Returning The Big Server

Where is Nadal?
Where is Nadal?
Most of us don’t have a big, killer serve; but what do you do when you are trying to return someone else’s? You don’t need to throw in the towel and just assume there is nothing you can do. There is always SOMETHING you can do.

Stand Back

Check out the picture of Rafa Nadal returning the killer serve of Canadian Milos Raonic… he is virtually out of the frame of the camera. By the way, Rafa did get this serve back in play… and he won the point!

Frequently, the Big Servers are so used to their serves NOT coming back that they are not ready to play the point. And if you can just get their bomb back in play somewhat deep in the court (like Djokovic and the Fed do), you can get into a groundstroke rally where they are usually weaker.

Stand Closer

If you are facing someone with a big, kick serve, you can also take them out of their game by standing inside the baseline and taking their serve on the rise.

This does two good things for you: it allows you to play the ball before the spin takes it away from you; and it takes time away from the server – especially if he is coming to the net behind his serve.

Two Back

If you are playing a big server in doubles, Roy Emerson always tells us at camp to start with both players back on the baseline. This takes a lot of pressure off the returner, who doesn’t have to worry about his partner being bombarded at the net after his floater return.

It also takes away the nice target that the net man had; and allows both of you one more chance to get what would have been a put-away volley back in play.

So don’t give up playing the Big Server… make him do something more to win the point.

How do you handle the Big Server?

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6 thoughts on “Returning The Big Server

  1. Golden rule against big first serves ..
    Get your rhythm blocking it back and after a few games you have neutralized the threat of. Big serve.
    With big kick serves .. SWING AT THOSE AND SWING EARLY .
    My two yen 🙂

    Marc , yes, block back the big serve! PS Mike Lewis says Hello. George

  2. My method is to move to the T or out wide when they are throwing the ball up. If you move correctly you can get a racket on it, and the action of moving tends to put them off. Obviously if you move the wrong way they win the point – but they probably would have anyway! Andy Jeffery

    Andy – If you watch guys playing big servers like Raonic, they too try to guess which way he is going. Thanks, george

  3. Another way to handle a kick serve is take a very short swing at it, catching it on the rise, with your body moving forward. By putting your weight into it, “leaning” on it, you get power without too much swinging, and you can chip it back so fast it negates the net man and puts you in great position for the next shot. I usually do this, but often times lob off the same shot if the servers partner is playing close to the net.

    Mike – I agree with those two choices… move in and block back; or move back and lob. thanks. george

  4. Emmo also suggests a lob return is a good ploy sometimes as it gives you a chance to get into a rally. Naturally I agree as I favour moon balls for most shots interspersed with a few drop shots, also a good ploy when returning a second Serve ! Sadly for me, my opponents never have to worry about my Serve unless I’m playing against the wind when they might not move forward quickly enough before a second bounce !
    Have a good summer George & stay well for TF.
    Best, Howard

    Howard – Yes, returning your serve is the OPPOSITE challenge! thanks, george

  5. Just finished your book and and now will do a re-read with a hi lighter. I have always taught my students to think of returning a big serve like a volley. Short back swing short follow through and catch it in front using the pace to my advantage. I found that swing thought seemed to work.

    Ron, thanks for getting and reading my book! george

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