Second most important tennis shot also the most neglected
So, you've practiced your thousand forehands and backhands, figuring you're ready to go into that big match and crush any service return your opponents can dish out.
It's important to recognize a couple of basic differences between service returns and groundstrokes. Especially on returning a powerful serve, the backswing needs to be compact. You have to learn how to use your body weight and your opponent's power to hit a good return, rather than swinging away at the ball.
The most underrated, under-practiced shot in tennis, is also the second most important after the serve.* The return of serve can be an effective, useful tool with some practice and understanding of how to execute and benefit by it. Two of the most noted pros, Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic, are great examples of just how effective this shot can be.
An easy way to get better at this stroke and understand how it works is to break it down into three steps:
A likely reason why the service return is under-practiced is because you need someone willing to serve a bunch of balls to you. This is a good time for a pro or a hitting partner with a consistent serve to help you practice by serving a ton of balls for you to return.
*In the bigger picture, I feel the most important shot in tennis is "the next one" (see my "Boy Scout Motto" article, Feb. 1, 2017), then the serve, followed by the return ... just sayin'.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. email@example.com