If the serve is the most important shot in tennis, getting it back should be your next priority. The service return is not just another ground stroke. Matches are won and lost with service returns. If your opponent has a booming serve, this is when you’re most vulnerable. So, developing a consistent service return is crucial.
The first step in developing a consistent return is to “get organized”. Before you step up to the line to return serve, walk around the baseline area to get your thoughts together. Consider the score, choose a grip, take notice of where your opponent has been serving, do anything to develop a consistent routine. It also helps to have a specific area of the court in mind you would like to hit to. Doing this will help you relax, and improve your shot-making. Another key thing to do is to get your racquet moving. The ball is going to be on top of you quickly, so get your racquet to the appropriate side immediately. This brings up the issue of the backswing. Turn your shoulders, but take a shorter backswing if your opponent has a fast serve. Most young and inexperienced players make the mistake of taking a big backswing, causing them to be late making contact with the ball. Try to develop a “chip” shot when returning against big servers. The chip is almost like hitting a volley, except off the bounce. Finally, I can’t put enough emphasis on staying down when returning serve. There should be no wasted motion. Bend your knees and stay on the same horizontal plane as the approaching ball and your forward swing. Like the volley, get your eyes near the level of the ball, and focus on the point of contact.
This lesson is an excerpt from Bring Your Racquet: Tennis Basics for Kids
Available at www.kirkhouse.com/books/bring-your-racquet or Amazon, Borders, and other outlets.