Often the return of serve gets overlooked in terms of the amount of hours players dedicate to it. I think this is due to the difficulty of getting quality return repetitions since it is semi-cooperative with another player. The ability to execute a return depends on another player’s ability to execute a serve, plus it is time consuming to practice a number of returns. But the reality is that every point starts with a serve and a return! Let’s go over a few of the important points when returning serve.
The first thing that you want to do is get your body into a low, athletic position with a wide base between your feet. The thing you want to focus on here is you want to be as explosive as possible from this position. Think of a basketball player playing defense, the best defenders have a very wide base and are very low. They simply look like they are ready to explode out of their position defending!
Once you are in this position the next thing that you want to do is watch your opponent start to serve and take a very small step forward with either foot that leads into a split step. The reason for this is simple: timing. The art of the return of serve is timing so you can meet your opponent’s serve out front and place the ball where you want to.
After you have taken your split step, to be efficient with your movement the first step you want to take is an “out-step”. This means from the ready position you take a step to the left with your left leg or take a step to the right with your right leg, hence the “out-step” as the outside leg takes the step.
Now that you have got your body into an athletic and strong position while moving efficiently to the ball, the most important part of the return is to adjust the size of your back swing according to how fast your opponent is serving. If your opponent has a big serve then you need to shorten the backswing of your return so you have enough time to meet the ball out front. If your opponent has a slow serve then you have more time for a bigger back swing and you can attack the serve.
The last part of the return is to make sure that you are moving forward into the shot and that once you hit the shot your weight is meeting the ball and moving into it. You can’t always do this as sometimes your body will be moving sideways but you want to avoid hitting returns where your weight and momentum is falling backwards.
Check back soon for our latest instructional video coming out this week!