Lessons and Tips to Improve the Serve Return

playing tennis

In order to improve the return of serve, there are certain aspects that a tennis player should consider:

the kind of grips to wait for the serve with: eastern, semi-western (forehand grips), continental/hammer, or backhand grip; either one has a role according to the player’s strengths;
court position for the first and second serves;
– the best footwork to return the serve;
– the technique (to control a fast incoming ball);

– what type of serve the player usually has problems with: flat and fast, kick, or slice?

The serve return, even though a player has less time to react to it, can be trained and improved at any level.

Players must learn the proper grips, footwork, how to read the opponent’s serve, and where to tactically place the return.

For a thorough analysis, here are some WebTennis24 lessons and tips to improve your Serve Return:
Best Grips for Returning Serve
How to Return a Fast Serve
How to Read the Serve
Drills to Improve the Serve Return
Return of Serve Tactics for Singles
Return of Serve Tactics for Doubles

Additional helpful tips:
Why and How to Shorten Your Backswing
How to Make a Clean Contact With the Ball

Enjoy playing your best tennis!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

How to Teach Tennis to “Very” Young Children (3-4 Years Old)

young tennis student

This is another question I received from a young tennis coach and I wanted to share my response with you…

“I know that 3 or 4 is a very young age, but are you their first coach? Have they taken any tennis lessons before? If yes, were they private or groups?
– With this young age group, you want to do a lot of hand-eye coordination exercises and some basic techniques (don’t go into details and do not expect them to do things perfectly from the beginning). 
– If they are new to tennis, I would introduce a lot of games like “throw and catch”, teach the lines, ask them questions about tennis (who is their favorite tennis player; if they know the parts of the racquet, etc.), do drills and games such as “Jail Breaker”, “Caterpillar” (both are games that kids really enjoy), “Potato Race” (for speed and fun competition), etc. 
– Teach them the basic forehand technique in the first lesson but don’t do it for more than 15 minutes (the rest should be all kinds of fun drills and games) and very importantly, do not make them stay in line for more than 1 minute at a time; they get bored easily, therefore, you should keep them active all the time.
– If you have to work with them individually, give a task to the others (pick up balls, jump rope, bounce a ball, etc.). Have them pick up balls doing fun competitions like asking them to see who can make the biggest pile of balls on the racquet, etc. 
– Another important aspect: when I teach kids younger than 6 years, my lessons are no longer than 45 minutes. I prefer to keep it short and intense than having them run around for 1 hour, which can be exhausting for them. With 3-4 years of age, I would keep the lessons shorter – 30 minutes.
– Make it fun!”

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

How to Teach (Or Learn) the Proper Distance to the Ball

The proper ball distance appears to be an ardent subject that tennis coaches want to know when teaching beginning players.

Some young players (beginners) indeed have difficulty achieving an optimal contact with the ball – getting either too close or too far from it. Therefore, coaches try to find solutions to help their players hit the ball more naturally and in balance.

Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy solution to this and, if you ask me, I consider this will get fixed naturally through repetition. The only way a beginning player realizes to “feel” the optimal contact point and space to the ball is through lots of practice. Eventually, the player will develop the proper timing, hand-eye coordination, and footwork to position the body and racquet most comfortably and naturally.

BUT if you really want to speed up the process, I dare to suggest a couple of drills that you and your student can do to get a clear understanding of where the contact with the ball should be and improve the timing to achieve that:

1. Have your student (or partner) position in an open stance (feet parallel to the net) or square stance (feet sideways to the net) and racquet held at a “contact point” position: racquet face towards the net, proper grip, arm slightly bent (see picture below). By the way, this can be applied when practicing either forehand or backhand groundstrokes.
practicing proper ball distance
From the “contact point” position, hand-feed a few balls towards the player’s racquet. After the ball bounce, the player should push the ball and swing from that point on, and follow through.
Practice contact and follow-through without backswing.
This drill will teach the player where the contact with the ball should be (spacing and body position). Eventually, they will register that. With proper timing and footwork developed through repetition, this will become a habit.

