Bollettieri Q&A: Retooling your return of serve
Can you give me some drills to improve my reactions, especially on serve returns? I use a semi-Western grip on my forehand.—Hamid
Establish a strong foundation—with your feet spread apart at least shoulder width, knees slightly bent, and weight forward with arms and racquet well away from your body. As the server is halfway through his service motion, do your split step forward and move toward the oncoming ball. You must shorten your entire swing pattern on the return of serve; if you hit too many short returns, go crosscourt. Make sure you follow through as much as you can.
Here’s a drill that can help. All you need is a wall and a soft QuickStart ball (either green or yellow). Stand approximately 25-35 feet from the backboard, hit the ball against it and get ready for the return. The soft ball will give you time to practice your split step, concentrate on moving forward and hitting crosscourt. Then switch to regular balls. After a few returns, move closer—which will force you to tighten up your entire swing pattern—and use a semi- and complete open stance. The closer you get to the backboard, the less time you will have. This will make you realize that the return of serve demands you to start out with a strong, athletic foundation and a more compact swing pattern.
Dear Nick, I need to improve my contact point on my forehand. I seem to be hitting the ball wrong because I use heaps of energy to swing, but my shots barely have any power. I have been trying to fix this problem for a long time. Can you help please?—Daniel Zhang
No matter what grip you are using, you must have a hip and shoulder turn plus racquet-head speed on contact. Don’t muscle the ball and don’t be stiff. Relax. You don’t want to throw your body at the ball and try to physically beat it up.
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Nick Bollettieri of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy has trained many collegiate and professional players, including 10 who reached the world No. 1 ranking.