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!!