Keys to returning ground strokes

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by TennisGTP, Aug 22, 2014.

  1. TennisGTP

    TennisGTP New User

    Aug 16, 2014
    When returning ground strokes, is there a single key/set of keys to look for that will help you to anticipate where the ball will go? By way of analogy, in basketball/football you key in on the dribbler's/runner's belly-button, as they go where it goes. Is there such a key in tennis?
  2. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

    Jul 24, 2009
  3. moonballs

    moonballs Hall of Fame

    Nov 27, 2012
    I don't know what to look but the subconscious mind does pick up the direction of the shot from the opponents stoke before contact. That's why the shanks can be surprise winners I guess.
  4. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Mar 31, 2008
    It helps to realize where they SHOULD hit the ball, so then you can cover that side better. If they go the other way, then they are likely taking a risk that could help you score. At least be strong where they should hit the ball, like if you hit a nice deep crosscourt ball to his Bh, then he should normally try to hit that back crosscourt with his return. If he does not, then odds are good you may get an easy ball quite often.

    But it get tough when you leave your shot short in the middle. From there he can go to either side, which makes your job much tougher. This is the importance of having Smart Targets where you keep the balls mostly to the sides of the court with solid pace.

    BTw, some may have seen Shriver speak how Sharapova used depth, but then depicted 4 of 5 shots that hit the Smart Target areas, including one inside the BL and the pt ending winner as well.
  5. TennisGTP

    TennisGTP New User

    Aug 16, 2014
    Thanks for the replies. I'm asking not from a court geometry or percentages point of view, but from the perspective of any physical clues the hitter might give away. I'm asking because I have tried to key in on various physical clues but have not been successful, and thought maybe there was a rule/rules out there I was not aware of.
  6. esgee48

    esgee48 Legend

    May 30, 2010
    SF CA
    No matter where you are in the recovery process, when your opponent sets up to hit, be prepared to split step. If that means leaving court open, so be it. You cannot do much if you are still recovering to the middle of the perceived geometric middle and the opponent hits the ball. That's why you have to stop and split step. Once you start to do this, notice what they do with their lead shoulder on the forehand. Most people I play push that shoulder DTL or pull off it for CC. BH depends on where they place their stride foot if one handed. Two handers are harder to read because they can flick the ball. But the initial split step should help a lot.
  7. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    And remember, you split step can be moving in the recover direction, it doesn't have to stop lateral movement.
    Don't hit and run back to "ideal" position.
    Instead, hit and run back TOWARDS "ideal position, then split step when opponent's contact occurs.
  8. ElMagoElGato

    ElMagoElGato Rookie

    Aug 24, 2008
    Watching the belly button - that's interesting. You can use it when you attack like hitting to the narrow side when the opponent is moving toward the wide side.

    It's difficult to predict direction. It's easier to disguise which direction to pass even in basketball/football than body direction.

    But you can more easily predict what type of shot your opponent is hitting mostly from his back swing. If he is hitting a flat hard, spots/directions you should defend will be very limited. This is not direct prediction but helps you a lot.
  9. Rui

    Rui Semi-Pro

    Jul 25, 2007
    It's difficult to know where the ball is going before contact. That's why we split step. Really, it only takes a fraction of an inch to determine direction. So, it tough. Think more about getting into position to return the possible shots.
  10. PhrygianDominant

    PhrygianDominant Hall of Fame

    Apr 9, 2012
    If a a player has good strokes that are well grooved, it is possible to know where they are going to hit the ball before they do. Knowing where they should hit the ball also helps, because a good player will more often than not do just that. When watching pro tennis, you can often tell what the player is going to do. This is especially true if you are overly familiar with a player, and already know how they set up for particular shots. When actually playing tennis, however, I find I cannot watch my opponent as closely.

    Watching how they plant their feet, turn their shoulders, etc., can tell you what their options are. Usually a player will set up for a forehand inside out, and it will be all but impossible to hit it inside in without seriously impeding the effectiveness of the shot. After a good shoulder turn, the shoulders usually are in line somewhat with the target.

    Worse players make it more difficult because
    1)their strokes are erratic
    2)they make errors that change the direction of the ball accidentally

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