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  1. #1
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    help me with my return of serve

    i just can't return a serve. i thought my serve was my biggest problem, but recently i've had the opportunity to play some tennis with people that have a decent serve. it's made me very aware of how horrible my return of serve is. i think i'm locking up my feet too soon and then reaching for ball. so i tell myself keep your feet moving. it kind of works, but it doesn't take long till i start producing more errors. i don't know how hard to swing. should i block the serve or swing like a typical baseline hit? i never have a problem of getting to the ball, but simply can't return. as silly as i look, i will post a video in a few weeks so everyone has a better picture. i would appreciate any and all constructive critisism. until then, are there any "FAQs" regarding the return of serve?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
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    Return of Serve is not easy regardless of who you are. There's no Cookie Cutter answer to this question. I have a tendency to stand on the baseline for return of serve because I hit on the rise which means the ball makes its' bounce in the service box, then travels upward until it reaches its' apex then starts downward. If you are standing far behind the baseline, you are waiting for the ball to start downward. This is ok if you're not playing a Serve & Volley Player because if you are, then standing back waiting for the ball to strike is also giving your opponent ample time to get to the Net so now you have two problems.

    1. Returning the Ball
    2. Hitting a Passing shot

    The reason I like hitting on the rise is because it takes away that time a S&V Player needs to transition to the Net and also it gives me more opportunity to clear the net because the ball is at its' highest point. If I strike it there I then have options to not just aim for the center of the Net which is its' lowest point but I can also aim for the alleys which is the highest part of the net.

    I'm going to say this alot. One of the key elements not only in return of serve but throughout a point is keeping you eyes on the ball especially at point of racquet contact. You say you believe you are reaching for the ball, well that tells me you're not watching the ball.

    Ok here's what I'd like you to do if you can. Do you have access to a Wall?

    If you do, I'm hoping it's a Wall that has lines marked to show where the boundaries are. What I like to do is stand on the line and serve against the wall and then return the shot. Sort of like I was playing a match with myself.

    Serve against the wall as hard as you can and then instantly prepare yourself for the hitting the ball when it comes back at you as if you were hitting a return of serve. If you can successfully do this, you will see that you are increasing your response time. If you also incorporate watching where you are striking the ball, you will increase your ability to see whether it's on your side or if you are indeed reaching. Make the adjustment.

    The Wall can be your friend my friend.

    There are two schools of thought on what to do with your feet.

    1. [Old School] *Forehand Return if you're right handed*
    Step forward with your left foot not too far but just a small step for balance. The ball is struck at the point it is almost perpendicular to your side while shifting your weight forward for power and racquet follow-through is going up and across to your left shoulder.

    2. [New School] Do not step forward with your left foot but instead pivot your left foot inward keeping your right foot steady. Striking the ball at the same point and once contact is made, your left foot pivots back to beginning position. This also generate a fair amount of power but increases the control of your shot tremendously. My friend Nick B. advocates this alot and I've found that my Kids adhere to this method quite easy.

    If this is confusing, let me know.
    The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
    It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.

  3. #3
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    Excellent response.. nothing short of what I expected from you, Coach. You brought up another possibility - 'watching the ball'. I tell myself to watch the ball a lot; because I do fail to obey frequently. In particular, when returning a serve, I sometimes find myself blinking upon contact with the ball. Kinda hard to watch something with one's eyes shut. Okay, so I will try the new school method first in combination with a safe down the middle hit. I know to turn my shoulders, keep my feet moving, and watch the ball. What sort of swing do you recommend? I use an eastern grip.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawn Tennis View Post
    Excellent response.. nothing short of what I expected from you, Coach. You brought up another possibility - 'watching the ball'. I tell myself to watch the ball a lot; because I do fail to obey frequently. In particular, when returning a serve, I sometimes find myself blinking upon contact with the ball. Kinda hard to watch something with one's eyes shut. Okay, so I will try the new school method first in combination with a safe down the middle hit. I know to turn my shoulders, keep my feet moving, and watch the ball. What sort of swing do you recommend? I use an eastern grip.
    Eastern Grip on return of serve is somewhat typical but here's where quick thinking comes into play. It really depends on what you're facing. If you are up against a guy who pounds the ball in, then you don't have a lot of time. That means you need to more so bunt the ball back using their power against them.

