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What is a good tennis drill to practice my returning of serves?

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What is a good tennis drill to practice my returning of serves?

Tennis drill return serve
File Photo Credit: SportSG

TENNIS TRAINING TIPS (1): RETURNING SERVES

Tennis drills are an important part of a players’ skill development. With proper drills and practice, the five main attributes required in tennis strokes will be polished to perfection.
  • Consistency
  • Depth
  • Power
  • Direction
  • Spin direction
For the purpose of this article, three types of drills will be introduced to improve one of the most under-practised shots in tennis - the return of serve. Now that you know how to serve in tennis, the next natural step is to learn how to return a server.

Contrary to popular belief, tennis drills aren't always mundane and they can be a lot of fun with just a little tweaks and challenges added to your training!

1. Aiming Drills

Aiming drills are fundamental to developing technical skills in terms of stroke execution. A good foundation is necessary before proceeding to include footwork and finally, overall body coordination in your training.

The first aiming drill involves at least three players standing in a circle and hitting the ball towards each other continuously in a random order. The only rule is the ball may only be hit after a bounce. This drill is usually the first in a tennis course, allowing tennis to be introduced in a non-intimidating and interactive manner. It also gives the players a head start in familiarisation of the racquet head speed and control, practising their hand-eye coordination and sense of timing in hitting the ball. 

The second aiming drill is meant to help beginners improve their stroke technique. The players line up horizontally along the service line and the coach is positioned at the other side of the court. He then feeds the ball to each of the players and simultaneously instructs them to hit either a volley or a groundstroke. The next player in line then takes over after each hit.

This drill speeds up reaction time and trains quick switches between forehand and backhand strokes. They also learn to pick up non-verbal communication signs in receiving a serve in terms of its timing and prediction in directions.

2. Levels Drills

Levels drills create excitement, confidence and a sense of accomplishment from conquering challenging tasks level by level. Through levels drills, players are gradually exposed to higher difficulty levels of play, smoothly facilitating skill development.

This levels drill I'm sharing focus on just one student at a time. The player will be positioned at the centre of the service line while the coach is positioned on the other side of the court. The coach starts with a series of long feeds and thereafter slightly more challenging short feeds, requiring players to sprint a little. After the player is familiar with both, the feed distances then start to get randomized. 

A similar variation involves drills of different levels in feed directions. The coach feeds the ball to the centre of the court several times and next to a far end of the court. The process is repeated with the coach continuously feeding the ball to the opposite end of the court. At any point of time, if the player moves away from the centre of the service line, he has to recover to his original position. The final level includes a mix of all three feed directions. Players now have to deal with the unpredictability of the feed directions and distances and have to resort to intuitive predictions. 

These drills train players to hit on the run, building up the player’s agility and increasing recovery and preparatory time for the next shot. This drill will also allow them to practice how to cover the court so as to avoid the opponent attacking them. 

3. Consistency Drills

Consistency drills are a combination of aiming and footwork drills with a levels element. It trains the players to sharpen their strokes and put their stamina to the test.  

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