Advice on Returning Serve
Stand up and take it early
by Ed Collins

Your return of serve starts improving once you begin playing the ball from inside the baseline, early in the bounce. This helps in the following ways:
   1. It prevents the server from exploiting angles.
   2.  It makes the server hit short (by putting pressure on him to serve deep).
   3. Your return gets back to the server quicker, even before he regains his balance.
   4. Against the serve-and-volleyer, it makes him volley from farther back.
   5. It enables you to chase down the short volley.
   6. It makes the return-and-volley play possible. 

To improve your return, use this formula:
   1. Stand up: on the first serve, stand at least even with the baseline; on the second  serve, move up a step or two (closer, if the serve is weak.)


    2. Hold your hands in front of your body, get your weight forward, onto the balls of  your feet, and lean forward with your head and torso. 
    3. Watch the toss, to anticipate its placement. (Look for the slice serve on the toss in front of the right shoulder, the spin serve when it's behind the left shoulder, and the flat  serve when the toss is directly in line with the head.)
    4. Time a step-and-split with the toss-and-hit.
    5. Time permitting, take two steps forward to play the ball.
    6. Abbreviate your backswing.
    7. Hit the ball on a line, not up. Hit it firmly, if not hard.
    8. Aim at a spot approximately six feet inside the sideline (the margin-for-error adds to your confidence in hitting hard).
    9. Practice the inside-out backhand return from the deuce court. This makes the server move unnaturally to his right. 

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