Best 2nd Serve Returners of All-Time
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 01:53AM
CAtennis in Consistency, Junior Tennis, Matchplay, Returns, Rookie Mistakes

Most coaches will make you feel inferior if you don't step into your returns, as if you don't understand the essence of hitting a great second serve return.  Maybe you are always feeling awkward being in "no-mans land" after making contact with a big kicker well inside the baseline, leaving you vulnerable on your next shot.  Or maybe you are making too many errors trying to play aggressive tennis.  Maybe you aren't wired to take risks, so you are fighting internally with yourself.   

There is nothing wrong with "cutting off the angle" or "taking the ball earlier."  All great advice.  By all means, if you can do it, I highly recommend stepping into the return.  However, judging from the stats taken straight off the ATP website, I notice a different breed of players.  Atleast half of these players are risk-averse players who like to hang back well behind the baseline and give the forehand a heavy ride (granted these stats could be inflated from claycourt play).  With servers generating massive kick and height after the bounce, taking the ball early isn't as easy as it sounds.  For starters, you need to be well inside the court, potentially leaving you in a weird part of the court if you don't do enough with the return.  Secondly, you might give away too many free points doing something that isn't comfortable for you under pressure. 

Judge for yourself, but the proof is in the pudding.  One can never underestimate the value of putting one more ball into the court.  See what works better for you.  It might not be pretty or efficient, but atleast you increased your odds of winning!  That's the only thing that matters at the end of the day, stop being so dogmatic and perfect!  Most coaches can't hit a heavy kicker inside the court, it's not that easy!  Take some pressure of yourself and let the shot develop and give the ball a ride.  One possibility is using a hybrid of staying back and picking opportune times to step in.  Plant the seed inside the servers mind for those moments deep in the set or match at 4-4 deuce or 5-5 30-all.  Those are the little chinks in the armor that change matches and tip a rookie player over the cliff.   

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