At the Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy, we invest a significant amount of time on practicing the serve. In addition, returning the serve is just as important. If you feel your return needs to be more aggressive, below are six keys to success:
1. Practice returning second serves to have the best chance to take charge of the point.
• Since it is the last attempt for your opponent to put the ball in play, the second serve is an opportunity to put the pressure on their side of the court.
• Added pressure to respond to more aggressive returns causes double faults and your opponent will become frustrated.
• This leads to less confidence and more prone to make even more errors.
2. Return the ball with authority.
• Move into the court to take the second serve early and get the ball back into play quicker. This leaves your opponent less time to react.
• By moving up closer to the service line, your opponent knows you will be attacking the serve.
3. With the return, focus on specific targets.
• Option one – Up the line.
• Option two – Cross court.
• Option three – Directly back to the opponent.
• Option four – Drop shot.
4. Train with a persistent attitude and will to succeed.
• In practice, you are developing skills. If you miss some returns, make the necessary correction and continue attempting the shot without fear.
5. From time to time, switch your focus to first serves.
• Remain aggressive with your return.
• If you have trouble with fast and strong first serves, learn to block those back into play, similar to the motion of hitting a volley.
• If it’s a weaker first serve, go after it by accelerating your racquet head through the shot. If you commit an error, make the correction and learn from the mistake going forward.
6. Focus on movement after the return.
• If you hit a drop shot, move forward to the net to prepare for the opponent’s response.
• With a cross court return, shift back towards the center of the court.
• If you return up the line, move to the net or recover to the other side of the court from where you just hit the ball.
As the return player, you also have the opportunity to influence how a server performs by the quality of your shot. Practice your service returns purposely and you’ll discover service games will become easier.
About Rob Castorri
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Rob Castorri has been involved in tennis for over 30 years as a professional player, coach, club manager and event promoter. He’s won numerous championships since turning pro in 1978, and achieved a No.1 ranking in Florida’s Men’s Open Division.