The "return" is the first shot by the player receiving serve in the rally. Many coaches believe that the serve and the return of serve are the two most important shots in tennis. Every point starts with a serve, followed by a return shot. Simply put, if you can't return your opponent's serve, you cannot win. The better your return, the easier it is for you to create opportunities to "break" your opponent's serve.
Some important tips for the return of serve:
- Always start in the ready position, with both hands on the racket, weight on the toes/balls of your feet.
- Grip: Holding the racket with different ways gives different benefits, depending on your backhand style
- A continental grip to easily block the ball back from either side using one hand, or to change grips quickly to a forehand one handed backhand grip
- A 2 handed backhand grip, with your racket hand in a continental grip for blocking a forehand return and both hands for a 2 handed backhand return
- A modified 2-handed backhand grip, with each hand in a forehand grip for a regular forehand return but an adjusted 2 handed backhand
- Start 3 feet behind the baseline with your outside foot along the singles line. Change your start position closer or further back as you get comfortable with your opponent's serves to find an optimal position.
- As your opponent tosses the ball, step forward. Then do a small hop and split step at the moment your opponent hits the ball. When you land your split step, push sideways into the direction that the ball is travelling to cut the angle and hit it back. Only move forward, sideways or diagonally. Never move backwards.
- Avoid making a big backswing. Concentrate on the contact point and the finish.
- Use an open or semi-open stance on all off-center shots, including the return.
- If you need more control on the return, hold the racket slightly higher on the grip by 1-2 inches.
- Returning high, deep and cross-court is the safest return shot choice to start the rally.
- After you hit the return, immediately move to the middle of the court for the next shot.