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Return Like Djokovic

3 Things to Master
By: John Shepherd

Returning a Well-Placed Serve

This video at the bottom of the page highlights the key points to effectively returning a well placed serve. The main advantage of the well placed serve is its ability to make the returner stretch and hence set up a defensive reply. The serve that relies predominately on placement  is often used as a building shot, with the follow up shot being the finishing shot. In order to neutralize and maintain a 50/50 say in the rally, the returner needs to cut the ball off.

power step

Federer returning with a power step.


This is tough to do, and relies on the returner being able to do three things well:

  1. Develop the ability to rotate the shoulders quickly and shift the body towards the direction of the ball. The returners ability to do this is enhanced with a low wide base (split-step).
  3. Hit with a compact swing whereby the right hand STAYS on the right side of the body and not get lost behind the back.
  5. Be comfortable hitting with a power step. This is where the player takes the racket back with the hips open, contact the ball in full stride/lunge (often without any ground contact), and then finish/land with the hips closed. This pattern often feels strange for the junior player who has practiced largely using either the neutral or semi-open stance, so will need to be developed initially as a isolated movement pattern.

    In the video below Kuerten shows a great low/wide split step. Tracking his left foot shows how explosive he is. Beginning mid-way between the singles sideline and centre of the baseline, the first step ends outside the doubles sideline. Notice his right hand does not dissapear from our view, thereby shortening the distance and time the racket needs to travel, before meeting the ball in front. Finally, we can see that Keurten has dealt with Sampras's acurate serve using a single power step (contact  is mid flight - no ground contact).

    Fully understand the shot movement mechanics of this shot and many others by instantly downloading our 500 photosequence package for the low price £5.99.

    federer return   

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