Returning Warm-up Serves?

geo3Most of us know the “proper way” to warm up serves for a match is to catch the balls your opponent hits and then to serve them back to him. Most feel it is bad form to return practice serves.

But when I had the pleasure to play on the Friendship Cup team vs. Canada, I saw that they had a different protocol… They returned their opponents practice serves for about six balls; then caught them and served about the same amount.

And it makes sense!

We warm up every other stroke during the ten-minute allotted time before a match – groundstrokes, volleys, overheads, serves – but NOT the second most important shot in the game, the return of serve.

Why don’t we start a movement to change the way we warm up?

Rod Taylor Passes

Keith Butterfield reports, “Sadly, Rod Taylor passed away unexpectedly July 4th weekend of a heart attack. He played in a few New England and national tournaments each year, particularly the national grass courts. Rod and I were good friends and played in many tournaments together. Rod was a terrific guy, a larger-than-life individual whom you would never forget.”

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13 thoughts on “Returning Warm-up Serves?

  1. In theory a nice idea, but when warming up serves I’m am not concerned about whether I give my opponent a nice ball to return. You would have to tell them where you are aiming and then it would be “Can you give me a few more forehands or wide outs?” If there is a time restriction this gets tricky.

  2. The whole “warmup” thing with tournament play is an interesting subject. The few times that I’ve been able to have a decent “hit” prior to showing up for the match has typically led to significantly better play – at least early on in the match. Seems pretty rare, though, for there to be practice courts available prior to tournament matches.

  3. Kevin – I agree… a good warmup really helps. i have played some tournaments where they limit you to a FIVE minute warmup (and no practice courts available)! thanks.

  4. Great idea for normal matches but must be discussed with the opponent before hand so everyone is on the same page. I do agree with Larry on advising where you will serve
    it will not work for tournaments because of short warmup time. George another positive reason for your great site. New ideas and immediate responses from credible
    readers. Now hopefully we will hear from others like Spike, Fred, and Dan Kennedy.
    I must tell you that in the past when someone was returning my practice serves it irritated me. I would say hey we are taking serves not returns. However it does make sense again if everyone is on the same page.


  5. My opponent only returns one serve before I aim the rest of my practice serves to not be returnable. Conversely, if I start the warm up serves, I always catch the last three served to me rather than take advantage by practicing returns on those. Have always considered it an unwritten rule that returning practice serves is not good etiquette. Do not think an equitable serve return “new rule” is credible. Just my opinion.

  6. George you might remember that I always return serves in warm up. I whip some, I slice some, I drop shot some. Just to get a nice feel….
    HOWEVER…. with friends mostly “ok”, with “opponents” I always get a bit of a scowl my way when I do so usually stop it. Seemed like its bad “protocol” to return the serve in warm up.


  7. Marc – yup, and against you it was ok. but as reported above, i too serve away from returners. george

  8. No protocol on returning serves in atlanta kc or Chicago where I started play. I know it was considered rude to return with huge pace and hit the server. You guys are making stuff up.

  9. Very sad about Roderick Taylor. Here in SoCal we also lost Pete Guerry . He just won the back draw at Irvine in the 70 doubles Hardcourts. He had Cancer and went to hospice right after the tournament.

  10. If I wanted someone to warm up return of serves against me, I would ask my own partner to go to the other side and warm us both up back and forth. No offense intended to anyone, but the less my opponent settles in to my serve the better I am going to like it. So how do I warm up my returns when my opponent is warming up serves? By using my racket to catch or intercept my opponents practice serves, usually as a simple drop shot at my own feet. That allows me to time my racquet face to his serve, and also puts the ball in my hands to practice serve back. Warm-up is a great time to check out an opponents strokes, movement and general serve. It is not supposed to be a practice session against opponents.

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