Best Return of Serve Tips That You Should Know

Tennis Tournament Training Day 1 (4)

Best Return of Serve Tips

The return of serve is the second most important shot in the game. Are you putting pressure on your opponent by consistently making returns? Are you winning matches by holding serve and breaking your opponent at critical moments?

Best return of serve tip: Exert minimal swing effort by completing a unit turn after the split step.


Here are a few return of serve tips to get you started.

Choose big targets to start a match and hit deep down the middle and crosscourt.

If you are feeling confident with the control and consistency of your return you should practice a variety of power, placement, and spin. Consider height, depth, and angles. If you miss a few returns or your opponent hits a few good serves, go back to focusing on hitting big targets. You have to make your opponent play a shot after their serve to have the best chance of breaking them.

best return of serve tips
Best return of serve tip: Choose big targets.

2nd Serve Returns

Get in the mindset of adding pressure to your opponent’s second serve. Visualize yourself taking offense. Return with your best forehand or backhand groundstroke. Close into the net after an aggressive slice and put away the volley. You need to hit a shot that gets the server off balance. Even if you miss the return, you must send a message that the server will be punished for missing first serves.


Return of Serve Fitness

Look like you’re ready to return a 130 mph serve. Be an athlete with a low center of gravity. Intimidate your opponent with your stance. You will need to use your speed, agility, and coordination to react to difficult serves. The return is one of the most important shots in the game. Put yourself into a position to be able to explode in the direction of the incoming serve.


best return of serve tips
Best return of serve tip: Look like an athlete.


Time your split step with the servers contact of the ball. Stay balanced as you move forward to cut off the angle of the ball. Allow your momentum to take you towards the target. The best returners make the return look easy because of their perfect balance and timing of the split step.


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Return of Serve Focus

Focus all of your attention to the direction of the server. Look at the direction of the toss. Is the toss slightly out in front or slightly to the right? The opponent may be hitting a flat or slice serve. Is the toss above the servers head or over their non-dominant shoulder? Prepare to return a kick. Although some great servers can hit all serves from the same toss you may be able to pick up on cues and tendencies from most opponents.

See your opponent’s body and shoulder position at the contact point. If your opponent’s body is closed to the net, you may anticipate a higher bouncing serve. If your opponent opens up quickly facing the net, prepare for a faster serve or slice. This anticipation skill prepares you to take longer swings at slow high bouncing serves and shorter swings at fast skidding serves.

Notice the angle of the racquet face at serve impact. Is the racquet head traveling up? It might be a kick serve. Practice watching the face of the racquet to predict the spin coming from your opponent’s serve.

To develop your focus practice watching your opponent’s:

  • Toss
  • Point of contact
  • Racquet face


best return of serve tips
Best return of serve tip: See your opponent’s body and shoulder position at the contact point.


Return of Serve Foundation

Have a plan of what you will do in every return scenario. Visualize your best returns. Notice the:

  • Spin
  • Height
  • Speed
  • Placement
  • Bounce

Take the opponent’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies into account when developing your return plan.


Best return of serve tip: Take your opponent’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies into account when developing your return plan.


When your opponent hits an effective serve that gets you off balance, increase margins on your return. This may help you find a rhythm on your return and award you easy points throughout the match.

Great servers will keep the pressure on your return and do their best to prevent you from finding a rhythm. Vary your position and shot selection to give your opponent a different look. Try taking away pace or adding pace to a return. Chip away at your opponent’s serve confidence throughout a match. You may run into difficult returns, but it’s important to keep your focus on anticipating serves and executing your return plan.


modern forehand
The secrets of the modern forehand


Return of Serve Form

Strive for perfect balance and posture at the contact point. Exert minimal swing effort by completing a unit turn after the split step.


serve return


Go to the ball after the bounce to get your momentum moving forward. Find returns on the sweet spot of the racquet. Confidently extend your stroke towards the target for added depth and weight behind your return. Put pressure on your opponent by making returns that take away their time and balance.


best return of serve tips
Best return of serve tip: Go to the ball – don’t let the serve play you.


Return with Success

Break your opponent’s serve by getting several returns back in play. See the frustration as you confidently handle their best shot.



Best return of serve tip: See your opponent’s frustration as you handle their best shot.


This is a great drill that helps you develop a compact stroke needed for the return of serve.

Swing Volley Timing Drill

Stand at the net in your return of serve position.
Have a partner toss shots to both forehand and backhand sides.
Practice split step, unit turn, and forward movement.
Follow through towards your target.

One of the best return serve tips, Practice split step, unit turn, and forward movement.

Gain confidence in your return to make competing in matches more enjoyable. Develop a strong return game to take pressure off of your own serve. Have a reliable return game that builds a rhythm for a strong performance in the rest of your game.

We want to hear your success or struggles with the return. Leave a comment below.

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Coach Eric my10sfriends Modern forehand drills

Coach Eric
USPTA Elite Professional
Director of Tennis at My10sFriends Academy
Director of Tennis at Woodfield Hunt Club in Boca Raton, Fl
Graduate of Ferris State University’s Professional Tennis Management Program


  • Dan Le

    April 10, 2019 @ 1:38 pm

    Great teaching on the Return Eric. The pictures also are very helpful. Wish that you can go more into details, i.e. breakdown of different between return fast and slow and medium serves; and show more on how to practice different kind of returns. Thanks, Dan Le

    • Coach Eric

      April 10, 2019 @ 8:57 pm

      Dan Le,

      Thanks for the feedback! Return of Serve Video Course coming soon!

  • Kevin

    August 19, 2019 @ 7:47 am

    We getting nice tennis information through this blog. It’s Great and Very Helpful. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

  • Sam

    August 29, 2019 @ 11:52 am

    Informative post, this is. It is always nice to come across a tennis post that is useful.

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