Often during a match the returner will want to maintain her dominance over the server without having a planned shot to hit after an aggressive return—usually when the opponent has defended deep down the middle of the court. Instead, she will try to prevent the server from regaining a neutral position by hitting a sequence of dominating shots that continually increase the pressure on her opponent. She will look to finish the point only after a short ball or after a natural space has opened up.
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Dominating with the second serve return is a crucial tactic in women’s tennis.
This patient yet aggressive approach should be encouraged because players often make the mistake of trying to continually hit winning returns when they don’t need to. they can become scared of losing control of the point if the ball comes back too often. Experienced players who maintain control of the point successfully are prepared to hit a number of shots, if necessary, before winning the point. they simply try to make their opponent defend for as long as possible rather than try to hit any outright winning shots. this difference in mentality is crucial because, for these players, the second serve return becomes the first shot in a winning sequence rather than the only shot!
this tactic is particularly relevant for the younger player who doesn’t hit with much power. In this case, she will often play the return with a number of groundstrokes to create an advantage, while maintaining the long-term goal of using the return and groundstroke attack tactic as she develops more weight of shot.
To practice maintaining baseline control after the return, see drill 2.7
on page 78.
The same baseline control tactic is used by the returning team in doubles, especially forthose returners who prefer playing aggressively from the baseline ratherthan coming in to the net. In this case, the returner will choose to play crosscourt more often to build pressure through a series of aggressive groundstrokes. Her partner at the net will continually look for an opportunity to win the point with an intercept volley. Again, the better the crosscourt groundstroke is, the more chance the returner’s partner has of finishing the point from the net.
Figure 2.15 shows the return and baseline control tactic being used in doubles against the second serve hit down the middle from the deuce court. The serve is followed by a series of crosscourt groundstrokes between the server and returner. Once the returner gains control of the rally, her partner looks to intercept with a winning volley into the shaded target area. Note how the volley target area is positioned in the middle of the court and how the returner’s partner moves forward to her intercept volley.