Stepping more in on Big serves

OldFedIsOld

Professional
I don't have any troubles with moderate paced serves, I can step in and return deep. But against big servers I always find myself going sideways and not being able to step in, resulting in my returns just landing midcourt or deep with no pace. Any tips on how I can practice stepping in on bigger serves? Besides of course learning to read the serve better.

Extra: I usually stand behind the baseline around a foot against moderate paced serves and about 2-3 feet on big serves.
 

MyFearHand

Rookie
On bigger serves I like to stand in a little closer actually and then I just split step and take as small a back swing as possible half-blocking half-stroking the return back into play.
 

thebuffman

Professional
resulting in my returns just landing midcourt or deep with no pace.
against BIG servers my friend, i would call that a successful return. imho the objective against big servers is to neutralize their serve not attack it. if you are getting that serve back deep most of the time, i tip my hat to you.
 

DeShaun

Banned
I play one point at a time. What has worked for me, when my opponent was serving huge and using the entire service box, has been my electing to return only from inside my baseline; to cut down his angles. Granted it mean I cannot take a full cu, but at this point I ma looking not to hit return winners but just to return consistently; but effectively too, and so, using a continental grip, I will chop, block, redirect the serve back. . .and many many times merely showing my opponent that I have gotten some kind of a reliable read on his serve finally has been enough to put pressure on him, causing him to cool off and come back down to earth.
And how many times have you been caught out, stunned by having suddenly to deal with your very best, nastiest, heaviest, hardest, serve, somehow returned right back at you, not powerfully but consistently? That is the pressure I think I may have put upon my opponents, who had been serving huge, after I started cutting down their angles and taking the serve on the rise in close top the service line with the "safest" grip, continental.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
I'll go with the general direction of our pal DeShaun's post. If you know how to volley, then you know how to return a hot serve. The moves are very similar and the return includes a rather quiet racquet and arm along with a forward move through contact driven by your feet. The more energy the server puts into the ball, the less you need to add to that ball to send it in the other direction. Just focus on getting your racquet behind the ball so that you can guide it deep to the other end and keep that server somewhat neutralized.

You can practice this by having a hitting pal serve at you from just a couple of feet behind the opposite service line. Those balls will come in plenty fast and give you repetitions where you're guiding the ball back across the net. I recommend focusing on carrying some forward momentum into your split-step so that it's easier to move through your return without having to crank up any swing at the ball - you don't have time for that, but you don't need a swing.

Disguise can make any serve a tougher puzzle. Sometimes the toss location will tip off just where the ball is headed or maybe the racquet's swing path on the way up to the ball. Some servers will also open or close their stance more depending on how they want to locate the ball, but it can take some detective work to really get a bead on what's coming if a server has a very consistent delivery. Agassi actually figured out that Boris Becker would go for a certain serve (maybe a wide kicker) when he stuck his tongue out sideways instead of straight ahead.
 

boramiNYC

Hall of Fame
The most important thing about returning big serve is meeting the ball with your racquet head with a good balance. Good balance gives weight behind the racquet and allows very small swing for control. A solid stationary racquet will be able to return a very big serve all the way to the other court. Just a matter of a little bit of push and control you can control the depth of return as well. Always focus on the contact point and if there's more time you can add spin.
 

Chyeaah

Professional
I tend to stand back behind the baseline on faster serves and do a short compact swing to get the ball back deep... even if it isn't that fast. Unless your vsing a serve / volleyer, speed doesn't matter as much as depth.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Just lean too far forwards as your opponent serves, then any movement on your part starts forwards.
 

813wilson

Rookie
I don't have any troubles with moderate paced serves, I can step in and return deep. But against big servers I always find myself going sideways and not being able to step in, resulting in my returns just landing midcourt or deep with no pace. Any tips on how I can practice stepping in on bigger serves? Besides of course learning to read the serve better.

Extra: I usually stand behind the baseline around a foot against moderate paced serves and about 2-3 feet on big serves.
I'm curious. What is your definition of a "big server"? What level of skill/player are you ranked?

I'm asking because, if as you say, "you're going sideways and not being able to step in" your issue is not as much positioning as it is reading the serves better. Are you able to "split step" at the moment of impact? Meaning: time the toss, take a step forward and step... If a good percentage of those returns are landing deep, then your okay. I've found any return: lobbed, drive, sliced, floated, cut, whatever, that lands deep really mitigates the big server.

