small topspin groundstroke. Just turn the shoulder, keep the backswing super small or non-existent, and try to hit it out front with a follow thru out and a little upward.

    For a super fast serve, use a slice or volley like stroke. Again, turn your shoulders, catch it with an open racket face, and follow thru a bit.

    For a slower serve, treat it like a short ball and hit a drive.

    Go to and review the return of serve sequence of video's.

    A drill: Have you friend stand about 1/2 way between the baseline and service line and hit serves to you. If he can not hit accurate serves from there, he can move in closer. You can work on shortening you backswing and the different strokes. The Bryan brother had their dad hit serves to them from inside the court to develop their return.
  6. skuludo

    skuludo Professional

    May 7, 2004
    How do you do the James Blake style of return?

    I remember seeing him punish a 130mph serve.
  7. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    If James could really punish a 130 mph serve, he'd likely be a higher ranked player than he really is....which he isn't.
    James just plays on confidence, and that moment in time and space, happenned to guess correctly the location and timing of the incoming serve.
  8. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

    Jun 22, 2007
    This is on the right track. It is much easier on the server to just stand at his service line and easily hit serves at you while you practice the returns. Because he is so much closer, he doesn't have to hit very hard to replicate a fast serve, and it is much easier to hit down into the court to get a higher bouncing serve.

    Practice the short takeback and proper footwork and you'll improve quickly. Doing the above drill will give you more repetitions in a given period of time than you'll see in a match.
  9. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Oct 1, 2005
    Play with a variety of opponents
  10. 813wilson

    813wilson Rookie

    Jun 15, 2009
    Tampa area
    play with someone you know who has a hard serve - tell them up front what your goal is. Practice returning hard/fast/good serves even if the serve was a fault.

    this is something that would, at least, help your reaction times and anticipation.....
  11. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

    Apr 28, 2006
    Northern MO
    Yes, he can, slightly slower (around 123 mph) but I have seen him rocket some ridiculously hard returns back (as well as Gonzo), but he's obviously not consistent in the least with it (the hardest, consistent returner I've ever seen was Agassi, hands-down).
  12. DavaiMarat

    DavaiMarat Professional

    May 16, 2006
    First thing you have to realize is the return is not a ground stroke....especially off a good 1st serve. Mind you, some people get away with it at the lower levels but when you get to 100+ serves forget about taking a full back swing you never catch up with it.

    Keys to a good return of serve...

    1) Split step timing. You don't split when he contacts the ball, it's too late then. You split when his toss is reaching the top so you should land a millisecond before he contacts the ball. Your body won't know the difference while you explode to one side or the other. Balls of the feet!

    2) Low base. I can't emphasize this more. If I see any more kids jump into a serve I'm going to pistol whip them with my butt cap. When you land the split you should almost be in the sitting position. Try to keep your feet on the ground while your contacting the ball. Too many see pros in the air while they return or hit a ground stroke not realizing that the ball was actually struck while their feet were still on the ground. Do not jump into the serve. STAY LOW!

    3) Shoulder turn! There is no backswing in the return. The core rotates the shoulders back and forward. The arms just lift. Andre Agassi was a master of this. NO BACKSWING!

    4) Proactive placement. Why do rec players just sit there in the same spot. I move my return position all the time. You have no clue how many points I've won because I made the server think twice about where to serve. When he looks up to the toss you can always move back to your original position. This isn't gamemanship it's the same as poaching...your making the returner second guess his return. Nothing better to disrupt the rhythm of a big bomber. MOVE YOUR RETURN POSITION.

    Sorry for the CAPS....too use to shouting on court...
  13. Maui19

    Maui19 Hall of Fame

    Sep 18, 2010
    I agree with practicing returning serves hit from the opposing service line. I asked my pro, who is INSANE at returning, how he got so good. He said this is the drill that will do it.
  14. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Feb 17, 2010
    ¿ have you got Jimmy Connors phone number?
  15. vincent_tennis

    vincent_tennis Professional

    May 6, 2007
    Aussie (612)
    +1 for this drill, I ahve a video of A.A. using this drill in one of his training videos with Nick Boteri I'll try and dig it up form my BackUp HDD..

    ^one more *ag to mute..

    Personal Tip:
    - Relax when returning flat/"hard" serves, dont try to do too much
  16. mxmx

    mxmx Professional

    Feb 14, 2011
    Very good advice...

    regarding the low base: it makes it easier on yourself if you keep your feet wider apart, with your racket face almost in front of your head...Remember, most fast serves come low and skid through, so being low and having forward body language, helps hitting the ball in your comfort zone.

    On a kick serve, one has to have many small steps with footwork to help you to adjust to the akward bounce and height. The comfort zone is also higher, but one still starts off with a low body position as it is easier to move upward, than trying to adjust downward.

    Always try and contact the ball in front of you will be too late when you do not do this. (hence the short backswing to allow time for this)
    A short backswing uses the power of the serve and you generate power via timing instead. A big backswing with weak timing will not have more power than a short backswing with good timing.
  17. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

    Jun 18, 2004
    He used to be a much higher ranked player. He used to succeed with those tactics a much higher percentage of the time than he does now.
  18. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

    Apr 20, 2010
    You don't punish 130 mph serves. I have only face a 120 mph serve a hand full of times in my life. You work on taking no backswing, catching it out front and follow thru a bit. If you catch it cleanly with decent timing, the serve provides the pace.

    Agassi and Djoko return hard serves as well as anyone and their swings are very compact. Even when they hit a screaming return on a first serve, it is from a compact swing but they time it perfectly.

    Keep hands soft, small turn, contact with weight moving forward if possible, and a small follow-thru. Don't attempt to rip a fast serve with a full swing.

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