Step Across and Hit the Ball
The third and final step of the service return is to step across your body with your inside foot and at the same time hit the tennis ball. At 0:25 in the video, you can see that as I shadow the motion, I step across and hit with a closed stance. I’m hitting with a closed stance here because I am still moving toward the tennis ball. After your split step, when you pivot out with your outside foot, that one step is not likely to get you to the tennis ball, and you will need to take one more with your inside foot to get to it, resulting in a closed stance. We’ve said elsewhere on this site that you generally want to avoid hitting with a closed stance if possible because it limits your body rotation. On a return of serve, you may not have much of a choice because of how hard the tennis ball is coming at (or away from) you.
At 1:15 in the video, you can see me performing the last part of the service return. I’ve hit my split step and then stepped out with my outside foot and gotten my tennis racket back. My weight is coming forward. I then step across my body and into the court with my inside foot and at the same time swing forward and make contact with the ball. At the moment of contact, my inside foot is across my outside foot, making this a closed stance. I then follow through smoothly around to the other side of my body. Again though, the key here was the footwork.
Let’s now look at Andy Roddick doing this part of the service return. In the first picture, we can see that he’s stepped out with his outside foot into the court and is closing on the tennis ball. He’s taken his racket back, but not as far as he would on a normal forehand groundstroke. In the next picture, we can see that Andy has stepped across his body with his inside foot, and made contact in a closed stance. He’s followed through around to the other side of his body.