Practicing the return of serve is a crucial foundational element in every player’s game. For every game you’re not serving, you’re returning.

There are three things to learn about returns:

  • Position
  • Strategy
  • Technique

Of the three, position is the most fluid. There are several factors that go into deciding where to receive: where the opponent likes to serve (an important pattern to observe during the match), along with the pace and spin of the ball. The sooner you can detect which kind of serve can be expected, and where it will go, the sooner you’ll be able to identify how close to the baseline to stand and which side to inch toward.

Strategy also comes into play here, as your return position can force the opponent to serve to a less-favored side, change the type of serve or, better yet, stick to their guns and be fearful of the return to come.




Understanding your opponent’s serving style can also forward your strategies. While you have your own return patterns as well based on comfort and skill, adapting them is a critical way to turn a neutral, get-the-point-started return into an aggressive, take-charge-of-the-point return.

This is where technique comes into play, because the backbone of the return is understanding that it isn’t just a forehand, backhand, or slice. It’s all about staying grounded, adapting the swing and reacting thoughtfully to the serve.

As you become more comfortable with your technique, think more thoughtfully about points during receiving games. Your strategy and position will start to become weapons, and even shape your routine in between points. When you pass the balls across the court after a service game, you'll be challenging the opponent to serve well—because you’re ready to attack.