Return of Serve Lessons for Intermediate Players

Having the ability to return the serve of an opponent is vital if you want to win a tennis match.  Having worked on your own serve and won the game, you need to break your opponent’s serve, if you want to win the set or at least return it well enough, to win mini-break points during a tie-break. In this article we will review the basics of return of serve lessons for intermediate players.

Return of Serve Lessons for Intermediate Players

For beginners, it’s important to be able to get the ball back over the net, starting with an abbreviated swing and moving on to a full swing.  Making solid contact with the ball, is the main objective here.  However, as you begin to develop your game, the return of serve becomes more than getting the basics right, it becomes a shot you can use to trouble your opponent. Youtube Andre Agassi and watch his return of serve, he was one of the best ever at it.

First, we need to get out of the mindset of simply getting the ball back over the net, whatever type of serve is coming over the net.  Essentially, there are two types for serve, the first serve and the second serve and these require a different approach.

Time and Size of Swing

Return of serve lessons for intermediate players begins with understanding time. The most obvious thing to do is give yourself time, by standing behind the baseline.  However, we also need to look at the size of the swing being made when returning a first serve.  Playing at intermediate level, a solid player, with a good first serve, will make you miss returns, if the back swing is too big.  When using as forehand stroke during normal play, the opponent will usually see the butt of the handle on your racket, at the end of the back swing.  For a return of first serve, this needs to change, to the strings.  So, have a playing partner hit some first serves and practice returning them with this shorter back swing.  Ask your playing partner to check if they can see the strings of your racket, face on, every time you complete a back swing.  Face four first serves and keep a count of how many times you have used the correct technique.  Keep practicing until you have four out of four, three times in a row.  Remember, this is not a block shot, you must take the racket slightly behind your hip, to generate some swing but that is a far as it should go.  The contact with the ball should be made slightly in-front of the body.  Set up a video camera or mobile phone and record yourself, side on, returning the first serve and you can check all these components are in place.

In comparison, when receiving a second serve, this is something the intermediate player wants to take advantage of and use to win points, against the opponents serve.  The point of contact with the ball, should still be in-front of the body but due to the decrease in pace on the ball, a full back swing can be used on the second serve return.  Furthermore, the traditional follow through of a normal shot, should also be used when returning second serve, which sees the racket head going behind the shoulder and the knuckles of the hand holding the racket, close to the ear.

The difference between the first and second serve

The reason for the difference in return stroke for the first and second serve is because you will need to generate your own pace on the ball, when returning a second serve.  When returning a first serve, all the pace is already on the ball, so there is no need to generate it yourself, plus, you will not have time to complete a full swing because of the speed the ball is travelling.  Practice returning the second serve, in the same way as the first.  Ask your playing partner to watch your racket position and record yourself from the side of the court, to check your contact point is correct. Return of serve lessons for intermediate players usually involves at least a coach and a player, or is practiced in a group setting. You’ll need someone to serve the ball to you at different speeds and spins. If you have a ball machine, you can put the machine on a few milk crates at the net, then practice your returns with the machine.

You must be willing to make these adjustments, depending what type of serve you are returning in the intermediate game, to improve and progress.

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