Return problem

toth

Professional
My opponents has serviced at the start of the match always with the same speed, i would say fast.
I returned decent, a had the lead.
At the middle of the set he suddenly serviced a little slower, and i miscalulated and missed some returns.
Some returns error and i lost the momentum .
At the end if the set he serviced fast again, i miscalculated and missd some returns again.
A was 5:3 ahead, he won 7:5.

How schould i react, when he changes the speed of his services?

Thank you for your answer
Toth
 

toth

Professional
(I can always lose my serve, becouse my sec serve is weak. It is not the point of this thread.)
 

Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
Well...

That is the job of the opponent- to find things that you are weak at, things that frustrate you.
Your job is to learn something from the experience.
In general, if an opponent has found a weakness in your game, there may not be anything you can do at that moment. That's why it is a weakness.
What you need to do is prepare for the next time. Find someone who can serve to you in practice- someone who can vary the speed, spin and placement of the ball. Work together to improve your reading of the serve, where you should stand, when you should block or drive the return. Work on all that stuff until it becomes an effortless part of your game.

What could you have done, then and there? It's difficult to say- but when you are floundering try different things- move up, stand close, split-step, chip and charge, hit out until you regain your feel, play safe, take risks. None of these thing may help, but you are losing, anyway.

Then, later, get to the practice court and work on your return. Also, it wouldn't hurt to work on your serve, as well.
 

toth

Professional
At what moment schould i see, if his serve is a little slower?
I think, i have seen it too late..
 

Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
If someone new to tennis (or who does not play) watches a professional match, all the serves will look the same.
Even though players try to "disguise" their intentions, experienced watchers will notice subtle differences (and some not so subtle)- how far back or forward the ball is tossed, the follow-through path of the racket head, the position of the shoulders, and so on (I believe Agassi watched Beckers tongue).

With weekend players, it can take time to figure out their opponent' serve because, often, they don't really know what they are doing, themselves.

Yes, you want to watch the ball, but, without actually focusing you want to be aware of their body and how it moves- how they move when hitting "slow" with slice, topspin or something in between, will be different in some ways than when they are hitting hard and "flat". That moment, is when (hopefully) you get a sense of the type of serve, where it might land, and the sort of spin that was applied.
 
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How schould i react, when he changes the speed of his services?
More quickly.

You need to practice your recognition skills. Before the ball has passed the net, you should know what kind of a serve it was. You might even be able to tell based on ball toss location; some are better than others at disguising this.

I will occasionally throw in a loopier serve as my first to get closer to the net when I S&V but it also sometimes has the added effect of disrupting the receiver's timing because he's expecting something faster and flatter.

Have someone practice serve [maybe closer to the SL so his shoulder doesn't get worn out] and vary the speed/spin.
 

nochuola

Rookie
Think like a baseball fielder. A shortstop doesn't wait until he fields the ball to decide which base to throw to. Before the ball is even pitched, he sees a runner on first and mentally prepares to throw second to setup a double play, or if the ball goes to the second baseman, he is prepared to cover second. He knows that he needs to throw second the instant the ball is struck towards him, instead of spending a split second to decide where to throw to after recognizing the grounder coming at him.

Don't try to guess which serve is going to come. You would either be right or wrong. Instead, quickly form a list of 3~5 most likely situations by dividing possible outcomes into rough chunks (i.e wide, T, body...etc), and assign a countermeasure for each. You would be surprised how much faster picking one out of five is than trying to sort through every possible return strategy you know. If you wait until you figure out what type of serve is coming to decide how you want to return, you would be a step slow.

Once you get better at this, you can slowly divide into finer chunks (slice wide, flat wide, slice T, kick T...etc), and also put different amounts of focus on each possibility.
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
It's the server's job to make the returner feel as uncomfortable as possible.

I play against lefties who vary their serves all the time so it's kept me honest when reading serves (I try not to read body language to guess where the serve is going to go) and have noticed my reactions have improved a lot. The key thing that helped me over the line from a garbage returner to a good one was the split step. Right foot forward, left foot forward, split forwards (landing halfway up no man's land), if I'm stepping in to hit a hyper-aggressive return; double or even triple split in the same position if I don't think I can be too aggressive but want to take a decent swing at the return. A lot of reverse finishes on forehand returns though.

The thing is though that regardless of how big the serves are I maintain a very aggressive return position (max 1 m behind the baseline on a weak returning day, and the rest of the time I'm either on the baseline or even 1 m inside the baseline) to cut down angles and topspin. That said, I don't play against huge servers, and the biggest serves I deal with usually top out at 100 mph, if you don't count the super rare 110 mph flat bomb.

One beneficial side effect of this is that if my opponent does throw in a soft serve my timing doesn't get affected as much and I'm already positioned well to capitalise on it. The only issue I'm encountering is when the server starts wailing flat bomb body serves. I can just about get out of the way to slice it back or occasionally lean one way or the other to guide it back if not perfectly aimed into the body, but it's really difficult to hit an offensive return off those.
 

