Your Partner’s Soft Serve

Most players have a harder, more effective first serve than second serve.  And sometimes, they have a VERY soft second serve that they hit all the time or just as an occasional error.  If you are at the net when your partner is serving a puff ball, what should you be doing?

Don’t Get Hurt!

One time (happened to be my last Florida match before heading north for the summer), I was playing with a partner who had a great first serve; but had a real puff ball second serve; and one of our doubles opponents was crushing his return of serve.

One of the balls he crushed came at me and I stuck out my racquet for a backhand volley … except, it was hit so hard it bent my wrist back; and it was tender for most of the summer.

Some Options …

If your partner unintentionally throws in the occasional puff ball second serve, or they do it regularly, what should you be doing at the net (other than ducking a lot!)?

  • Stand back further from the net to give yourself more time to react to the hard one at you,

  • Stand closer to the net so you can just get your racquet on the ball and it will go over the net,

  • Be aggressive and guess that the returner will be trying most of the time to crush a return cross court at the server’s feet and POACH (that will also put some doubt into the returner’s mind next time).

Maybe the best answer is to do all three … vary your response, so the returner can’t pick up a pattern.

What do YOU do in that situation?

This week’s Florida USTA tournament at Palm-Aire in Sarasota was completed (with some upsets), for all the results, click HERE.

Next week’s final tournament of the season will be in St. Petersburg and I will again be teaming with Noble Hendrix for the 75 doubles (vs. a very challenging field).  For all the seeds and draws, click HERE.

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8 thoughts on “Your Partner’s Soft Serve

  1. Unrelated topic:
    I am looking at shoulder replacement surgery to take care of the arthritis in my shoulder.
    Have a lot of confidence in the surgeon but still questioning if I am doing the right thing. Would appreciate any information from folks who have had shoulder replacement or know someone who has had the surgery. Hoping to find that it is realistic to expect to return to a full schedule of senior tennis after surgery.

  2. When provided lemons, make lemonade!
    One advantage of your partner’s slow serve is the returner has to generate his own pace.
    To generate more pace, he will have a longer back swing which gives you at the net more time to move when you see he cannot change direction of the return. You can leave earlier than on a harder serve return and perhaps be more effective poaching or creating a return error from your movement splitting the returner’s concentration.
    One adjustment to playing in older age group is the close to the net position for a soft serve is less effective. The wily tournament players will lob over you more often in that situation . The younger guys will just bang it.

    Winder, i actually have a tougher time returning that very soft serve myself! thanks, george

  3. George – At 75 now, the situation you described happens very occasionally in club matches against A-level young bucks. (And is anything more fun than competitively giving away years?) If an opponent is regularly crushing one or both servers’ serves, one effective final option is bringing the “net man” back to the baseline, removing him as a target. In fact, on one side we play “Australian” at the baseline, keeping us on our preferred sides as a team.

    Pete, i have played against two at the baseline and love to attack that formation! thanks, george

  4. I have a weaker second serve, but I find that some players who try to crush it often end up hitting it into the net. It also gives me more time to get to the net which is my stronger suit, as opposed to ground strokes.
    By the way – I think I recognize the server in the photo.

    Michael, and rush to the net you do! thanks, george

  5. The situation comes up often! I normally take a step or 1/2 step back when my partner is serving puff balls preparing myself for the volley when my opponent decides to crush the return When I see my opponent serving me puff serves I want he and his partner at the net to pay the price for that serve, particularly if the net man’s volley is weak, so I will often (not all the time)crush a forehand directly at him!

    Jim, me too! thanks, george

  6. Get a different partner with a better serve?

    Jack, sometimes that is a rare breed! thanks, george

  7. If my partner never double faults, I’m usually pretty happy, even if that 2nd serve is a marshmallow!

    Scoot, we disagree on this one … i say, put more on the second and accept a couple of double faults. thanks, george

  8. Or, take a little off the first serve and get a higher percentage in. Most players don’t think “attack” when returning a first serve.

    Greg, EXACTLY!! thanks, george.

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