Is this a sign of an effective return game?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by dizzlmcwizzl, Aug 4, 2010.

  1. dizzlmcwizzl

    dizzlmcwizzl Hall of Fame

    Mar 24, 2010
    The serve return in doubles has been and continues to be the most worrisome part of my game. However, due to a committment over the last 6 months to lessons and practice, I have had flashes recently of what could be considered a respectable return of serve. I am a 4.0 mens adult player.

    Over the last 4 weeks I have been returning well (for me at least). I return almost always from the AD court. During this time, my opponents, which have been varied, frequently have gone to alternative formations such as the "I" and an Australian formation. This has happened so often I am wondering what is it about my return that make my opponents think this is a better option.

    So these are the questions ...

    1) Can I take this as a sign of an effective return, or is this something that you do just to show different looks to an opponent?

    2) Is it more common to line up in an Australian formation when serving from the AD side? I rarely find my opponents doing this on the Duece side.

    3) Finally, aside from the obvious answer of "hit it down the line", is there other strategies I should employ to combat this look as a returner.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2010
  2. Blake0

    Blake0 Hall of Fame

    Feb 17, 2009
    1) Not necessarily. Effective returns are returns that can't be taken advantage of. If your return makes the point neutral or gives you the offense its good. (harder to do in doubles then singles)
    2) It's more common on the Ad side because any weak return can be put attacked by the volleyer, but if you happen to hit a good return dtl the server can return the shot with his forehand wing, usually stronger for most. On deuce side's you'll find more leftys or players who have a stronger backhand go australian on that side.
    3) You could also look to lob the ball crosscourt with spin. Chipping, drop shots, dippers to net guys feet, etc. All good choices to choose from against this strategy.

    Think of using more angles/touch shots in doubles.
  3. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

    Aug 24, 2005
    The crappest town in Britain
    1. It's possible your opponents have recognized their serves aren't enough on their own to trouble you, so they are trying other methods to get to you. Or, they might simply like to throw in a bit of variety.

    2. It might be more common on the Ad side because down-the-middle serves go to a righty's forehand, so he/she is more likely to hit better returns, thus requiring different tactics to get easy points.

    3. A good DTL lob is particularly effective if you can pull it off. Regardless of which opponent takes that side after the serve, he will be at a stretch to reach it, even if it's a bit short. On the other hand, a short CC lob will leave your partner a sitting duck.
  4. naylor

    naylor Semi-Pro

    Jul 26, 2004
    New Zealand
    Looks to me like they're trying to take out your bread-and-butter CC return - so you must be doing something right with it! - and force you to go DTL. It's not difficult when you get a serve to your forehand, but when they place the ball to your backhand you have to let the ball cross in front of you and take the ball fractionally later and/or take an even closer stance - compared with the CC return where you can step forward and let rip / block. So, the chances of making an error and push the ball wide increase.

    In that situation, rather than change your routine completely and force yourself to play backhands DTL "cold" - whether hard, blocked or lob - as soon as the opponents go I or Australian, I would first try to get my shoulder turn and eye in by still going CC but this time aiming for the middle of the opponent's baseline or court - and hard!

    If the opponents go Australian, the server will likely position himself to serve from just left of the middle of the baseline (as for a serve in singles), to cover a possible DTL. So you aim your return straight back at him (and if you nail a hard one, follow it up to the net for good measure, as you're narrowing his angles). The threat of a poach by the opposing netman diminishes - unless he's a very good volleyer and poaches across from his ad side into his deuce side (yes, if he's a righty he has extra reach on his forehand, but if he starts doing that he still has to move fully across to his deuce side - you're returning a serve to your backhand, so from the left of your ad court - in which case you revert to your normal CC return and go behind him to lock him in place). And you may find that if the server has moved across to cover the DTL, your return down the middle goes behind him to his weaker backhand.

    If they go I, and the netperson starts in the middle of the court, then your target becomes the netperson - because you know he'll move one side or the other, so the one place he won't be when your return goes back over the net is the middle of the court!
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2010
  5. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation G.O.A.T.

    Oct 20, 2006
    I like this call, too. Even if the net guy doesn't move right away, you're still smart to test him - maybe drill a return at his backhand to see if he can manage a strong reaction. If not, he's going to feel like he's in the crosshairs up there at the net and you'll be able to break him down.

    Using the I formation can break the nerve of a returner by simply presenting a distracting alignment. There's still a lot of room to hit away from the server's partner, but keep track of a couple of things. If you're forced to return up the line to avoid the net player, that can give a righty server a big cut at a strong forehand. Don't get suckered into too many of those returns if that player is hitting well from the back court.

    If you decide to lob, it's got to be effective. Get it deep so that you can push the other guys back and take over the net. Whether you're going to lob or put your return somewhere else, tell your partner ahead of time so that he (or she) knows what to defend if the net opponent gets a racquet on the ball.

    Even though you're returning, be mindful of the things that you have control over and with your partner's help, you can avoid being boxed in and steal the initiative on your return games.

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