We often see players doing the same return every time or just lifting from the serve putting no pressure onto the opponents. This is due to poor preparation, inefficient movement or just not thinking about what shot they are playing.
An effective return of serve is made up of 4 components: the stance, grip, racket positioning, and movement. Performing these 4 components correctly will enable you to have an effective return of serve.
Return of Serve Preparation
The first thing you need to consider is your stance. You want to stand with your non-racket leg in front and this will take most of your weight. Your back leg should still be ready, on your toes or balls of your feet.
Your front foot should be facing forwards towards the net at a slight angle.
To take the shuttle earlier and increase your chances of playing a better shot, you want to stand as close to the service line as possible. Many people will surprise themselves with how close they can stand whilst still being able to get the flick back.
You want to be in a bevel grip when returning from both sides. Having your thumb on the ridge like shown below will help you to adapt depending where the server serves to.
If you wait in a forehand grip then you will be later to respond to a serve to your backhand, this is because you will have to switch to a backhand grip. Similarly, if you wait in a backhand grip there is a gap on your forehand side which you will take longer to respond to. Higher level opponents will notice this and focus on serving to this area.
Your racket should be in a relaxed but ready position, out in front of you so that your elbow isn’t tucked in. This is to help you take the shuttle earlier.
However you don’t want your arm fully extended as you won’t be able to adjust as quickly to the serve.
Movement When Returning The Serve
In short, there are two choices and it’s widely debated which is best.
- Option 1 – Push off with your racket leg at the back and drive it forward.
- Option 2 – Move forward with your leading non-racket leg. You should do this by transferring your weight from the leading leg, to non-racket leg and using this to drive forward your leading leg.
We believe that it is whatever feels most comfortable to you and if you want to read more on which leg to return on, then check out this blog post here.
Different Types of Return of Serves
We have released 3 videos on YouTube on the ‘Return of Serve’ topic.
The first video shows how to return the serve, and two basic returns that everyone can implement into their game. You can check it out here:
The second video shows 3 advanced return of serves, including 1 deceptive return, 1 return that requires great control, and the third is a set-play made famous by Boe and Mogensen. You can check that video out here:
Returning The Flick Serve
The third video shows how to return the flick serve, and what shots you can play from this position.