2. Repeat the previous drill with a slight adjustment: instead of tossing balls for your student, you will rally with them this time. Your student will begin every stroke from the contact point position (no backswing) while pushing and following through after each contact.
Again, this will teach the player proper spacing to the ball.
One important tip is to rally with your student from the service line or just behind it in order to avoid a bigger swing and take the racquet back.
You can even use foam or any light junior tennis balls to keep things simple in the beginning.

Try these two drills and let me know if your student develops and gets a better feel for spacing to the ball.

One more tip: do not over-emphasize other technical aspects such as footwork or body position. To get the contact and timing right, allow the student to focus only on the ball; let the other elements happen naturally… for now.

Additional Note:
For players who want to learn the above technique by themselves, I recommend either using a ball machine or asking a tennis partner to feed (by hand) some balls to them.

Related Content: Strokes Progressions Lessons (learn tennis without a partner or coach)

(Per readers’ request I am attaching more pictures showing the “point of contact”, below)

proper ball distance
point of contact
point of contact

 

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

7 Steps for Making a Great Connection with Your (New) Students

tennis coach with kids

The following pieces of advice address mostly to coaches but players can also find some applicable uses:

As a tennis coach at WebTennis24, I often get emails in which players or coaches ask for my opinion on certain subjects. One of them was how to make a good impression as a coach in front of your new students.


In this regard, I made a video that will show you the first 10-15 minutes of what you can do with a new tennis student (beginner or even intermediate). In this video, you’ll find my “magic” formula on how to interact with new students and how to make them feel welcome and excited to learn tennis. It has worked great for me throughout my over 15 years of teaching tennis, and it will guarantee to help you too.


Besides that… in preparation for the upcoming lesson (or a match if you are a tennis player) it is good to develop some “rituals” that prepare you mentally for what comes. 
I used to get quite nervous especially when meeting new students and/or their parents.

So don’t worry: you are not the only one getting nervous; a lot of coaches are too… the students also. If it helps, you can only imagine that your students are more nervous to meet you than you are to meet them. Or, if you are a player before a tennis match, your opponent might be more nervous to play against you than you are.

Here are some of my “rituals” that I do on the way to my lessons in order to ensure that I would be properly prepared and my students will find a true professional in me as their coach:


1. In the car, as I drive to the tennis court, I practice some breathing exercises: take a slow deep breath in – hold it for 4 seconds – release slowly; do this about 5 – 7 times.

2. Say positive things to yourself such as: “I can’t wait to meet my students”, “I love what I do”, “This is going to be fun!”, etc.

3. Get on the tennis court at least 10 minutes before your students arrive; prepare all your teaching gear and be ready early.

4. As soon as you see your students coming towards the court, put a smile on your face and walk to them looking happy to see/meet them. Stretch your hand out and introduce yourself first, then ask for their names (memorize it).

5. As you can see in the video I mentioned above, it is important to ask your students questions, find out about them; that would make them feel welcome and important.

6. If you get nervous, smile; smiling is a great way to help you relax; also, ask your student questions during the lesson: “what do you feel about what I just taught you? does it make sense? does if feel natural?” etc.

7. And last… actually this should have been first: make sure you have lesson plans ready (a general plan of drills and things you want to teach before you get on the court). I sometimes carry little pieces of paper with notes that I find important to say or do during the lessons. This helps me to know that I do not leave things out and takes some of the pressure off considering that I don’t have to remember everything.

I hope all these tips are of help to you. Write in the comments box below and let me know your thoughts.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

How I Taught a 70-Year-Old Man to Hit With Topspin

tennis balls in net
A few years ago, the father of one of my students told me he wanted to take a couple of tennis lessons so I can teach him how to hit with topspin. This gentleman was about 70 years old and a reputable doctor in Southern California.

My first approach with him was to check his grip. I explained to him that in order to create more topspin on his groundstrokes, he needed to make a grip adjustment.

He was using a continental grip (on his forehand); I slowly helped him to make the transition to an eastern and then to a close to semi-western grip.

That, followed by a couple of other minor technical improvements (stance and swing), gave him a very good understanding and feel of how to hit with more topspin, and power, and keep a lot more balls in.

