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Developing A Return Of Serve That Will Break Your Opponent
by Tom Greider
Willow Creek Racquet Club

Return of serve becomes one of your most important shots and strategies throughout your matches, yet few players really take the time to develop consistent strokes or tactics that will make it easier to break your opponent. Many players feel they are on the defensive side when they are returning, and sometimes this is true. But many top players (Andre Aggasi, Jimmy Connors) use the return of serve as an offensive weapon, creating many breaks throughout the match and making their own service games easier to win.

The philosophy of the return is to get the point started, and that should still be the main goal. But on second serves, or even slower first serves, we should be able to use our shot selection or placement to put ourselves in an offensive position right off the bat. If the server is not coming to the net, then there is no reason to not put the ball in play somewhere on the court. Every time you make your opponent work on their service game, you take energy out of them that they might need later in the match. When you blast a return that never lands in, you are making life too easy for your opponent.

Start the match with returns to their weakness if you are good at aiming. If you haven't found the weakness yet, start out with cross court returns to limit the angle on the next shot by your opponent. Remember the biggest advantage the server has is they are already standing in the middle of the court, and the server is in the middle. That can put you in a tough spot if your return does not minimize the angle for their next shot, especially if you go down the line and they reach it. Expect the next shot to go cross court, away from you, forcing you to run a longer distance.

A good tactic for your return is to put the ball in the middle, taking away their angle, allowing you to get back towards the middle of the court, and continuing the point. By aiming down the middle, you also eliminate the risks of missing the shot wide on either side. Make your opponent work on their service games, you will break soon and often!!


Top quality professionals make up the team of tennis instructors at Willow Creek Racquet Club. Whether you're a beginner or looking to advance your current level of play, Willow Creek's nationally certified instructors will give you all the help you need. With over 30 years combined experience, you won't find a more qualified team anywhere. Tom Greider is the owner and President of Willow Creek. Tom was Head Coach for the University of Oregon Women's Tennis Team for 6 years, during which time he was twice selected PAC 10 coach of the year, and is the winningest coach in the team's history. He also serves as the Tennis Director of the Eugene Country Club and spent 10 years as the YMCA's Tennis Director.

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