Using the return and sneak tactic is another way of applying pressure on an opponent by not giving her enough time to recover from her serving position. In this situation the returner hits an aggressive return and then looks for the opportunity to ‘sneak’ in to the net. The sneak, like the drive volley, is an instinctive movement based on the amount of pressure an opponent is under. When using this tactic, the returner naturally moves forward, inside the baseline, before deciding whether her opponent is under enough pressure. This holding position allows her the option of coming in to the net or returning to the baseline, depending on the strength of her opponent’s next shot. Players decide to sneak based on the time, pace, and positional pressure exerted on their opponent. This tactic could be used most effectively against the player who blocks the ball when under pressure. This slower-moving ball often gives the returner the chance to sneak close enough in to the net so she can hit an attacking volley. Figure 2.18
shows how an aggressive second serve return, hit across the court against a middle serve from the deuce court, can create a sneak opportunity. In this figure, the return has forced the server to defend with a weak second shot, hit late and down the line. the returner, seeing her opponent under pressure, instinctively sneaks in to the net to meet her opponent’s second shot with a short angle volley.
To practice the return and sneak tactic, see drill 2.9 on page 80.
this tactic is similar to the return and drive volley tactic in that both require the player to make instinctive decisions rather than planned ones. this is also the case for the returning player in doubles, who sees an opportunity to move in to the net if the server is playing too defensively. If the server’s second shot floats wide of the returner’s partner at the net, the returner should instinctively move in and volley this ball herself. this tactic may force the server into taking more risks by playing more aggressively to counter this threat—and making more errors in the process as a result. If the returner is to use this tactic frequently, she should consciously take up a position just inside the baseline after hitting her return. this position allows her easy access to the net if she wishes.