It took us a few sessions (about 10 – with a lot of questions and frustrating moments here and there :)) but then he ended up surprising his doubles buddies with his new strokes; as a result, his confidence and enjoyment for the game got to a new high level.

You see, many times the minor adjustments that we do in our tennis technique can be the foundation of our overall capability to play at our full potential.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

How to Minimize Waiting in Line When Teaching Tennis Classes

tennis coach
I am extremely grateful to see more and more tennis parents and coaches reaching out to me for advice based on my playing and teaching experience.

This time I’d like to bring to your attention a question a tennis coach recently asked: how to run your tennis classes so that the students do not have to wait in line for too long?…

Waiting in line is not only boring but also disruptive to the rest of the players, especially when those who wait begin chatting and the coach’s instructions are not being heard by the other players.

The following are some tips that I have used in my classes to keep all my students happy and get the best of my instruction:

1. A coach should never accept more than 6 players on the court (unless you are conducting a cardio tennis class where the coach feeds more and teaches less).

2. While some players (first in line) hit the balls that the coach feeds, the others in line should shadow the first player or do some tennis related exercises (ladder, cones etc.) – make sure your students are aware of proper spacing so that no one gets hurt.

3. A coach should line up the players (if there are more than three) in two lines and learn to double-feed (two balls in the air at the same time) so that two players (one from each line) practice their strokes at the same time.

4. Choose games that involve as many players as possible: 2-3 points before rotating and bringing new players on the court. Those waiting can be put through some drills (cones, ladders, etc.) or have them act as ball boys/girls for the ones who play.

Feel free to send me your suggestions if you have more tips in regard to keeping the class going and getting everyone involved.

Have fun on the tennis court!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Focus on the Finish


The tennis stroke techniques can be divided into three major elements: preparation, contact with the ball, and finish (follow-through).

The last part (the finish) can give you a lot of clues about somebody’s stroke: spin imparted on the ball, acceleration (power), tension in the arm, direction of the ball, etc.
Coaches tell you to finish in a certain way for deeper ball penetration, cleaner contact, or relaxation of the arm through the stroke. But what is the stroke finish all about?

In my teaching lessons, I have noticed that many consistency-related issues can be solved just by fixing the finish on the stroke.
You see, so often coaches or players look at contact or body movement to solve the tennis problems, but according to my observations, tennis can be a lot easier if we fix one very simple area of our strokes: the way we finish!

Here are my arguments for this statement:
1. Since the contact with the ball is done in such a short period of time, our mind is not capable of controlling the body and racquet during that time (it is our ingrained muscle memory or subconscious mind that takes over the contact). What we can control is the way we finish the stroke: “holding the finish”.
There is a strong connection between the contact and follow-through – if contact is done right, the proper finish follows or vice versa: if we focus on a long, relaxed follow-through (the part we can control) then we’ll have a clean, smooth contact before it happens.
2. A long follow-through shows a relaxed arm done at contact with the ball. A relaxed arm during the swing translates into power and control of the ball.
We all know that we play our best tennis when we are relaxed.
So focusing on a long follow-through on the strokes will help us loosen up through the stroke.
3. When we play a match and feel tense or have “one of those days” when nothing good comes out of our strokes, there is a very easy fix to those: exhale at contact and finish your strokes.
When we are mentally tense (e.g. fear of losing the match, somebody important to us is watching the match, egos, etc.) our body muscles contract too; that makes our stroke swing shorter which, as a result, slows down the racquet head speed and affects the ball depth.

I have noticed remarkable progress in my students’ strokes only when I adjusted their follow-through:
– a kick serve cannot be done without taking into consideration the racquet path on the same side of the body with the dominant arm after contact, or…
– the slice serve to have the hitting face more or less facing the opposite court after the contact adds to the spin effect even after the impact has been made;
– a forehand ground-stroke finish with the hand knuckles close to the non-dominant side’s ear can make the contact a lot smoother and cleaner when teaching young or beginning players.

Take these tips with you next time you go on the tennis court to practice or use them to relax in a tennis match.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.