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A faster return of serve, how?

I discovered an incredible trick regarding the tennis return of serve after many years of play.  This discovery only occurred after a significant change in life situation.  My tennis return of serve had been quite good for many years and it had steadily improved!  It seemed as if I had excellent reaction times and more importantly better anticipation of my opponent's tennis serve, than they had of mine.  I could see the ball approaching in slow motion, moving into the return, rather than reaching sideways, or stabbing, at the return.  This anticipation helped whether the return was defensive (a slice), or strongly offensive.

The serve return began to fade.

After graduating from college, not immediately but probably within a year, my return of serve anticipation, and reaction time, seemed to fade.  The ball arrived before I expected it, it just seemed I was reacting way more slowly.  This seems to happen in tennis, and all sports, your body only responds as quickly as IT perceives the need, not necessarily as quickly as you want it to!

Perhaps this is inherent in our nature?

Your body wasn't born to play tennis!  It just automatically responds to stimuli on an as needed basis.  Only through training can you enhance this responsiveness.  The trouble is practicing the tennis return of serve is not a very good way to improve your anticipation of the serve, IN FACT IT MAY GET YOU INTO A RUT!

No matter what, a serve takes a long time to approach you!

What!  One hundred miles an hour! Or more!  Yes, Yes, but the ball does travel a long way, and I do not know why, but you just tend to watch it for a while, before moving.  Just like a project at work, the time taken grows to meet the perceived schedule.

So what went wrong after I left college?

The entire time I was in college, and even before, I played a lot of, guess what, Table Tennis (Ping Pong)!  I can guarantee you a table tennis serve arrives, and must be returned, long before a tennis serve arrives.  Playing, and practicing table tennis is fabulous training for your entire tennis game.  So after college I did continue playing "ping pong", even at the Philadelphia Table Tennis Club.  This was back in the mid 70's though.  At college I blew everyone away (well almost), the guys at the table tennis club were mostly too good for me.  Part of it may have been my aggressive choice of paddle equipment, all offense, no defense.  Regardless, my table tennis days slowly faded away, a year or two after leaving school, and even more after moving out of the city.

And so faded my tennis return of serve!

I did not realize it at the time, but the table tennis anticipation, eliminated a tendency to be a little "lazy" in my reaction to a tennis serve.  Table tennis is awesome for training tennis anticipation and reaction time!

But playing both sports is confusing!

Yes I agree, when you are at the entry level of either sport, playing one my degrade your performance in the other compatible sport to some degree.  BUT, I guarantee after a time period perhaps a year or maybe even two,  your body will naturally separate the two games, in most cases, integrating the best of each sport.

An interesting challenge

One day while hitting tennis balls with a friend at the college tennis courts, we ran into two guys from the table tennis club, and they asked if we wanted to play some doubles, sure, why not!  I new these guys, they were nationally ranked table tennis players, and you could see in their strokes that they hadn't played much tennis.  Stiff arms, lots of elbow motion in the swing, heavy top spin, this was in the 70's when swings were groomed to be more straight armed than they are today, in tennis.  These guys cleaned up, pretty much blew us tennis players away.  They were, number one, MORE competitive than we were.  But beyond this they were quicker on their feet, and their anticipation was superb.  So even with bad technique the results were quite good.  The table tennis guys even commented to us, "you guys were out to have fun, we were out to win!"  And they were correct in that assessment.

Table tennis companions are hard to come by.

That is a problem, finding table tennis players, but if you play tennis with someone, maybe both of you could try some table tennis,  I think over time you will see a big improvement in reaction time, footwork, and anticipation.

I mentioned footwork?

I was amazed when playing at the PTTC what a difference the right equipment could make.  What equipment am I talking about, sneakers!  When you play table tennis seriously, you buy these really wimpy light weight specialty sneakers.  AND MAN WHAT A DIFFERENCE THEY MAKE!  Your foot speed improves drastically.  That kind of foot speed could do wonders for your tennis return of serve!  

This could just be another trick

I have never tried it, but always wanted to, wearing my table tennis sneakers for tennis.  I have not watched carefully but I do not think I have seen a tennis pro try this.  Granted you will have a lot less support and protection and you will have to buy a lot of sneaks!

Well I hope this tennis return of serve tip, helps your game a little, it used to help mine and I did not even know it.

Bob

 

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BHT Created: 06 Oct 2006

BHT Revised: 03 Apr 2017

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