the effectiveness of the return can be measured like that of the serve. Doing so will provide valuable feedback to both player and coach. By analysing her performance in this way, the player can set more realistic and specific goals for her return of serve in the future. For example, the statistics may show that a player wins twice as many points return¬ing with her backhand than with her forehand. In this case, she will clearly work to improve her forehand return—and the tactics she uses alongside it. Figure 2.22 is a returning summary. TO calculate the various percentage statistics that help indicate a player’s returning performance, divide the first number in the sequence by the second number and multiply by 100.
□ TO return effectively, a player needs to assume a balanced and alert ready position, she must read the flight path of the oncoming ball quickly, and she must react with speed and efficiency.
□ The first priority for the returner is to neutralise the threat posed by the first serve. This means returning well enough so that a neutral position remains after the serve and return have been played.
, (number of first serve returns in) / (number of first serve return attempts)
percentage of first serve returns in
, (number of second serve returns in) / (number of second serve return
_ percentage of second serve returns in
, (number of first serve return points won) / (total number of first serve
= percentage of first serve return points won
(number of second serve return points won) / (total number of second
serve return points)
= percentage of second serve return points won
(number of points won when returning with forehand, backhand) / (total
number of points returned with forehand, backhand)
= percentage of forehand, backhand returns won
(number of unreturnable returns) / (total number of returning points)
= percentage of unreturnable returns
FIGURE 2.22 Returning summary.
the return down the middle provides a high-percentage option in singles and doubles because it is hit over the lowest part of the net and into the most central part of the court. It also prevents the server from using any natural angle for her second shot. the middle return is hit straight back at the server, forcing her to move out of a space rather than into a space. It is used very effectively against tall, long-limbed opponents.
the inside-out return is a popular shot to play against the serve that is hit down the middle, from both the deuce and advan¬tage courts. this shot is hit away from the returner’s body (i.e., from ‘in’ to ‘out’) and applies equally to right- and left-handers playing both forehands and backhands. Again, it carries a high
margin of error because the return is hit across the court (into the longest part of the court) and without the player needing to change the direction of the ball since it is hit back in the direc¬tion of the serve.
the inside-in return, hit down the line, is another recognised shot that is played against the middle serve. this return carries a higher risk because it is hit over the higher part of the net and into a shorter length of court, although it still provides the returner with a large margin of error in terms of target area. It is more effec¬tive when hit from a central court position because it is easier to recover back to the middle of the court from here. It is occasion¬ally used in doubles when the returner wants to hit down the line (especially if she sees the opposing net player move across the net too early).
A player will use the blocked return if she deliberately wants to slow the pace of the ball down, if she needs a high percentage of returns in court, or if the serve puts her under extreme pressure. In doubles, the blocked return can be used effectively against the serve and volleyer (to hit down to the server’s feet), as a lob (either over the server’s partner or down the middle of the court), or when under extreme pressure from the serve.
the left-handed serve will often cause the right-handed returner problems because its movement is less familiar. this means that the slice serve (the most common serve in women’s tennis) will naturally move to the returner’s backhand side rather than forehand side. It is natural for her to want to return crosscourt from here, but this may suit the left-handed player who hits a strong forehand down the line. Returning down the middle of the court may prove a better option.
the left-handed returner will face the same situation when return¬ing the wide serve hit from the deuce court.
Statistics prove that the majority of second serve points are won by the returner; therefore, the second serve return repre¬sents an excellent opportunity for a player to dictate the point immediately.
the return and groundstroke attack tactic involves the return being hit aggressively and from inside the baseline; the returner main¬tains control of the court by hitting an aggressive second shot, also from inside the baseline. This increases the time pressure on her opponent. In doubles, this aggressive return is often played down the line—straight at the server’s partner.
A player will use the return and baseline control tactic when she has no obvious planned second shot to hit. 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. the same approach is used by the returning team in doubles; the returner will look to control a crosscourt baseline rally so her partner can try to win the point with an intercept volley at the net.
the return and drive volley, and the return and sneak tactics both involve the returner making an instinctive decision to play a volley after an aggressive return. the drive volley will usually be hit against the high, floating ball, whereas the sneak volley will be hit against the lower one. Both of these tactics apply equally to singles and doubles play.
approaching the net behind the return can be used as a planned tactic also. A player may choose to approach with a slice return (chip and charge) or with an aggressive topspin return (drive-in). Both approaches are used often in doubles; the slice return some¬times is hit deep crosscourt (against the server who stays back), short crosscourt (against the serve and volleyer), or as a lob over the server’s partner.
the effectiveness of the return can be measured in the same way as that of the serve. this research provides valuable feedback to both coach and player.