It's time, once again, for the Tennis Quick Tips podcast. In this episode, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to hit a better return in your next match. These tips are coming directly out of my new e-book, Real Tennis Tips for Real Tennis Players which launches tomorrow, Tuesday, February 18. I am so excited about it and can’t believe I’ve finally gotten to the point where I have an e-book packed with tennis tips for you.
There’s still time to sign up to receive a free preview chapter from the e-book as well as a significant discount for launch day. Anyway, more about that at the end of this post. In the meantime, you can listen to this episode by clicking on the gray media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes. Right now, let's talk about how to hit a better return.
Something I’ve always found interesting is that everyone talks about how your serve is the absolute most important shot you hit in a tennis match but no one ever says much about the return. You can find books, DVDs, magazine articles, and on-line courses all dedicated to helping you get a better serve. But not so much is out there telling you how to improve your return.
And I find this weird because, if you think about it, you hit just about as many returns as you hit serves. Whether you play singles or doubles, in any match you play, you return pretty much the same number of balls as you serve. Sure, if you're serving and you go to deuce a lot, you may serve a lot more balls. But that means your opponent is returning a lot more balls. And sometimes you're the person receiving on those deuces. Anyway, I’m guessing that over time it all kind of evens out.
So why aren’t we all trying to hit better returns? Yes, the serve is the one shot you absolutely control. But the return is a close second to that as far as how much you control. Think about it – when you hit a return, you know the ball is coming to you. Even in doubles, you know when it’s your turn to return, the ball is going to be served to you. There is no chance that it will be served to your partner. Even in no-ad games, you know exactly when you’re going to be the returner.
And you also know pretty much where the ball is going to be served – somewhere in the service box. While there are a number of targets within that service box and you don’t always know exactly where the serve will land, you do know that the ball must land somewhere within the service box so you always have at least a vague idea of what’s coming to you.
Finally, you can get some great clues about the type of serve you’re going to get by watching your opponent and paying attention to what’s happening in your match. This is usually less true of the other shots you hit back during a match, when you may be on the run, out of position, or even have your back to the net.
So since the return is a shot you know you’re going to have to hit over and over throughout a match, why aren’t you hitting a better one?
Well, here are a few tips that will help you do just that.
First, make it a priority to get your return back. Think about what I said earlier. You’re going to get about the same number of changes to return the ball as you do to serve the ball. Don’t just give your opponents free points by missing your return. That’s the equivalent of hitting a double fault. Get your return in because a weak return that lands in is better than a powerful return that goes out.
Next, use a short backswing to block the ball back on your return. Unless you’re consistently receiving a very weak serve, you don’t need to use a full takeback on your return. Instead, block the serve back with a short backswing. This is especially effective when you’re receiving hard, flat first serves.
Next, try to anticipate where the serve is going to land. Use the clues that your opponents give you – position on the baseline, type of toss, past experience in the match – to try and anticipate where the serve is going and what type of serve you will receive.
Finally, attack weak second serves. Your opponent’s weak second serve is often the easiest shot you will face in a match. Many players have “bullet” first serves and “marshmallow” second serves. They will avoid double faulting at all costs, resulting in a weak, paceless second serve. So you attack these weak serves. This not only can put you in a great position for that particular point, but it also puts pressure on your opponent to hit more aggressive serves, and possibly faulting more, throughout the match.
So those are just a few tips I have on hitting better returns. What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a few tips that have given you good results with your returns? If you do, let me know the comments to the show notes for this episode as I’d love to let other Tennis Quick Tips listeners know. You can find the show notes over at TennisFixation.com/quicktips30.
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© Kim Selzman 2014-15 All Rights Reserved
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