Return of serves

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Zachol82, Sep 3, 2013.

  1. Zachol82

    Zachol82 Professional

    Dec 8, 2007
    A lot of factors come into play when returning serves. However, it doesn't seem like there are many good drills that you can do to improve your return of serves, aside from just simply returning more serves...

    A lot of it seems to be instinctive and relies on a person's natural reflex, anticipation and timing.

    To be honest, returning serves is the thing I practice the least. I'm also willing to bet that not many people practice returning serves specifically either...and if they do, it's probably not anywhere near the amount of time they spend practicing other strokes.

    Here's a video of Giraldo and his killer returns:
  2. TennisCoachIN

    TennisCoachIN Rookie

    Dec 11, 2011

    Me and my daughter were practicing return of serves her last practice. It is a very interesting topic. I see a great opportunity in the junior's or adult level, if you take the time to practice this shot. No doubt, I believe it is one of the least practiced shots.

    For singles she practices hitting solidily hit first serves back to middle of the court to get point back at neutral. For weak 1st or 2nd serves on Deuce side she practices either hard or slice hit down the line and follows it to the net. On ad-side she practices hitting an inside-out shot that will hopefully result in next shot being able to hit in the open court or wrong foot her opponent.

    Hopefully this thread gets some good feedback, drills and ideas from the group :)
  3. Gyswandir

    Gyswandir Semi-Pro

    May 17, 2012
    Thanks for the vid. Amazing eyes and timing!
  4. Velvet Ga el

    Velvet Ga el Rookie

    Mar 18, 2013
    There are a few drills. One is to have a friend step in and serve from the opposite service line. Cuts down on the reaction time and helps time the split step perfectly. If you don't time the split right on short court serves, you'll never have a chance.

    Another one is to rig a ball machine to fire balls at you from the service line. Some clubs have the ball machine that extends to give you serves, but even if you don't, you can generally prop the ball machine on something to get close to the right trajectory.

    You can also work on movement returning short court serves. Focus on moving in a modified V to cut off the wide angles. If you don't have a great partner who can serve, he or she can also throw the ball from the net to the corners of the box.

    Practicing your return game takes some creativity, but it can (and should) be done.
  5. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Feb 11, 2011
    that is a very common drill. let the other guy start serving at about 60% though.
  6. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

    Apr 3, 2013
    Watch Agassi do it.

    As for the preparation...
    1a) One hander: use a neutral grip that allows hitting both FH and BH. Conti for 1st serves, SW for 2nd serves if you plan on taking an aggressive swing. Watch James Blake do it, who was famous for taking high risks off the return, often using a conti grip.

    1b) Two hander: assuming you're right-handed, right hand in FH position, left hand in BH position. Watch Agassi preparing for a serve from Sampras, and forcing the error despite anticipating on the wrong side of the box.

    2) Split-step forward as your opponent is swinging or just after he tossed the ball. It allows you to have much better reaction time off the return and not to hit a return off your heels, which is much harder. Step forward and inside the shot.

    3) A short and compact swing is recommended. You don't need to have excellent directional control all the time. Returning deep in the server's feet often works well enough, as well as returning deep cross-court. You likely won't make a return ace/winner with that, but you're negating the server's "advantage", and if you return very well in the feet you'll be in the driver seat for the rest of the rally.

    4) There is no shame whatsoever returning from further back when you face a strong server. Absolutely none... as long as you manage to return to the baseline after the return that is. Nadal does it often: he stays far back to return and shortly after hugs the baseline. EDIT: You still HAVE TO split-step forward.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
  7. NE1for10is?

    NE1for10is? Semi-Pro

    Oct 13, 2010
    My return was by far the least effective part of my game, so I got two collapsable plastic work platforms from Home Depot and put my portable PlayMate ball machine on top of them so I could practice returns. One platform wasn't enough, because it wouldn't clear the net, even if I put it on the service line. Two did the trick however. Surprisingly, the setup didn't move around much, but next time I strapped it all together with velcro straps anyway. With a little more tilt down of the ball machine I can crank it up to far harder than anyone serves at my level. Getting the ball machine up there and putting balls in wasn't a problem at all with a fold up kitchen step ladder.

    I was surprised how much this helped my returns and how much I learned from it, especially with my one-handed BH return.

    If you do this setup get a thin chain to hang from the machine to the ground so that the machine is grounded or you'll start getting shocks when you go to turn the machine off.
  8. gmatheis

    gmatheis Hall of Fame

    Aug 10, 2010
    If you ever just hit with someone why wouldn't you practice serves and returns.

    Serve 4 points (1st and 2nd serves) alternating ad and deuce court ... but don't actually play the point out past the return so that you don't get worn out as fast and get more serving and returning in.
  9. andreh

    andreh Professional

    Feb 19, 2004
    One of the most visible mistakes rec level player make is to not move their feet when returning. They just stand around and wait for the serve and get aced or mistime it.

    Look at any pro, new or old, and you see how their feet are dancing before the return is actually struck. They move around to build up energy and get alert. Other than that, look at Lukhas post above. Pretty much covered it.

Share This Page