    Nobody did that better than Andre Agassi which is why he had the highest service break rating during his prime. Bunting the ball back requires little to no swing at all. It's more of moving the racquet outward away from your body.

    However if you're going to try the 2nd method of returning then you will be able to swing out because you will have more control over your shot.

    1. On return of serve when pivoting your left foot inward, key is to relax

    2. See the contact

    3. Racquet travels out & up across your chest (not necessary to go over your shoulder however)

    4. You will have to determine whether you like standing on the baseline or behind it. The further behind the line you stand the more cut you can make on the ball. But I never recommend this to any students. I would suggest standing about a foot's length behind the line. That way you're still basically hitting on the rise but giving yourself one split second to see the ball and taking a good swing at it.

    Relaxing is crucial .. You don't need to panic. If you take a relaxed attitude about the serve coming in you will see that you actually have time to react.
    Now we are referring of course to shots that come in nice to the forehand side. But what about serves that are outwide or down the tee? Then you need to adjust your body.

    A book can be written about all the aspects of returning serve. There are so many variables to it. This is why I'm suggesting practicing against a Wall. You can really get a good feel for what to expect if you think of the wall as a serve coming at you. If you're playing against a guy who is hitting 135-140 serves, then I'd say you're playing against a hard server and even the best in the business have trouble with those.

    Do you hit with a one hand or two handed backhand?
    The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
    It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.

  5. #5
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    then nevermind, i will try the old school method. it all sounds easy enough, but i get on the court and turn into a deer caught in headlights. im going to be trying all this friday night -- eager to see what happens. thanks again Coach. btw, i use a one-handed backhand.
    Last edited by Lawn Tennis; 05-14-2009 at 01:24 AM.

  6. #6
    What ive been told that helps is that if its a fast serve, take a really short backswing (still play topspin) and transfer your weight foward.As to how hard you swing, you should really be trying to hit the ball hard, just more taking the power of the serve adding some top spin and returning it over the net,

  7. #7
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    cool, i'll try that one too.

  8. #8

    Experience

    Having the time on court to have seen a lot of balls helps. I have done a lot of drills on different areas which i think is important. The problem comes when you are trying to think a lot while making a shot it just will inhibit your shotmaking. The service return drills i do are block, topspin , lob, and, slice. I do these so that i am sure of being able to execute these shots.
    When i play the only thing i think about is every ball i contact i want to hit in the center of my racquet, nothing else. This allows my body to take over the shots i have drilled. If you just play and do not practice it is hard to improve.
    A RULE WRITTEN BY THE GOD OF TENNIS
    NO PRACTICE NO SHOTS!! (the person i listen to most MY DOG told me its true)

  9. #9
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    so keep it simple.. i like it, but the dog part?! not so sure on.

  10. #10
    wow thanks a lot, ive been having the same issue!

  11. #11

    Talking Find

    Quote Originally Posted by lawn tennis View Post
    so keep it simple.. I like it, but the dog part?! Not so sure on.
    you have to find inspiration somewere so you could do worse than my dog!!!

  12. #12
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    wow! thanks a lot people. i'm so much better at returning a serve now. relaxation (controlled racquet movement and soft steps) and keeping my eyes on the ball did the trick. i only failed to return one serve all night. now the guy with the biggest serve wasn't there tonight, but atleast i'm making major progress. great feedback!

  13. #13
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    Apr 2009
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    Hey, I guess I don't have to make a thread about my ineptitude at returning serves now. :P

    Some useful stuff here. Thanks.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ty17383 View Post
    wow thanks a lot, ive been having the same issue!
    Quote Originally Posted by -Hope- View Post
    Hey, I guess I don't have to make a thread about my ineptitude at returning serves now. :P

    Some useful stuff here. Thanks.
    glad i was able to bring up a useful topic.
    Last edited by Lawn Tennis; 05-17-2009 at 08:45 PM.

  15. #15
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    Coach, i tried the wall thing. i counted approximately 15 steps from the wall and served to myself. i had to be quick as i obviously was both the server and returner. i tire easily keeping the rally going to myself. i'll have to limit it to just serve and return which is probably what you said anyhow.

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