The Return of Serve

Mark Woodforde (Munson photo)

Tuesday at Newk’s started with a clinic on return of serve from two of the best, Rick Leach and Mark Woodforde, and then first team matches with our Wankers vs. Newk’s Kanagroos.

The temperature had warmed slightly from the low of 51 (!) as Rick and Mark gave us pointers on the all-important return of serve…

  • The return of serve is probably the most important shot in tennis; but hardly anyone practices it!
  • Andre Agassi’s dad bought a $10k ball machine that could serve, so Andre could practice the return.
  • Always try to keep the ball in front of you.
  • Two things to do if facing a hard server: back up and take a shorter back swing. The harder the serve, the shorter the back swing; but still finish the stroke.
  • On the second serve, you can take your full swing.

    Rick Leach (Munson photo)
  • Try to NEVER miss a return of serve.
  • Also, the closer you are to the net you are, the more compact the swing.
  • Sometimes, “less is more.”
  • Don’t forget the lob return of serve; but use that as your second choice.
  • While waiting to return, have your racquet up and your grip in a neutral position, so you can move to either the forehand or backhand.
  • On second serve, you can start with the grip of your more favored return (forehand or backhand).
  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width, like a basketball guard; but not too wide apart.
  • Try to stand to take away your opponent’s best serve.

Morning Matches

While some went off for their singles matches, I was paired with Jim Capito (Columbus, OH), who I teamed with for the last two years for doubles.  But since our top guys were playing singles, Jim and I played #2 doubles vs. a solid team of Ned Dorman (NY) and Eric Davidson (CA).

Eric had a bad shoulder, so couldn’t put much on his serve and we returned very well (I did not miss a return until the middle of the second set!).  So Jim and I pulled off a solid 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Willy played singles vs. our rookie Ricky Hicks (GA), and even though I warned him what to expect, he was “Willyfied” 6-0, 6-2.  Rich T and son Ken both won their singles matches.

The rest of the matches were close; so we were down just 12 matches to 11 at the lunch break.  Therefore for the afternoon doubles, our Wankers had to win 8 out of the 14 matches to be played.


I was teamed at #5 doubles with Aiden Levine (CA) vs. Willy and 40-year-old, 6’4” Martin Wilde (from Sweden via Burlington VT).  Aiden and I saved a set point with them serving at 5-4 and brought it to a set tiebreaker, which they won; and they carried the MO forward for a 7-6, 6-2 win.

But our whole day came down to the final two matches being played – which were the #11 and #14 doubles teams.  Our Wankers had to win BOTH of those – and both went to 10-point Match Tiebreakers to decide them.

In the first one decided, the father-son duo of Jay and Eric Friedman won; so with 50 guys watching and cheering every point + John Newcombe and Roy Emerson giving on-court coaching, the Kangaroos’ Angus Deane (Newk’s good buddy rancher from Australia) and Jake Harle played our rookie Yehorem Uziel (CA) and 87-year-old Dick Eitel.  The deciding score was of course 10-8 … and it went to the Wankers!

In the other team matches, The Dunnies beat The Musclemen 20-17; so we will play the Musclemen on Wednesday.

Giving Away 54 Years

Dinner was Italian night (Willy’s least favorite), with chicken parm and lasagna followed by Doc Eden returning to the podium as Commissioner of the Australian Boat Race beer drinking contest, improving his record of nasty joke ratings.

Paul Stubbins and Dick Eitel

One of the reasons I am not playing singles is that I end up giving away 10-20 years to younger opponents on hard courts.  Tonight’s recipient of the “Senior Moment” award is a repeat winner, who played singles today and gave away 54 YEARS to his younger opponent.  Dick Eitel, aged 87, was down 6-2, 3-0 and brought it back to 4-4, only to let it slip away to his 33-year-old, 6’4” opponent, Paul Stubbins (Australia).  Do the math!!

And THEN, he comes back in the afternoon, to win the two-hour deciding doubles match for our Wankers.

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6 thoughts on “The Return of Serve

  1. George, thanks again! I am very happy the Wankers won and to learn that Angus is still coming to the event. I have very good memories with Angus, since we always “kept company with each other until the early hours at the bar. Angus is a remarkable person and I am honored to have met and played against him.

    Good luck tomorrow! Rolf

  2. I print out all the comments on play. Of course both “Woodies” were the best for many years and whatever Mark says is very valid coaching. And Rick, was one of the doubles specialists and his input is as well a great help for all double players. I am thankful to know all three personally and Rick is on top a fellow tennis collector. Great job all coaches!

  3. Thanks so much for the updates George – sounds like another incredibly close contest today – WAY TO GO to my beloved Wankers! Best of luck to all tomorrow!

    Jimmy, you are talked about and missed! george

  4. Willy-fied. We love that here in his neighborhood, and will be sure to use it in a variety of creative ways upon his exalted return.

    PS. Does he LOOK like he doesn’t like Italian night? Hmmmm….. give him our best,
    His Tennis groupies and fellow dog walkers, Margot and Debbie

  5. George: your comments are the next best thing from being there. It allows all of us not there to live vicariously.
    Jim Delavan

    Jim, wish you were here in person! george

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