Reading the Return of serve

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by salsainglesa, Aug 31, 2007.

  1. salsainglesa

    salsainglesa Semi-Pro

    Dec 20, 2005
    Hello, i would like to know if you know the technique to read the direction of the serves before they are hit, and the spin the server is going to use... what can i see before the other player hits the ball?? ... how the toss affects and stuff like that... thank you!!
  2. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

    Jun 24, 2006
    This is quite a request.

    Let's simplify.

    Most lower leve players have very little "disguise" to their game- basically, they hit the same first serve and second serve 90% of the time- the other 10% are, possibly mistakes. Generally they will try to hit a hard "flat" serve (which they mostly miss) followed by a loopy spin serve. In two minites of watching them serve, you will know all there is to know- so ket's skip them.

    Very good players disguist their service motion. The difference between a first and second serve is not extreme. It takes years of play before you might become sensitive enough to "read" them. So, let's not go there for the moment.

    Middle level players with strong first and second serves do give clues, to one extent or another, during their serve.

    a) Check their feet. Some players will "adjust" their shots by repositioning their stance- to hit to your forehand or backhand. Also watch their eyes. A look toward one part of the service court my give thiings away. These are fairly obvious thing.

    b) Get a good book that describes the various types of serve and how they are hit. Study them. Once you know what to look for, it will be easier to distinguish their variety of serves-- for example: A flat serve will be tossed slightly in fornt of the body line, the player will tend to extend and lean into the shot, the racket will follow a straight forward motion. Spin serves will tend to be tossed more over the head, there is often som arching of the back, the racket motion will seem to move away from the body.

    Have someone hit you dozens of serves, mixing them up, forehand, backhand, spin and flat. At first, don't even try to hit them back- just watch their body motion and burn the images into your brain. Once you get the idea, try to return them. As you get better at reading the serves, have your partner take a step foreward into the court and serve from there- forcing you to react even more quickly. Eventually, you will get used to these "faster" serves as well and be able to react to normal serves much better.

    c) To an extent, where the opponent decides to serve, and how, may be related to your abilities. If you have a weak backhand, expect most balls to the backhand. If you have trouble with serves to the body... well, you get the picture. Of course, in these cases, it really does not help mch to know where they are coming. So, the better you are at returning, the more balls you will get back (obviously)-- but in addition to that, you will put added pressure on the opponent to serve harder or closer to the lines, and therefore make more errors.
  3. burosky

    burosky Professional

    Nov 9, 2006
    I agree with Bagumbawalla. There are a lot of physical hints you can pick up from your opponent. Some maybe more obvious than others. In addition, you also want to pick up on their tendencies. For example, most players will always try to hit their "bread and butter" serve during critical points where as if they are up say 40-0 they will tend to gamble more and go for the big ace. Same thing when they spot a weakness on your returns. They may choose to serve there on critical points.

    You may also consider observing where they toss the ball. For example, for a right handed opponent, if you see the toss going more towards their right side, it probably will be a slice. Directly above them (12 o'clock), it probably is a kick or in front, probably a flat.

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