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Old 04-02-2011, 05:51 PM   #1
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Default Service Return

Hello all,
I'm new here and looking for some advice.

I play for my HS team and will most likely be playing #1 singles for them next year (played #3 this past season with a short and dreadful stint at #1dubs...I'm definitely a singles player, haha). I've really been working hard this offseason to step up my game and improve every aspect, but one significant weakness has been infuriatingly persistent: service return. I'm awful at it.

Now, if somebody hits a sitter second serve then I'm all over that. And I'm not too bad with kick serves either. But if I have to deal with a flat serve or slice serve with a good deal of pace on it (really any first serve at all) then I'm miserable.

I honestly just feel like my reflexes suck. If I'm playing somebody who constantly serves to one side, then I can generally handle it after I get a read on it, regardless of pace. I played this 3-star recruit from out of state who had a monstrous serve, but he only ever hit it to my backhand, and by midway through his 3rd service game I was smacking return winners off of his first serve. (Unfortunately there's a reason he's a 3-star recruit and I won't be playing college tennis at all...his groundstrokes were sick and I lost 6-4, 6-3 despite breaking him 5 times. But that's another story, lol.) But any time my opponent switches it up at all, I'm toast. I just can't figure out how to hit a decent service return off of a good first serve because I can't for the life of me anticipate which direction it's going and adjust accordingly. I'm constantly finding myself with the wrong grip, or switching in between forehand and backhand grips, with my feet all over the place.

This likely won't be a problem when I play kids from around the area because frankly, I live in a small town in Indiana and the local school teams suck. But once we start playing Indy-area schools through the middle of our season, I'm going to be in a great deal of trouble if I don't get this wrinkle in my game ironed out. Help!
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Old 04-13-2011, 11:28 AM   #2
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Default Re: Service Return

Most likely you swing way too much when returning first serves!
The key for returning first serves is to have a really short backswing. It is really just a body turn that will automatically take the racket back a little bit. You should have a full follow throught though!

You can look for some videos of Agassi or Federer returning serves on youtube and you will see what I mean.

Once you get the idea start with a lot of shadowswings before you play! Get your brain used to the new shorter motion and probably you will return serves much better!

Good Luck.

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Old 06-24-2011, 12:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: Service Return

Do like the Fed and chop back hard serves. Try to keep the ball low and to the servers backhand. That will give you time to adjust for the next shot and keep your opponent on their toes!
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Service Return

Hello,

I think it's fair to say that a fair few non professional players find first serves tricky if they come flying at you!

I think what some of the replies above say talk a lot of sense. I normally don't worry too much about technical ability when returning really fast serves (that's if I can return them!)

Cause they come at you soooo fast you don't have time to do everything right, I find standing well behind the baseline gives me a lot more time to be ready, and just go through the shot, it's easier said than done! Yes, worry more about the forward follow through than the backswing, I find I don't have time to go back much. The way I look at it is when I go out and play on the court if I can come home knowing I have returned some (not all) realy hard serves then that makes me happy. You can't always get them back, if the pace and placement is perfect you can't really do much!

Thanks, Matt

P.S Sometimes I play against people in singles/doubles who will have a weak slow serve, does anyone know what I mean when I say sometimes these cause more problems than fast serves because you just try to hit them way to hard!!
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Old 07-07-2011, 02:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: Service Return

I moved from playing on almost only clay to really fast hardcourts this year. I have found it hard as well, but I have started slicing a lot of my returns. I find that if I can get good depth its pretty effective and if I get depth and keep it low its very effective. It gets you into almost every point as its really easy to do and it frustrates your opponent if he is use to getting free points off of his serve because now he is fighting for every point.

I know that eventually I want to start returning better than that, but for now as I am learning how to play hardcourt tennis, I am happy with the results I have had.
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Old 07-07-2011, 03:36 AM   #6
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Default Re: Service Return

Block return is underrated on fast serves, especially if you can't pick it from the ball toss.

Keep your head still, move to the ball. Don't get pissed off when a big server lands them, it will happen, just have to get the ball into play and then work from there.
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Old 08-10-2011, 11:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: Service Return

I guess my question is, are you getting a racquet on it, and not able to control it, or are you getting aced/not coming close?

If it's the latter especially, have someone serve from the service line to train your reflexes to react quickly. It doesn't matter then if they don't have a monster serve, you still have little time to react.

As has been mentioned technically, a much shorter backswing is needed. You still want to swing through to keep your return deep, however, especially if it is someone with good groundstrokes. Don't get frustrated if you push a few long. It's better than dropping them short of the service line and giving them an easy putaway (unless their groundstrokes are erratic).

I've always found the chip return off a big serve to be really difficult to time, but if you're a natural one-hander, perhaps it'd work out.

Re: The slow second serve. A few things to keep in mind. There's no rule that prevents you from moving way up. I remember playing one lefty who had a Dementieva side-winder like second serve that landed so short in the court, but was super awkward to return. I was probably only a foot behind the service line by the end of the match. Don't necessarily treat it like a shot you have to hit a clean winner off of, but hit a nice safe approach shot off it. It's extremely difficult for most amateurs players to go from hitting a serve to hitting a passing shot immediately. Drop-shotting is also a viable option to consider.
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Old 02-13-2012, 03:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: Service Return

a shorter backswing, does that actually help ? for returning big serves? i just block slice or spin them back !
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Old 02-14-2012, 04:11 AM   #9
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Default Re: Service Return

Don't listen to all this nonsense about slicing back, moving way back to take it etc. etc. The easiest thing to do is block the ball back at your opponents feet. If they are really hitting big serves it requires a more extreme motion which of course means they need a longer recovery time. Also, vary your starting return position on serves, stand deep, step up into the court, out wide, cover the T etc. etc. and then when your opponent tosses the ball up get into a better return position. It will keep him guessing and force him to try for more on serves.
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