Whilst the serve
is the most important shot in the game, equally, the second most important shot is the return of serve.
As with the serve,
if you do not get the ball into the correct service box, you are not in the game, so with the return, if you cannot return
the ball into court, you do not feature in the point.
If you get the
opportunity, you should try to see your opponents play before hand and especially their serve. If you don’t have this
luxury then you will have to quickly find out how and where they serve in the warm-up and at the beginning of the match.
Where you stand
to receive the serve has a bearing on how and where your opponent serve to and at what speed. You will also need to fathom
out their ability to change the style of their serve, whether they can place it in different positions and if they change
The speed and depth
of the serve will require you to either stand behind the base line or whether you can stand inside the base linem also whether
you have time to wait for the ball or if you need to pick it up early.
Not only will the
above influence your return, other points to take into consideration are the elements as these could also provide a problem
ti you. Is there a wind and which way is it blowing – cross court, in your face or from behind you; these will all have
some affect on your return.
Whilst I did not
mention this in the serve write-up, naturally your serve will also be affected in the same way, however, with the serve a
useful tip is to stand 2 – 3 feet behind the base line, if your serve is being pushed forward by the wind, and to hit
the ball harder and a little higher if facing into the wind. Experiment, see what works for you.
During the warm-up
you should look at the type of serve your opponent is using, is their first serve a flat serve, do they use slice from the
deuce court. Is their second serve heavy top-spin. Look to see whether their stance changes for the different serve and whether
they throw the ball up in a differeny position. These are all clues which should help you in the return.
Where you stand,
waiting to receive the serve, is a matter of choice and you will gradually find the best position that suits you. Much will
depend on the level of play in which you are participating and whether you favour your forehand or backhand.
I believe the best
place to start from is roughly one foot from the singles line and about two feet behind the baseline. On both the deuce and
You should be in
the ready position on the balls of your feet, alert and ready to spring into action.
You should be watching
the server and as they begin their throw you should do a small hop, a split step followed by a unit turn as soon as you know
which side the ball is coming, by turning your shoulders together with a slight
pivot of the feet, your racquet is automatically going to the correct side. You can now move swiftly to the ball. You should
adjust quickly to ensure you have your weight transferring forward into the shot.
If the serve is
a relatively short or soft ball you will be able to use a fairly short swing and a solid forehand/backhand shot. For a fast hard serve, there needs to be no or little swing and it is far easier just to block the ball
back, although you should still follow through with the stroke.
In order to meet
the ball in the best position, you should move diagonally to the ball when it is on the outside of the court, but straight
along the baseline when moving to the middle of the court.
Where to return
the ball ! I will be dealing with the Wardlaw directionals in my advanced tennis
section, so to beging to understand these, go and have a look. This will help you considerably, however, at this stage –
in general – you should return the ball back to where it originated,.
An important point
to remember is that the further away you stand from the place the ball hits the court, unless it is coming straight towards
you, then the angle you will need to cover will possibly be greater.
If you watch the
professionals play, their first concern is to get the ball back into play and then you will have the opportunity to build
the point. Obviously, if you can succeed in putting the ball where you want to, from the serve, then you are gaining an advantage.
What grip should
you use when waiting for the serve? With the advent of the double handed backhand, then it would seem that the best grip is
the Eastern Forehand, however if you use the single handed backhand, there is some advantage in waiting in the ready position
with the Eastern backhand grip.
The thinking behind
this is that to many players it is easier and quicker to find the Eastern Forehand grip if the ball arrives that side, but
you will already be prepared for a backhand if your opponent serves to your backhand ( In doubles, this is the preferred area
to serve to.).
Should you worry
about a hard, fast serve? Don’t let it intimidate you too much, here are
A ball served at 110 MPH is doing about 80 by
the time it hits the ground.
It then slows down to roughly 50 MPH by the time it arrives at your racquet.
This is still quite
formidable but one premise I have always worked on is:
Someone who serves
hard is probably only going to get 50% of them in – you have a 50/50 chance of the total points and Heck – you
may also win one of the hard serves.
used to facing hard serves, have your coach or a partner stand on the service line diagonally from you. They can use a chocked-up
grip (i.e. holding the racquet at the join of the throat and handle). From there they can hit really hard balls to various
parts of your service box. Also with spin.