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Steal This Drill: Catch the Return

Are you the type of player who can serve his way out of trouble but have some difficulties when it comes to breaking your opponent's serve?! If so, this drill may be helpful. One of the keys to successful returns is to rely on the feet more than the racket. The return should be attacked and, yet, too many players rely on the racket rather than the shoes to get them to the ball. They are reactive as opposed to being proactive. The problem with this attitude is that the further back you intend to make contact the greater the distance that you have to cover. This distance is not only measured left-to-right but also up-and-down (since a good server's ball can really bounce high if you let it). 

To assist you with the concept of attacking the ball with your feet, put the racket down and grab a baseball glove (or two - one for each hand). Have your coach or practice partner mix up serves keeping them as far away from you as possible. Have her slide serves out wide; kick them to your backhand or hammer them into your belly button. Your goal is to move forward and catch as many balls around your waist as possible. By moving forward (like a team handball goalie: video below), you will learn to cut off angles and to do less with the racket and more with the feet. In the process, you will learn how to adjust your positioning by being light but quick and explosive.

When you master 10-15 good catches in a row, switch things up by alternating regular returns with catches. Transfer the skills from the catching to the returning and learn to use more of your opponent's pace and angles against her. By being a proactive returner, you will put yourself in a better position for break opportunities. 

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Reader Comments (3)

I assume then that since I'm right handed I catch with my left hand because the drill is all about the feet and movement and catching everything at waist level. Great drill!

June 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkarl rosenstock

I would suggest catching it first with whatever hand comes natural. The focus is on getting it waist level. After mastering the initial drill one can certainly try to incorporate opposite hand catching in order to engage the shoulders. Good idea!!!

June 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterCAtennis

Interesting that you emphasize FOOTWORK with this drill. In Oscar Wegner's Modern Tennis Methodology the very first principle is to find the ball as if catching it with the hand, but the emphasis is on the hand and the ball, not the feet. Footwork occurs naturally when the attention is on putting the hand near the ball. If attention is put on the feet it takes away from attention on the hand and ball. Otherwise, great drill.

May 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLucy

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