One last point: not knowing your skill level or quality of opponent, try varying your position. I play against a group of guys who regularly hit above 100 mph(yes - multiple radar guns and uses confirmed) but they hate seeing someone stand on the base line or inside it. Thinking: pressure them with a crowded court and they press a bit....

$.02
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I play where if you stood inside your own baseline to return first serves, your opponent just spins it into your body, hits flats into your body, and generally handcuff you.
I relish serving to players who stand IN to return my serves. The reason is, my placement both wide sides are not nearly as consistent as my placement up the middle of the court, meaning I can hit middle, handcuffing you, but I often miss going for both wide aces.
But that's theory, what wer're answering here is HOW? Lean forwards onto the fronts of the balls of your feet, timing it to fall forwards when the ball is struck.
 

813wilson

Rookie
I play where if you stood inside your own baseline to return first serves, your opponent just spins it into your body, hits flats into your body, and generally handcuff you.
I relish serving to players who stand IN to return my serves. The reason is, my placement both wide sides are not nearly as consistent as my placement up the middle of the court, meaning I can hit middle, handcuffing you, but I often miss going for both wide aces.
But that's theory, what wer're answering here is HOW? Lean forwards onto the fronts of the balls of your feet, timing it to fall forwards when the ball is struck.
Lee,

I'm assuming your post was directed at me. He needs to be moving in / leaning foward, but that comes with confidence/experience/reading serves. I've seen your posts about your level of play. He says he is staying back 2-3 feet for big servers. What is that? How fast? I'll play the bigger servers I face in several ways, always trying to give a little different look: way back, a little close to the base line, inside it. But, I'm varying the return shot on each. Block, chip, full swing, etc.

I just took it that the OP could 1st improve reading serves then worry about the success - assuming he/she is landing a good number of "big server" returns deep - though without pace.

At the end - I'm reading: moving to the side is being late. Late is either: pace or timing.....
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I actually have trouble beating players who stand well back and execute a strong groundstroke return of serve against me. They swing hard, add tons of spin, some ball speed, and dip it low, giving themselves another shot at the ball.
That's why I mentioned I liked playing players, of my level, or around there (not one up or one down) who stand IN to return serves. I figure, most of our service practice is directed at the center of the service court. That's where we're most accurate....right into the body. At a certain level, we all practice aces out wide both sides, but that's a serve which requires constant maintainance, which I don't do. Up the middle of the service box is about double the percentage for me.
Exactly WHERE anyone stands to return serve has little to do with actual speed of the server. It's more to give the returner a comfortable amount of time to recognize and swing, but to give as little time as possible to the server. To some, a 70 mph serve requires standing back 2-3'. To other's, it's closer to 140 mph.
To me, it's when I can't get prepped to hit the return. That's why I switched to a really lightweight racket for most of my play. And I don't face servers who can up the ball over 110mph.
 

OldFedIsOld

Professional
I'm curious. What is your definition of a "big server"? What level of skill/player are you ranked?

I'm asking because, if as you say, "you're going sideways and not being able to step in" your issue is not as much positioning as it is reading the serves better. Are you able to "split step" at the moment of impact? Meaning: time the toss, take a step forward and step... If a good percentage of those returns are landing deep, then your okay. I've found any return: lobbed, drive, sliced, floated, cut, whatever, that lands deep really mitigates the big server.

One last point: not knowing your skill level or quality of opponent, try varying your position. I play against a group of guys who regularly hit above 100 mph(yes - multiple radar guns and uses confirmed) but they hate seeing someone stand on the base line or inside it. Thinking: pressure them with a crowded court and they press a bit....

$.02
"Boom, Boom, Boom" in about a time frame of a second, thats what I have to deal with, I'm going to guess its about 110 or higher with some sick height. The guy is about 6-3 and fully utilizes his height, legs, and pronation. I take a step in as soon as my opponent tosses the ball, split step on contact, and then move to either side. I can't really take a cut on it because it comes at me around just shoulder height, so I'm forced to hit over it.
 
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LeeD

Bionic Poster
Problem is your weight distribution as you split step. You are balanced, ready to move forwards only. You need to be bent kneed, on forward toes, almost tipping forwards during your splitstep for return of fast serves. It's NOT the same splitstep as groundies, where you have tons of time.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Sorry, you are balanced, ready to move only sideways.
If you were forward balanced, you'd need a forward diagonal move to cut off wide shots, and you're moving forwards.
 
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