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Have trouble placing the return of serve?

Keep away from the side and back wall to return service

Keep away from the side and back wall to return service

Published: 06 Sep 2006 - 21:15 by rippa rit

Updated: 25 Jan 2009 - 19:01

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When you watch the pros return the serve it all looks so easy.  Yes, and so does everything else for that matter! 

My tips are:
1. Stance - Keep away from the back and side walls leaving plenty of room to move either forward, sideways or address  the back wall.  Looking at the diagram, I prefer to stand closer to the Half Court line which gives plenty of options to move into any position within the service box.

2. Watch the server clearly (not sneaking a look see out the corner of your eye) to get ideas about the type of serve to expect, ie the height, the speed and the angle of the serve.

3. Move into position as early as possible deciding if the ball can be volleyed, driven, lobbed, etc.

4. To get the return close to the side wall is a plus and this, together with length, gives a great start to winning the point.

5. It is easier to place the ball accurately by controlling the swing/wrist (racket head) and sacrificing some power.

6. If you are not good at placing the ball and moving the opponent away from the middle of the court, try a high soft lob that goes over the opponent's head.

Tip: Partner practice serve and return at least once a week, as that will definitely improve your game.

Video Forehand Return of Serve

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From rippa rit - 25 Jan 2009 - 19:01

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From rippa rit - 30 Nov 2007 - 17:25   -   Updated: 30 Nov 2007 - 17:29

aprice - to volley the return of serve, particularly before the serve hits the side wall it is necessary to take the ball early (before the serve hits the side wall) so standing behind often means you are moving forward and not at a good angle to volley at the side of your body with your feet/shoulders parallel to the side wall.

Remember the straight volley (or any other shot for that matter) should not be pushed from in front of your body but taken from the side of your body (leave enough room to swing), and the shoulders parallel to the side wall. 

Here is a Gold Video giving an idea, and Zac is standing closer than I recommend but he is also about to hit the ball, and while his feet are a bit front on, his shoulders have turned to be parallel to the wall.

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From aprice1985 - 29 Nov 2007 - 21:22

So in essence face the front wall/opponent as they move to serve and then move your feet once you know how you are going to return it?  Does that make the straight volley more difficult or does it just take practice to get used to?

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From rippa rit - 29 Nov 2007 - 07:12   -   Updated: 29 Nov 2007 - 07:17

I do not recommend you looking at your opponent out of the corner of your eye at any time, particularly on the serve/return of serve which can come towards you pretty quickly.

By facing the side wall you will not be able to judge the angle and speed of the ball as well either or pick up early clues to the service action, eg hard, soft, high, as well as front wall target (this in turn will give a clue to whether the ball will hit the side wall or not and whether you will need to step in, etc)

Remember, I have tried to get players to move about, be flexible, take a dominant stance in the service box, as well as  stand well away from the side wall, and further towards the half court line....this gives you many options, eg step forward, sideways, or address the back wall without hesitation.

Does that make sense now?

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From aprice1985 - 28 Nov 2007 - 21:44

I notice in the diagram that the feet are shown pointing to the front wall and presumably the shoulders will be as well, is this recdommended or is it best to be facing the side wall as this is how you would normally hit the shots?

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From rippa rit - 06 Aug 2007 - 15:59

Sam I would have thought the high hard cross court would be a gift.
The skill in taking that on the volley would be not to stand too far back in the court and take the cross court before it hits the wall.

Having videos sent in for review is on our list of things to do so maybe one day I will get to see this return.   I don't want to knock it if it works for you, but just believe me and try to practice various other returns into the corners.

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From SamBWFC - 06 Aug 2007 - 08:02

Sorry Rita I mean an attacking crosscourt volley. This would normally go around head height i.e. it is retreivable and not lobbed over the opponent. It is the power in the shot, combined with the low height of it, that allows it to beat the player and die in the back corners quickly.

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From rippa rit - 06 Aug 2007 - 07:39

Sam - you did not say if it was an attacking volley or a volley lob, going over the opponent's head into the back corner.  Anyway -

Of course, a cross court is a less risky shot because there is much more tolerance (exact target on the front wall) if you misjudge.  On the other hand if you have an opponent who can volley it can be quite dangerous/risky.  If you hit the ball hard and low maybe that could catch the opponent off guard sometimes.

Sam, if the serve is not tight you have many options, and to improve your game it is best to develop a variety of shots off both hard/power and lob serves. If you do not change the return (mix it up) your opponent will/should be ready before you hit the ball, and then the obvious return would be in the front corner as a volley drop.

Trust me, practice alternative returns, 'cos as soon as you get an opponent who can control the ball you will be on the hop/back foot.!

It's all good fun.

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From SamBWFC - 06 Aug 2007 - 07:21

I don't know if this is a natural thing to me but if the serve is loose then I'm usually pretty consistent with crosscourt volley returns. I think these catch out the server quite a lot as well, as they are usually expecting a straight volley.


This is a good shot to play, especially if the server isn't concentrating when the return is played. If the ball goes past the opponent on a crosscourt volley return, nine times out of ten it will have died by the time they get to it in the back corner.

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From rippa rit - 26 Jul 2007 - 08:18

Sparty a player needs to have two returns up their sleeve as far as possible.  Why?
  • The server, realising the same return is happening, comes straight over after serving, moves across ready to cut off the return, especially if you misjudge it and it is not tight, and a bit short - means trouble!
I recommend spending time with a partner practicing returns of serve, eg
  • Player A hits 6 Lob Serves, and Player B tries to lob the return to length down the wall. Then change over.
  • Player A hits 6 Power Serves, and Player B tries to step in and stop volley the return into the front corner.  Players rotate.
  • Player A serves one Lob serve and one Power serve.  Player B lobs the lob serve down the wall into the corner; and Stop Volleys the Power serve.  Players rotate.
  • Player A hits random serves.
This is a start, however both returns require the player to move to the same side of the court, which means the returns have to be even more accurate.

Next practice session use this combination, eg
  • Reply to a lob serve, a cross court lob to the opposite back corner.
  • Reply to a power serve, a cross court volley drop into the opposite front corner.
This is a very methodical way to practice return of serve. 
If you do not have a partner practice solo drills using these shots.

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From nickhitter - 26 Jul 2007 - 01:46

I would practice one return only. straight down the wall to the back. doesn't matter if it's driven or floated. once you get this you can try different returns, but unless you can do this consistently you'll find it hard going once you lose serve as you will more often than not produce a return that can be easily volleyed.

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From rippa rit - 22 Jul 2007 - 09:26

If you feel confident and particularly if the server tends to hit power serves, stand closer to the corner of the service box, and even a bit closer to the half court line, and watch the server carefully to get as many clues as possible to the speed, height and angle of the serve - then you are most likely to be in position just at the right time to take the ball early.

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