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March 2001 Article

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Serve Return in Doubles

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John Mills, USPTA

I believe all players should develop patterns or trends with all their shots. Here are a few I like concerning serve returns in doubles:

  • Use your chip return when receiving an extremely hard serve or an extremely short serve that catches you by surprise.

  • Most club level players would be better off chipping their serve return rather than hitting a full stroke (i.e. Topspin). I suggest chipping at least 50% of the time.

  • Of the other 50%, mix in your crosscourt full strokes and your lobs. Use these shots when the serve is not extremely short or hard.

  • A common mistake players make is to continue to try to hit the return crosscourt even when they are being sent outside the court. On this wide serve try hitting a full stroke softly down the alley of the net player. This will allow your partner to help you cover the middle of the court. Also, try to hit a high defensive lob over the net player to buy some time to recover.

  • Typically, many servers will still serve and stay back, (not serve & volley). You might be hitting a great return and rushing in only to find the server throwing up a lob which forces you into a defensive position and thus many errors. If this happens often, try a short chip return to the server. This will force the server to move in and thus limit greatly the threat of a lob. It is much more fun to move in and have a heated volley exchange rather than running back for lobs all day. If your partner is struggling with overheads, your use of the short chip return will help relieve the pressure.

  • Many receivers are trying to return to beat both opponents. Your first job is to avoid the net player. Keep your returns low and crosscourt most of the time. Remember, it is not the power but the accuracy and control of the return.

  • Occasionally, try both staying back when returning. This will take pressure off the receiver and it will take away the short player as an easy target for the poacher. Many teams will not handle this well and many times become "psyched-out."

  • Use the lob return to break up the rhythm of a serve and volleyer.

    Good luck on the courts!

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    This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

    John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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