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Steal This Drill: Serving With a Purpose

The purpose of this drill is to practice connecting the serve with the next shot in order to combine a deadly 1-2 punch combination. Often times, players will practice their ground strokes, then practice their serves (usually at the end of practice) and, perhaps, play a couple of points at the end. This is the only times when they have the opportunity to combine the two and figure out what they want or need to do with the shot that comes back after the serve. And, unless you're name is John Isner, the serve will usually come back. Therefore, it is important to master a combination play and take the guessing work out of the situation.

In other words, IF the serve comes back, you know exactly WHERE you place the next ball and HOW you can go about doing it. In the figures above, the blue line represents the path of the serve; the yellow lines represent the path of the returns; and the red represent the path of the server's follow-up shot.

First, set up the service box by dividing it into two halves. Tell your partner the half of the box into which you will be serving; s/he will then return it either down-the-line or cross court (agree in advance; maybe 5 minutes on each side). The server takes the return and redirects it again towards a target to the opposite side of the court (i.e., away from the returner). The players can either do a set number of serve/returns or stay in a particular role for a set number of minutes and then switch roles. This way, both players get to serve/open up the court and return. This is a drill that can be done with/without a coach so there's no excuse for not doing it. Thus, when your coaches tell you that you need to "work on serves and/or returns", please feel free to "steal this drill" and accomplish your mission. By repeating this drill a few days a week, you will become more confident at knowing how to react to a returned serve (fast feet; low center of gravity; quick back-swing; explosive follow-through) which will take more pressure off your serves to begin with (because you won't have to rely on an Ace or service winner to win the point). In addition, this is another great way for the players to get focused and repetitive practice for their returns.

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