The return of serve is the most important shot in the women’s game today. It has become crucial to many players’ tactical makeup because of the necessity to counter the threat of the strong server, as well as to dominate the weaker one. A number of different returning tactics are used depending on the intention of the returner, each of which requires specific shot selection, court positioning, and movement.

Many coaches are guilty of not paying enough attention to the return, probably because it is one of the most difficult shots to practice. Unlike the serve, a player requires a playing partner or coach to help her to develop this shot (or a very expensive serving machine!). coaches often comment on how players find returning practice boring and repetitive (especially if the serve is constantly missed), and on the lack of really effective returning drills. the aim of this chapter is to address these issues by highlighting the key returning tactics used at the highest level and by suggesting a number of ways to develop the return for all levels of players.

the return is a shot that requires particular tactical and technical train­ing. a strong emphasis is placed on a player’s receiving skills. Being able to receive the ball in tennis is just as important as being able to send the ball. Receiving skills are more difficult to practice, however, because they are invisible; perception and anticipation occur in the player’s head before a reaction is seen on the court! However, coaches must help play­ers develop these skills in the same way they help them develop their more visible tennis techniques.

Whether returning the first or second serve, highlighting the three Rs on the return—ready position, reading the ball, and reaction—will help to further improve the execution of this shot. A balanced and alert ready position is vital as the returner prepares to face the serve. Key factors include maintaining a still head, relaxed shoulders, a strong posture, flexed knees, and a stable base. the returner should take a small split-step (or ‘de-weight’) from this ready position as the serve is hit. She should be ready to pick up the flight path of the ball throughout her opponent’s service action. Being able to read the characteristics of the oncoming ball quickly involves using perception skills. She may be able to pick up clues from her opponent’s ball toss, racket action, body positioning, or previous serving habits. She must then try to read the flight path of the serve—its direction, height, depth, speed, and spin—as soon as possible by using her perception of the ball after it is hit. The player must react with speed and efficiency once she has read the oncoming ball. Turning her upper body immediately toward the direction of the ball, opening her foot stance, and using a simple backswing will help her contact the ball in front of her body—an important ingredient to returning successfully.

Maintaining a low centre of gravity and a stable base will help a player ‘win the collision’ with the oncoming ball, as well as aid in achieving a swift and balanced recovery position.

This chapter studies the first serve return separately from the second serve return because these two shots usually carry very different tactical objectives. The first serve return is often used to neutralise the threat of a strong first serve, whereas the second serve return is more likely used to create an immediate attacking opportunity. In fact, returning tactics and serving tactics often mirror each other. In other words, first serve return tactics and second serve tactics are often used to neutralise, while second serve return tactics and first serve tactics are often used to attack. With the first serve return, the shot selection of the player remains crucial if she finds herself under pressure from the serve. The options covered in this chapter include the middle return, the inside- out and inside-in return, and the blocked return. With the second serve, the returner can dictate the play by using tactics such as the return and groundstroke attack, return and baseline control, and return and approach. This chapter studies these choices in detail, both in singles and doubles, and suggests a number of drills and practice tips to help make the return an easier shot to improve.

Updated: 3 сентября, 2022 — 08:19

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