I never have thought I could have returned a serve in so many possible ways as I did today in practice in preparation for my upcoming Juniors tournament next week. I spent practically the entire practice session returning my coaches serves and getting advice from him on where to stand and how to approach each serve as they came.
After doing my initial 20 minute stretching routine my coach hit flat serves deep to the corners and down the T as well as mixing in slice serves. He would advise me to take the serves either a few steps behind the baseline or in a step or two in front of the baseline according to the situation he was presenting at the time. He would also advise me to always take the ball on the rise and when at all possible return the shot deep so as the rally begins I can be the player that can dictate the point. He did however explain to me if the serve is too good just getting the return back is what my focus should be and then trying to get back into the point with the next few ground strokes.
My coach also mixed up the speed of the serves as he told me I will not know if I am going to be facing a strong server or someone who is just trying to get the serve in and relying on their ground strokes to win the points. So I saw services that I barely could return back to the net and others that I dominated on my return and placed where I wanted on the court. He also explained that, when facing a weak server, I might have a tendency to want to jump out of my skin and hit the cover off the ball on my return. This is not always the best of ideas; if I do that I will lose control of the shot many times and the ball will either go into the net or long.
As an incentive for this session he also placed cones with tennis balls on top of the cones throughout the court. He would then serve to my backhand and forehand and if I knocked the tennis ball off the cones I got 5 minutes off the practice time because it was very hot and humid. I did hit a few of them and got a few minutes off the time. It was just a fun added thing to another day of practice.