There are many variables that must go together in putting the ball in play against your opponent’s serve but in this short article we’ll just focus on the preparation and footwork. If you get these two right, the rest should follow.
Serve Return Preparation
– get the most comfortable ready position grip – the one that allows you to switch quickly between forehand and backhand (I am not going to advise you in this regard because you will have to find what grip works best for you).
– body weight should be evenly distributed on the balls of your feet.
– pay attention to your opponent and try to figure out (based on his toss and racquet path) what kind of serve (spin wise) he’s intending to deliver.
– position yourself in a place that is halfway between your opponent’s possible angles, or you can open up your strong side to invite the server to deliver toward it (this could be a tricky one and you should be ready to quickly cover it if the serve goes there).
Serve Return Footwork and Body Balance
– as the server begins tossing the ball, you should make a “comfortable” step forward followed by a split step.
This initial step up will get the body moving into the incoming ball and the split step will get you balanced and ready to spring into the direction of the serve.
– right after the split step you should be loading the foot closer to the trajectory of the incoming ball, even stepping into it with the other foot to cover the distance.
There is so much more (mentally and physically) that goes into a successful return of serve but for now go out on the tennis court and practice these tips.
I just finished shooting the videos for the “Strategic Serve Practice” and as I was presenting the best possible serve strategies I came to the conclusion that, if one wants to begin the point right, she/he must consider practicing, improving and using the body serve.
The body serve is the one which the server aims directly at her opponent.
I do not mean you shouldn’t go for the returner’s weak side (if she clearly has one) but in case there is not a significant one, the body serve has many advantages:
– if hit with a decent pace the body serve can jam the returner and the result can be a floating return in the middle of the court (which the server can attack)
(Serve Tennis Tactics)
– a body serve does not allow the returner to create angles (as opposed to a wide serve which gives the opponent many options to play with)
– it forces the returner to hit the ball while moving away from it (blocking or pushing the ball) – most of the players practice hitting balls while moving to and not away from them
– the body serve is great for serve-and-volley players because the return is most of the time weak due to the before mentioned reasons.
Are you tired of serving double faults and giving your opponents free points?
How frustrating is it when you see that the tennis ball is in your hand, you have total control at the beginning of the point and then… you fail to get one out of the two tries in.
(Tennis Serve Lesson – videos)
The following tips will help you avoid missing your serves and enjoy your tennis:
1. Use Spin
Imparting slice or topspin on your serves in particular on the second attempt will always save you from giving points away or being put on a defense by your opponent’s return.
The spin brings the ball down due to the air friction therefore you will not miss long too often.
2. Relax Your Arm
Begin your serving motion with hands, arms relaxed and in front of your hips. Many times I see people beginning their service motion holding the ball and racquet too high (chest level) before tossing the ball – this action tightens your shoulders and arms.
Keep a loose grip on the racquet at all times.
Your breathing should be slow and shallow before you begin your serving motion.
Inhale as you toss the ball up then exhale as you swing up to hit it.
4. Toss It Right
One way that will improve your toss consistency (and as a result your serve) is to always “push” the ball up with as little spin as possible. That action will relax your arm and your toss will not affect your body balance.
Before you toss the ball up visualize the racquet hitting it, the ball going over the net and landing in the desired spot inside the opposite service box.
This is probably the most powerful aspect of your serve – believing and seeing what you want to happen.
Try these pieces of advice not in the match but in your practice first. Then as they become your habits, you will carry them into your matches too.