An important “retro” tennis shot that's valuable, but often forgotten and certainly underutilized, is the lob return. In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, you'll learn why this is a great shot to add to your arsenal and you'll get my best tips for hitting it exactly right so that it actually wins the point for you. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the 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.
The lob return is a “retro” tennis shot that is valuable but often forgotten and certainly underutilized. I call it a “retro” shot because I myself think of it as kind of old school – something used by weaker players or old ladies (in other words, people like me). But you'd be surprised how frequently the lob return turns out to be exactly the return you need to win the point. That's because:
- It mixes things up which is often all you need to do to win a point.
It can put the brakes on, or at least slow down, a serve and volley player.
In doubles, it keeps the ball away from a net opponent who has been poaching well. Done enough times, it may force him or her to back off the net.
If you’re returning serve from the deuce side and the server is a rightie (or if you’re on the ad side against a leftie), a deep lob return down the line and over your net opponent forces the server to run down the ball and take it with her backhand. This is not an easy shot even if the server moves well. It is very difficult for a server who has trouble on the run or avoids his or her backhand.
So what are my tips for playing the lob return?
First, make sure you hit it just right – not too low or too short. If your lob return is too low or too short, it can come back at you as an overhead. And if you're playing doubles, it can come back at your partner as an overhead. Yikes!
Second, make sure you don't hit it too high. A high lob return just results in giving your opponent more time to run it down. So you want it to be at just the right height to put your opponent on the run without giving them a lot of time to hit their shot.
Third, tell your partner you're going to hit this kind of return. Again, if you don't hit it just right, it can come back as an overhead right at your partner.
If the result of using a lob return is that your opponent moves back to the baseline or just backs up a little bit deeper, to the service line, then be happy! That's exactly what you want to happen.
Now, I’m not saying that every return should be a lob return – I’ve actually played opponents who think the lob return followed by the short shot is the key to victory (and it may be at lower levels but not at OUR level, right?). But I am saying don’t avoid this return just because you think it’s not a serious shot or it’s not real tennis. The lob return can be a great shot if hit well and used at the right time. So don’t forget it!
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