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A ball is about to fly at you at up to 163 miles per hour – what’s your move? Ocotillo Village Tennis Director Josh Bates shares his six tips for returning the serve:

  1. Pick your spot: Tell the server where you want them to serve. If you have a better forehand… Leave 60% more space in that side of the box. Give the server a box that looks open to the side you want to return from. Be aware of the wide serves. If your opponent can hit it there, close it off by moving in.
  2. Stance: You must get low, what you think is low… go another 2 inches down. Slightly turned, angle yourself to the server. Be on the toes with the shoulders leaning forward.


  3. Scout the serve: If you watch the left shoulder (right handed player) at the point where they let go of the toss. Wherever the shoulder is pointing to when the ball is tossed, is where the ball will be served. This allows you to cheat a bit and set up for either a backhand or a fore hand. Also watch the patterns. Most players only have two spots that they can serve to.
  4. Grip: The ideal grip is neutral and loose. If you have it in a backhand grip, it will take you that much longer to get it to the fore hand.
  5. Backswing: Shorten the backswing when the serve is powerful. If the serve is weak, swing away. Power – short backswing, turn the body, and push through the ball using the pace of the serve. Weak – Move in, racquet back, lift the legs up and through the ball as if it were an approach shot.
  6. Follow Through: It’s not just the arms, make sure the opposite leg follows forward. Stay on the toes, and either go in to the net or retreat to the center hash mark.


Remember, the server is supposed to win their serve. If you can be aggressive on the return they will break down mentally. It also gives you the cushion you want to have to serve away when you are up a “break.” 

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