Every point begins with the serve and evolves with the return. As with every aspect of the game, you can also improve your return with practice.
There are several things you need to be aware of when returning serve:
- Your opponent’s strengths
- Does he or she have a strong first serve?
- Is their second serve good? (It is often said that a player is only as good as their second serve.)
- Is your opponent right or left-handed?
- What are the service habits of your opponent? (Does he/she tend to serve wide or down the tee; with pace or spin?)
- Your opponent’s tendencies when they are behind in the game or facing break point
- The score (is it breakpoint, deuce or a chance to save the set or match, or a chance to win the match?)
You can improve your return game by utilizing the above information to decide whether to:
- Stand close to or further back from the baseline
- Play a safe or aggressive return shot
- Aim your return to the weaker side of your opponent
- Opt to go cross court or down the line depending on your strength and position
- Attack a weak serve; however, only do so if you have been consistently making most of your shots, because in pressure packed moments, you can be nervous and lose your rhythm.
You have control over what shot you choose to attempt; however, you have no control over what shots your opponent chooses to use or even how well you will execute your chosen shot (what you practice may not always be what you are able to produce under the pressure of match conditions). Therefore, be flexible and ready to adjust your strategy when it is not working during a match; yet, always remember it is better to return to the basics and simplify things when you feel nervous.