The return of serve can be as big of a weapon as your first serve. Players such as Andre Agassi, who do not have a powerful serve, make up for it with a great return of serve. With a good return of serve you can stun your opponent and control the point.
This technique, like the serve, is not practiced enough by many club players. The only time they practice it is during a match and this is the wrong time to practice any shot.
Practice as much as possible, including, or especially, hitting the return of serve deep for when you play baseliners and short for when you play serve and volley players.
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As Agassi has described it, the player should imagine the butt of the handle of your racquet is taped to your stomach so the racquet points at your opponent as you face him. If you just turn your hips, your racquet is prepared to hit the return.
Agassi also recommends a drill to teach a quick hip turn is for you to stand as if you're about to return serve. Then, have somebody shout "forehand" or "backhand," while you react instantly with a hip turn (and without a ball).
Another good habit to get into is to step into the return of serve, just like your ground strokes.
People often back up when trying to return a serve, but the best return will come when you are stepping into the court to return the serve. This technique will get you more pace and control on your return and you will also be cutting off the angle of the serve, making it less affective.
The Agassi Approach
Agassi suggests players ask themselves, How do I win matches? For example, do you play high-percentage tennis and break down your opponent with consistency, then Agassi suggests you just try to get the return back in the court.
- playing a baseliner, thing about hitting the return deep, but not necessairly hard;
- more consistent, don't take chance on your return. Instead, Agassi suggests stepping back behind the baseline a couple of feet to give yourself more time.
- a powerful player, be aggressive on the return;
- a solid server and opponents have a hard time breaking you, take chances on your return;
- playing a serve-volleyer, be aggressive. Agassi says, in this case, think about the height of your return over the net: You want to keep it low, so the serve-and-volleyer has to volley the ball up.
- a player who has one return that's better than another, don't be scrared to change where you stand in order to play to your strengths and weaknesses.