(By Larry Hodges)
When you receive a serve, you really have three options.
- You can return the serve passively, so that you rarely miss the serve, but give the opponent the attack. This often means either pushing long or a soft topspin return.
- You can return the serve in a neutral fashion, where you take away the server’s advantage and get into a neutral rally. This often means pushing short or a well-placed flip, often to the backhand.
- You can return the serve aggressively, where you play riskier shots (and so make more mistakes) but get the initiative. This often means looping long serves and flipping short ones.
You should learn all three types of receives. All three can be effective, depending on the opponent. You should probably also specialize in perhaps two of these, so the opponent has to react to both types of receives – while keeping the third as an occasional surprise. For example, against short serves, many top players focus on pushing short or flipping, while using the long push as a surprise. Others push long more frequently, but then catch the opponent off guard by pushing short. Others receive aggressively, flipping against short serves over and over – and then catch the opponent off guard with a short or long push. Find what works for you – but learn all three.
By learning all three, you not only have all three tools in your tactical toolbox for use against different styles, but it allows you to be unpredictable – and that is often the quickest way to disarm a server!
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