How to return serve in tennis – is one of the main questions, as return of serve is actually the second main element in game. If the ball is hit correctly, than the further course of the rally fully depends on return of serve. All the following shots will be important and deceiving only if the return of serve was successfully done.
While returning serve the primary and the main tactical goal is to neutralize the opponent’s serve and in any case to return the ball over the net to the enemy’s part of the court.
You can talk a lot about the tactics of how to return serve, but if your opponent makes a devastating serve, the main concern of the returner is to react in time, to put the racket under the ball and send it over the net. The ability to make correct starting position and to anticipate as early as possible the type and direction of serve will help you to make this.
Taking of the correct starting position and the position of returner depend on many factors — the location of the server, serve type, courts surface, habits and skills of the opponent, tennis skills, etc.
At the beginning of the century tennis player while returning serve usually stood far behind the baseline of the court. Over time, players began to approach to the baseline, and today most tennis players stand in court. Such location allows keeping the opponent as far as possible from the net, return the ball faster and takes a more comfortable position after returning. But for successfully tennis return serve, while standing inside the court, it is necessary to have a good reaction, to be able to early anticipate the supposed direction of the serve, and be able to hit carry out attacks on the strokes from right and left on the rising ball.
While returning second serve, it’s better to move forward in the moment when the opponent is tossing the ball. This gives the returner an additional advantage – as this movement distracts the server.
Usually returner takes a position in the middle of the possible directions of ball flight, i.e., within 50-90 cm from the court sidelines.
As the majority of tennis players hit the slice serve, after which the ball rebounds to the right, the returner also moves slightly to the right, i.e. in right service court the returner takes a position closer to the sideline, and the left service court — in the 90-130 cm from it (Fig. 1).
The main condition for determining the starting position – is to choose a standing, which allows in most faster and most convenient way to react to the ball, aimed either to the right or left.
Usually to return serve, the returner slightly leans, holds the racket head in front of him, legs are bent, heels are slightly taken off the earth. Grip is basic, common to the returner, usually eastern one.
The ability to anticipate the type and direction of serve in many ways makes it easy to return serve and allows applying different tactics.
Answering the question of how to return a serve, come primarily from the fact, whether the opponent goes to the net after the serve or remains on the baseline.
If your opponent goes to the net, the most effective return strokes are:
- low-balls at the opponent’s feet;
- passing shots down the line, or diagonally;
Practice shows that the most vulnerable areas for the enemy are sidelines and center court (Fig.2). To force an opponent to stay on the baseline, sometimes it’s good idea to use lob.
If the opponent remains on the baseline after serve, it is most effective to send the ball deep to the server’s baseline. Even soft high shots (with big clearance over the net), after which the ball lands 3.1 m from the baseline, are quite acceptable and less dangerous than the low and short balls.
At Fig.3 there are marked places where it is desirable to direct the strokes while return serve, if the enemy remains on the baseline. Naturally, the balls should be aimed mainly deep down the line or wide on the diagonal, as they make the enemy to hit strokes from a difficult position. But do not forget that the net is higher at edges than in the center.
Sometimes drop shots are very effective. To perform such shots successfully is rather difficult, but if to learn them well, they can bring some very important points.
True, you should not be keen on these shots — if a server has good reaction, then he can successfully get the «short» balls, and even win them.
Good tennis return of serve provides more chances to win the point on opponents serve.