Playing against rival who returns really well

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Every point in tennis starts with serve and return. Experts say that serve is the most important in the game because server has total control over all the factors that have an influence on the final result of the serve. However, if we take a look at the matches during the competition, it is visible that players, who are able to break opponent’s serve, are the ones who are winning the titles. Keeping that in mind, athletes have to develop serve that will give them advantage and make returns more difficult to execute.


Looking at the effectiveness of the service games, there are many variables that have to be put into consideration while assessing it. Of course, technical preparation and tactical decisions can’t be omitted to make sure that the serve has proper quality but sometimes it won’t be enough to win the service games, and the match too. Sometimes opponent just responds to great serves with great returns and it seems like there is nothing more players can do to change this negative scenario. Is there really nothing to do?


There is nothing worse than seeing how good serve is neutralized by perfect return. It doesn’t hurt when it happens once per game but if the opponent is hitting winner after winner in deciding moments of the match, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some players give up and lose motivation to fight. It is definitely not the most comfortable situation in the world and the score also doesn’t build the confidence but these are the factors that servers can control. As with any task in sport, to achieve improvement, players have to focus on areas that they can control. And in the situation where opponent hits great winners, there are some factors that if addressed, can change winners into errors or easy to attack returns.


To be able to solve this problem, players have to understand that words „There is nothing I can do” are not true. There is always something that we can change to expect different results so if one adjustment doesn’t work as expected, players have to try put pressure on the rival in different way. If you have the situation that you don’t get advantage with your serve and your rival hits great returns, it is time to implement specific steps into your service games:


1.Use variety

Opponent finishes the shots because he feels comfortable. Major goal while serving is to put returner into uncomfortable state so he feels pressure while waiting for the next delivery. Players can hit into different directions including the body serve that is almost always omitted. Then player can also use different depths, power, spins and trajectories to see how well opponent can adapt to different types of serve. If he deals well with one type of serve over and over again, changing one or two factors can produce more errors from the other side of the court.


2.Look for the patterns of play

Tennis is not about making the serve or missing the return. Tennis is about winning the points and not all the points have to be won during the first 2 shots. If the opponent is hitting one great return after another, you can discover that all the balls are going in the same direction. If you have this knowledge, you can choose given serve and quickly move in expected direction to get advantage over the rival and have more time for preparing successful response. With this conscious work, even the best returns won’t be a problem for you if the opponent will not include variety into his returning games.


3. Take him out of the zone

„Being in the zone” is the state that all players dream to access. There are many factors that have an influence on the chance to play in the zone but if it happens it looks like every ball is going into the place we want it to go. It is not easy to take opponent out of the zone but there is one thing that players should keep in mind: time. The longer the time the more difficult it is to stay in the zone so using available time between the points while serving can be enough to see how opponent’s returning performance decreases. Sometimes doing nothing and waiting can be effective solutions but they have to be done consciously - not because we don’t know what to do.


Momentum during the match can change from minute to minute and that is why tennis is not the easiest game to succeed with. Winning own service game is a priority for most of the players to get good score, build confidence as also to put more pressure on the opponent’s service games. By implementing recommendations from this article, you will never panic again when the opponent will start making great returns because you will know what to do and what you can control to change this situation. Practice this approach as often as possible and your opponent will always respect your delivery.