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Tennis Strategy #22 Establishing Movement In Return Game

Flipping It Around To the Return Game

One of the best possible ways to gain control of the point in a return game is to steer as many shots to your forehand as you possibly can, except of course if your backhand happens to be a stronger shot. If indeed you want more forehands, then you need to return the serve to their forehand. Conversely returning to their backhand will get you more backhands, with some exceptions, if you are able to jam their backhand in tight, you can often get a weak reply which allows you to have a lot of time to move to a forehand in a pretty wide range of shot.

Make Them Play

Since changing the direction of the return of a first serve is one of the most challenging objectives for your timing, your first priority should be in making the return, before attempting to assert your strategy. Your primary objective shifts on second serves, but it all depends on how good that second serve is. Maximizing your offense in attacking second serve, playing a very smart shot with the first ball to get a wedge set in to create leverage to your main strategy can change the match. Letting those opportunities slip by without capitalizing can make things more difficult. You will have to really practice the timing of your return even against second serves to change the direction well.

Safest Return

The safest thing for you to do with return is hitting it back the direction from which it came. This will lead to decision making each time you play. How well do you time this opponent’s serve? If you are not timing it well, creating too many return errors, then you will want to get more conservative in your approach, living to fight another day. It’s vital that you don’t lose the point early, by being overly aggressive. Sometimes with your return strategy, it’s far more wise to make your opponent play a ball, then trying to initiate your strategy on the second ball. In an even match, your opponent has the most control over the initiation of the strategy by virtue of making a first serve. Make the return, then from the second ball, try to begin moving the opponent around the court, and usually I recommend going deep cross court from where the opponent’s second shot goes on your side.

Aggressive Mind Shift

Second serve return, often creates a much better opportunity to establish your strategy, so mentally shifting to a more assertive mindset of planning the kind of shot you want to hit helps create the possibility that it might actually happen. It’s going to take practice to learn to capitalize fully on second serves. Plan this, be different, make the conscious decision to be a player who often practices serves and returns with a live practice partner. This can give you a huge edge over the majority of players who are very under-practiced at the two most important shots in the game.


If you're gonna play a movement game be a good mover. Work on your ability to move on the court by doing movement drills with changes in direction, working on different contact moves for the ball. Learn and practice making angles that require you to time the ball well. Be honest in your assessments, and recognize when your opponent is a better mover and/or is better at pressuring your movement. As soon as you realize that you will need to change tactics, or use a completely different strategy.

Movement tactics are not complicated, so don’t make them so. If you start overthinking and try to get too tricky and unpredictable, maybe your personality is really that of a disruptive player. If your physical skills are that of the movement specialist, be OK without a lot of mystery as to the game plan.

Movement Game Isn't Chess, It's Checkers

You will have 3 plays, and rarely up to 5 plays that you run. Run them well. It has been said of some great sports performers and teams, that you know what they are going to do, like Steph Curry hitting a 3 pointer in basketball, but can you stop them. You want your game not to be unpredictable, but unstoppable. You want your opponent to think ‘uh oh, here it comes again’. Your three different plays are different enough, that the opponent will have to do a wide variety of movements and cover greater distances.

The Big Three

Your three big objectives in order are to run them for distance, wrong foot them, and freeze them where they are. Finally, the one skill that will help you the most in your technique is to disguise your shots, because then the opponent won’t be able to anticipate what you are about to do, and get an early start.

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