Returning Serve: Ad In

Ryan Harrison
Ryan Harrison
You’re playing a doubles match and returning serve from the ad court with your opponents serving at game point, ad in, what kind of return should you try to hit… conservative or aggressive?

That situation just came up for me and, when the server hit it to my backhand, I went down the line for a winner. I had alerted my partner earlier in that game that I was getting ready to go at the net man; but didn’t have the chance. He said to me, “I didn’t think you would do it at game point for them. I am usually more conservative then.”

What Are Your Opponents Doing?

The trouble with being conservative and trying to just hit a safe backhand slice cross court (which i frequently do!) is that, in that bigger situation, your opposing net man thinks the same thing; and is looking to pick off your return of serve. At game point, set point, and match point, you will find most of the better net men will be looking to be aggressive … and even if they do not out-right poach, they will be leaning over the middle.

So that ends up being a perfect time to return down the line or lob over his head. Go counter to what is “expected” and you can frequently hit a soft winner.

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3 thoughts on “Returning Serve: Ad In

  1. Doesn’t this depend too on what’s in your bag of tricks, George? Maybe your standard conservative cross-court return is a slice. But some, two-handers maybe, may feel comfortable nailing a fairly hard, low top-spin return. What are you comfortable doing and what, for you, feels conservative?

    Marc – yes, “conservative” for some will mean different things than others. I guess my point is… try not to be too safe and predictable; because there is someone looming at the net, who wants to pick off your shot. tks, george.

  2. Great topic, George, worthy of extensive discussion.

    I don’t believe in terms like conservative or aggressive.

    My belief is to hit what’s appropriate.

    This based on tons of info — what you know about the opponents, your own game, the serve, the server’s volley skills, the net man’s overhead, etc. Another wrinkle is the flow of the entire match to that specific point.

    This is why it’s important to early on in the match probe and attempt a great many shots — down the line, lobs, hard, soft, topspin, underspin, stay back on return, come in on return. This is a superb diagnostic. Also lets you see what you can truly do versus various players. Certain serves for example, based on spin, pace and so on, make it hard for me to hit down the line off one shot or another. Others easier. Also, some net men rarely poach and when they do are not necessarily effective.

    So to me it’s important to dissect this question — and practice many, many possible shots.

    Nothing is necessarily conservative or aggressive. Appropriate is what we’re trying to do.

    Joel – thoughtful, as always. i especially like the concept of having already worked thru a number of options during the match (perhaps on less critical points); so when the big points come, you have options. tks, george

  3. It’s the most important shot in the game especially at ad point when you are down. You must keep the ball in play and give your opponents a chance to error. Its the same when you are up an ad point. if you go aggressive and keep missing the return, you will never win. Maria Sharapova has lost many important matches by being so aggressive at the wrong time.

    Dick … But she looks so good doing it! Thanks , george

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