Return of Powerful Serve

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Dan R, Jun 11, 2018.

  1. Dan R

    Dan R Rookie

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    I had the opportunity to try and return the serve of a high level D1 college player, as he was practicing his serve. I've never been on the court with someone that hits it that hard (he says his serve has been clocked at 129). AND, he's left handed.

    It became apparent right away that you have to have a pretty good idea of where the ball is going to go before it's hit to have any chance at all. I understand making an educated guess based on tendencies, where he's standing, and on the toss. My question is as the serve motion is in progress what are you watching? Is it the ball, the racket, something else? What are you doing in order to minimize your reaction time?
     
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  2. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    You watch the ball. Also, think of your return as being a volley, rather then a groundstroke.
     
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  3. Capulin Zurdo

    Capulin Zurdo Hall of Fame

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    Always be moving your feet, helps get you ready to go to the direction of the ball, and as aforementioned, your swing's going to be more compact, out in front of you.
     
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  4. Chadillac

    Chadillac Legend

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    129 lefty shouldnt lose points on serve. Just gotta hope he misses a few and you get lucky on a return or two.

    If you can get to the ball, take a half backswing, his ball has move than enough juice on it to reflect. Even slice a fh if you have to.

    Look at his toss and see if there is a pattern with toss location and serve placement.

    Its a pro serve, your not really supposed to return it. If you get the chance again, ask him to work on one serve. Like a slice wide or flat up the T on duece, will help you adapt. Always compliment him, college players love that and will stay out there all day :)

    The sucky part comes next, getting the ball back isnt enough. Or you get 1 shot
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
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  5. FiReFTW

    FiReFTW Hall of Fame

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    Think about redirecting it or neutralizing it with slice block.
    But if its on such a higher level than you i doubt ul have any success unless you return his serves for a few weeks and get used to it.
     
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  6. Sardines

    Sardines Semi-Pro

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    Many people have tells on where they serve, many subconscious, some mechanical. There's that famous Becker tongue tell that Agassi found. As a junior, I unconsciously looked at where I would serve a little too long. Once I hit the academy, the coach made me use it as a mental tool to surprise opponents on big points.
    If you're not accustomed to seeing heavy fast serves, you probably could adjust somewhat once you see it more often. There's a limit though because there's just your reaction time and movement. Djokovic returns serve very well, not because he can read it all the time, but because of his superior reaction time and fast movement.
    For an example, my return has always been the weakest part of my game. In D1, I would do ok on big serves that weren't within 2 ft of the T box line and high up the sidelines. My reaction time is probably average for D1, but foot movement was below average, so I was vulnerable to serves that stretched more often than many on my team.
    Against advanced players, slower players blocking the return get into the point at -20-30% from neutral at best, unless it's deep and well placed. Most advance players can finish or hurt you off the ground on anything else, since the slower player isn't going to run down shots and counterpunch effectively. However, slow big servers also have limitations in speed, so a short return can allow a counter attack.
     
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  7. Dan R

    Dan R Rookie

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    Good advice. I was able to start getting some returns in after a while. I stood further back than normal and just blocked them back. Anything that was wide or down the T no way, and that lefty spin was viscous. There was a device on the wall behind him and I could measure his toss against it to see if he was tossing further left or right as a tell - nope they were all in the same place. He was just hitting first serves, so I wasn't able to look for different motions. I was watching his eyes and they didn't seem to give anything away either. I tried to watch his racket too.

    I'm not sure about tennis players but they have done studies of baseball hitters and it turns out the best hitters do not have better reaction times. They are about average. What they do have is vastly superior vision as measured against the general population. They also are able to read the pitcher and anticipate where the balls is going, most of this is happening at an unconscious level. Jenny Finch the softball pitcher had to pitch against the best hitters in baseball in a celebrity softball game and said she was terrified. However, it became clear that they weren't going to be able to hit her, because the cues were completely different. Barry Bonds refused to go to bat because he didn't want to get struck out. Eventually, they would have figured it out, but the point is that I think the great returners are probably doing something similar.
     
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  8. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

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    This is an important point. Against higher level opponents, just getting it back is barely better than not returning it at all.
     
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  9. ubercat

    ubercat Rookie

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    In oz so I don't know about d1. Play plenty of really tall guy is where I have to be two metres behind the baseline to have a chance. I generally play an angled slice because if miss-hits often become accidental drop shots
     
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  10. ChaelAZ

    ChaelAZ Hall of Fame

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    Work to block back with placement and depth.
     
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  11. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    At my level [4.5], just getting it back is way better than not at all.
     
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  12. Sardines

    Sardines Semi-Pro

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    Division 1 to 3 are the levels of university/college tennis in NCAA, with 1 being the top and 3 being lowest. In D1, you'll find there are ATP futures players in local tournaments, and for the elite few, even international ones when they have time off from university. I hit with an Ozzie D1 player a while back and having lived in Oz myself, I'd guess D1 is equivalent to the ITF rating of 3-2.

    Well there's physics and physiology involved. The mound is 60ft from home plate, a tennis court is 78ft long. Compound that with the hitting area of angles coming off the service box, tennis players need to move fast laterally in reaction to a fast incoming serve, after identifying direction, estimating the bounce height from impact off the court etc etc.
    I believe there is some research about the optometric and perceptual reactions of tennis players, elite and advanced. I wish we had such research when I was younger.

    That's true at any level. The biggest serves don't leave players any choice on that. The point is if one can get a racquet on the ball, try to aim the ball away from the server and push the ball deep. If the ball is coming fast, it's going to be heading back fast if you aren't too far from the baseline. That's the cognitive reactionary training that elite tennis players have because they train so hard. They know even getting the back is minimum, but optimally they block low and short to keep the server from getting an easier return, even when outstretched!
     
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  13. MisterP

    MisterP Hall of Fame

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    Back up a lot. You give up the wide serve but cover the majority of the remaining angles.
     
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  14. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

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    I wonder. If you are constantly getting it back but leaving yourself in a hopeless defensive position, you might be better off going for more and taking some errors but starting more points off at neutral at least.
     
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  15. FiReFTW

    FiReFTW Hall of Fame

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    You dont have to go for alot tho you just nees to redirect it to the open court and hes on the run and u start at least neutral
     
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  16. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

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    OK, but is that just getting it back or is that hitting a good return?

    At higher levels, the server's goal is to get a crack at your return with his FH. If you prevent this without coughing up a sitter, you are probably at neutral.
     
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  17. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    For me personally, if I make a mistake, it's more likely going for too much on the return rather than too little. Since most points end in errors, reducing errors is the most important thing I can do to improve my results. For people at higher levels, that will stop being true at a certain point.
     
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  18. comeback

    comeback Hall of Fame

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    If this lefty has egg ball spin with his 129 mph you are in trouble:eek:
     
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  19. FiReFTW

    FiReFTW Hall of Fame

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    Yea its a good return i guess
     
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  20. Dan R

    Dan R Rookie

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    Amen to that!
     
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