Learning how to return each type of serve
is important as you will most likely face each type of serve.
The better competition face the tougher the serves will be.
Once you get to 4.0+ tennis you will be playing against all
the serves. Below we will explore how to return each type
of serve. To read
in more detail about the 4 different types of serves click
Returning a Flat Serve:
The flat serve is usually the serve we all see first as we
begin. So naturally shouldn't it be the easiest to return?
Well, when we were learning to play the ball wasn't coming
at us at speeds of over 100 mph. I find that the flat serve
now to be very difficult to return when the opponent is hitting
the serve over 100 mph. As the returnee, your time is limited.
When your opponent hits big serves you must react quickly.
A big flat serve can jam you or stretch you out before you
When you play against such a big server it
is hard to get a big swing on the ball. Since you have less
time, it means you have less time to bring the racquet back
for a return. Many players returning serve make their swing
more compact. Do not bring your racquet back like you are
going to smash the ball, because by the time you would get
your racquet back, the ball is already 10 feet behind you.
I like to bring the racquet back about 1/2 way and swing from
there when facing big servers. You do not need a full back
swing to get any power on this return. If the ball is coming
that fast, you will generate enough power on the return for
just getting your racquet on the ball. If you do not feel
like you have enough time to even get your racquet back half
way, just try blocking the ball back. In order to be successful
at this, keep the racket up in front of you and when you see
what side the serve has been served to, get your racket to
that side and step forward (not backwards!) just punching
the ball over the net. If the person is a serve and volley
player and is eating your blocks back for dinner, try aiming
your blocked returns back at their feet or try and guide them
down the line.
Returning a Slice Serve:
The slice serve is a good way to pull your opponent off the
court, or jamb them from the other side. Remember, reading
the server can help you to react to this serve. If they toss
the ball out wide to hit a slice serve out wide, you have
a head start and can move to the ball and be prepared. The
slice serve bounces lower than the flat serve and is usually
moving towards you or away from you as you go to hit the return.
Staying low with the ball as it bounces is
very important. The slice serve is fairly easy to return with
topspin and/or a slice return. You can block back this serve
too if you are having problems taking a full swing at the
ball. Blocking back serves with spin is a little tougher than
blocking back flat serves, but of all the spin serves, this
is the easier one to block back. Moving towards the ball to
cut it off early and not allow all of the side spin on the
ball to push you off the court or jam you is a good plan of
attack. The quicker you can cut it off the less the spin can
do it's damage.
Returning a Topspin Serve:
The topspin serve bounces higher than the flat serve. If you
try to hit the ball at it's peak you most likely will be swinging
out of your comfort zone. You do not want to try to return
this serve from far behind the baseline if you can help it.
Being deep behind the baseline (unless on clay) can get you
in trouble. The speed of the topspin serve is slower than
the flat and the slice serve. This gives a serve and volley
player more time to get to the net but it also gives the returnee
more time to wind up with a full swing. If you are far behind
the baseline hitting returns, this gives the serve and volley
player more time to get closer to the net.
The best approach to returning the topspin
serve, in my opinion, is to take the ball off of the rise.
Do not let the topspin serve get to a height where it is uncomfortable
to hit! But it takes a great amount of practice and timing
to hit the ball on the rise. Hitting the ball off of the rise
is very difficult, but effective! This gives your opponent
less time to react, and less time to get to the net if they
are serve and volleying. You will also get more pace off of
your return of you take it off of the rise. But this takes
practice. If you are not skilled enough to take the ball on
the rise you will need to position yourself on the court so
that when you swing at the ball it is not over your shoulders.
Step back and hit the ball when it is on it's way back down
from it's peak height. Your return will not be as offensive
but can still be effective.
Returning a Kick Serve:
Returning a kick serve is very similar to that of returning
a topspin serve, so I will only stress one thing. Since the
kick serve not only bounces high like the topspin serve, it
kicks the opposite direction of the slice serve once it bounces,
which can jam you, or move away from you after it bounces.
To eliminate the effect of the kick serve, like that of the
topspin serve, take it off of the rise. This will keep it
from getting to an uncomfortable height, and it will also
keep the ball from moving too far away or into you, thus erasing
the threat from the kick serve. To do this, it is very helpful
to read the server, it would give you a chance to move into
the court a foot or two when you see what type of serve he/she
is about to hit. This will allow you to take the ball early
and off of the rise!
The best practice to become comfortable
returning all serves is to face as many different players
as you can. This way you will see all types of serves. The
return of serve can be a huge weapon for you if you are good
at it. Be sure to practice the return of serve in practice
too. Let someone else work on serves while you work on your
return. Have them practice all the serves and all the placements.
Luck on the Court!