Mountain Ghost

Professional
The problem with most players is NOT their lack of correct anticipation ... it is their tendency to anticipate TOO MUCH ... like ALL the time!

In reality ... you often have much more time to respond than you think (or FEEL) you do ... as long as you don't make a move before you know where the ball is actually going.

Whenever I've had a student who is habitually anticipating too much ... I'll feed them random fast balls all over the place and just get them to focus on being centered and balanced until they see where the incoming ball is really headed ... and ... they magically appear to get faster in their response.

They don't really get any "faster" ... they just don't get "bluffed" ... by their opponent ... or by THEMSELVES ... into blindly doing the wrong thing.

~ MG
 

toth

Professional
I think the main reason i missed the little slower incoming serve is that it has bounced somewhat lower i was excepting.
 

toth

Professional
And than i have hit a short weak return from the little slower serve, becouse i have swung with the same speed as from the faster incoming serve before.
I think now if the incoming serve is slower i schould swing faster.
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
I think the main reason i missed the little slower incoming serve is that it has bounced somewhat lower i was excepting.
Are you leaning/moving forward on your returns, or are you glued in place/falling back? Moving up and taking it earlier, yet with relatively conservative swing, is a good way to deal with variety. This approach only suffers when the pace is overwhelming.
 

toth

Professional
Are you leaning/moving forward on your returns, or are you glued in place/falling back? Moving up and taking it earlier, yet with relatively conservative swing, is a good way to deal with variety. This approach only suffers when the pace is overwhelming.
I am glued in place.
I feel i just have time for his faster serves to react .
If it feels me not complicated i will try to move forward on my returns.
I play on red clay, i stay about 70 cm behind the baseline against him (my other opponents usually serve weaker and i stay on the baseline or even inside of the court).
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
I am glued in place.
I feel i just have time for his faster serves to react .
If it feels me not complicated i will try to move forward on my returns.
I play on red clay, i stay about 70 cm behind the baseline against him (my other opponents usually serve weaker and i stay on the baseline or even inside of the court).
I would try getting another 50cm back, but move forward into and out of split step. So you be roughly in same spot to hit the ball, but have momentum to move up a weaker ball once it comes.
 

toth

Professional
I would try getting another 50cm back, but move forward into and out of split step. So you be roughly in same spot to hit the ball, but have momentum to move up a weaker ball once it comes.
This seems to be logical to adjust my swing speed, but not to adjust to the contact hights.
Is there maybe a trick or advice how to adjust to different contact hights too?
 

toth

Professional
I think i see first the direction of the incoming serve (in case of heavy sidespin serve it could be more difficoult, but i not really face with this problem).
Than after bounce i see the speed and the hight of the bounce of the serve.
To calculate with both speed and hight causes more problem for me than the direction.
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
I think i see first the direction of the incoming serve (in case of heavy sidespin serve it could be more difficoult, but i not really face with this problem).
Than after bounce i see the speed and the hight of the bounce of the serve.
To calculate with both speed and hight causes more problem for me than the direction.
If you struggle with reading incoming serves:
- You either short-block the serve with minimal takeback, so you can set up at the required height very fast and close before contact;
- Or you step back, give youself more time, move your feet back/forth to get the ball at the desired height, and execute full swing.

So, again, get closer in and take it earlier, or get farther back and move in to attack the ball. Don't get glued at some spot which makes you fail on good returning.
 

toth

Professional
If you struggle with reading incoming serves:
- You either short-block the serve with minimal takeback, so you can set up at the required height very fast and close before contact;
- Or you step back, give youself more time, move your feet back/forth to get the ball at the desired height, and execute full swing.

So, again, get closer in and take it earlier, or get farther back and move in to attack the ball. Don't get glued at some spot which makes you fail on good returning.
This return position is my new try and i like it in addition (before i returned far more behind the baseline).
I think the main problem with my calculations of the incoming serve is that i play only once a week.
I am pretty sure, it will be better.
I like your advice ,,move forwards on the return" , i will try it.
I try besides focus get a little under the ball - if i manage this point, my return is usually decent.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
If you struggle with reading incoming serves:
- You either short-block the serve with minimal takeback, so you can set up at the required height very fast and close before contact;
- Or you step back, give youself more time, move your feet back/forth to get the ball at the desired height, and execute full swing.

So, again, get closer in and take it earlier, or get farther back and move in to attack the ball. Don't get glued at some spot which makes you fail on good returning.
This is good advice to either step in and take slow serves early on the rise before the ball reaches its peak height or to step back and take a bigger cut at the ball when you have more time.

If you are comfortable at the net, stand closer and take the ball early as you can approach the net quickly if you hit a good return. However, if you are a baseliner who prefers to get the rally started and play long points, then it might be better to stand further back and wait for the ball to drop from its peak height before you hit it.
 
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