Coaching Blog 2016 : The Service Return

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Blog – Return Of Serve


I’ve coached many, many people who learn to play great drives, volleys and tactically know what they want to do in a rally, but all this counts for nothing if their return of serve is rubbish! The service return is very difficult for a lot people, and it’s something professionals make look so easy it’s almost a non-event.

More often than not, it seems that a lot of club players try to hit a winner to the front of the court from the return of serve. This is crazy. It becomes predictable and hands the initiative to your opponent. So I tell my pupils to hit to the back on the service return. Then what I see them try to do is hit a volley that is too hard, so they lose control and the ball ends up in the middle of the court.

The key is, especially on the backhand, to chill out and just lift the ball straight. The shot doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to reach the back wall (after a bounce). The width doesn’t even have to be amazing. As long as it is inside the width of the service box you’ll be fine. This will move your opponent away from the ‘T’ (as they will naturally be on the ‘T’ in one step after they serve). A simple medium paced, straight volley will do the trick. If you can’t volley and the ball reaches the back wall, hit a straight drive if you can, and if you can’t you’ll just have to boast, but push up to the ‘T’ very quickly to cover your opponents options from the front. The cross-court volley is easier than the straight, but comes with more risk. The risk of hitting the ball on to your opponents volley. So, if you do go cross-court – make sure it is high and wide, away from the server’s volley.

The key to a good return is to get the ball to the back wall, to move your opponent in to either one of the back corners. It doesn’t have to be a winner.