Close on the Ball / Racket Back

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Step 2Once you’ve hit your split step, the second part of the return of serve is to step out with your outside foot, turn your shoulders sideways, and get your tennis racket back. When you get the racket back, you don’t want to take it as far back as you would with a typical groundstroke from the baseline. A serve will be coming at you much faster than a groundstroke and you don’t want to take your racket back too far and be caught late to the tennis ball. The key is simply to shorten your backswing.

The second key to this step is to move diagonally into the court toward the tennis ball, because you are trying to cut off the oncoming serve. If you move out laterally along the baseline, you will have to move much further to get to the ball than if you move in diagonally to toward it. At 1:00 in the video above, notice that when I pivot my outside foot out, I only pivot it about 45 degrees out, not as far as I would on a baseline groundstroke. It’s not pivoted as far because I’m going to close diagonally on the tennis ball in the direction my foot is pointed. Because my weight was moving forward through my split step in the previous step, it will continue moving forward as I close on the ball.

At 1:20 in the video, you can see a clip of this part of the service return in action. As I come out of my split step, I pivot and step out with my outside foot, angling it about 45 degrees. I turn my shoulders sideways, and the tennis racket comes back. Notice that my weight is still moving foward. In my opinion, I am taking my racket back too far most of the time when I return serve, and you can see that here. It’s a part of my game that I need to work on. If you are looking for a pro to emulate on your return, I would recommend Andre Agassi. His backswing was virtually non-existant on his service return.

Now let’s look at Andy Roddick’s forehand return of serve. He first hits his split step, and he then steps out with his outside foot and gets the racket back. At 2:45 in the video, you can see a split screen of Andy’s forehand service return (right side) and his normal forehand (left side). Look at the difference in how far he is taking the racket back. Clearly, he abbreviates his backswing on the forehand return. Also, notice that his weight is well balanced on the groundstroke, but on the return his weight is definitely moving diagonally forward at this point.

  • Anonymous

    i am not getting the contact well in time kindly help me what i have to do for good contact and also i am not getting the on the rise contact because my opponent has big kick serve so i have to contact on the rise. so where could i concentrate. please help me.

  • Carladurney

    Commercials are terrible!

  • Pat Gilman

    If you are slicing your backhand all the time it’s possible you are using your elbow up like a pointer. Take your backswing to your knees instead and keep your shoulder to the floor and your arm straight instead of bent at the elbow. And keep the weight off your back foot. Lean in to the ball instead.

  • Akipavicevic

    You are wright! too long swing

  • john

    Your videos for returning serve are not working correctly. When I click to start the video I get either a car ad video or some other crazy video.

  • Waring_jordan

    I love the site and have looked at it for a long time, but the new advertisements are just over the top. I don’t mind an add once in a while but if you’re watching the entire series of videos (step one, step two, etc) to be bombarded with the same ad at the beginning of each video is just plain annoying. Will, great site and fantastic instruction, but can you please do something about the adverts? Thanks

  • Pijtepiwo

    All the people giving out about commercials are ridiculous. You’ve got fantastic website with so much knowledge FOR FREE. Let the guy have something out of it. Keep up the great work!

  • abandontheraft

    Maybe this isn’t the place for a discussion of advanced technique but a small twist to this for advanced players is that instead of the initial two footed split you can land on just one foot. And that foot will be the one opposite to the stroke you’ve recognized you’ll be hitting. So if you’re going to be hitting a forehand (for a righty) you land on just your left. You’re right doesn’t land but instead you push with the left and take the initial step to your right. This cuts down on time and allows you to be more aggressive and efficient.

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  • http://noahblog.com/2011/09/free-blog/ free blog

    good one…

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  • Dave Ochinero

    Great stuff; please keep it coming!

    All the best,

        Dave

  • Steve

    Can you talk about picking the ball up visually? I get watching the toss & rotating the shoulders but how do the pros track the ball once it has been hit & do they watch the bounce ? Frequently I am picking up the ball in my peripheral vision & hitting late.

  • Ben

    It is my understanding that you need to take the ball earlier before it kicks up and away from you. Take the ball 1-2 steps earlier. Other alternative is get way back 2-3 steps back so that you can get it on the way down. NTRP 4.0

  • ben

    it could be a head heavy racket that you use too often. sometimes, the type of string your use, like polyester (or strings that just won’t break) can be the problem.