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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Return of Serve - Summary #1

I have noted in the last couple of posts that more pickleball information becomes available daily. I try to keep the blog updated with both new ideas and new perspectives on old ideas. Those pertinent to the return of serve are archived in Chapter 3: The Groundstroke & Return of Serve, the third chapter of the "book" from A Pickleball Life that can be found along the left side of the blog. While I like the idea of the book chapters - it was mine, after all - I love the idea of an occasional synopsis of where we are...based on the archive to-date. This is the first synopsis about the return of serve. We'll start with a list of the most important learnings and then summarize their sources.

The 10 Commandments about the Return of Serve
  1. Keep the return in-bounds.
  2. Hit the return deep.
  3. Hit the return softly with some arc.
  4. Hit the return down the middle.
  5. Stay behind the baseline until the serve is struck.
  6. Target the receiver's backhand.
  7. Add speed and/or spin to the return to put the receiver on the defensive.
  8. Vary the speed and direction of the return.
  9. Dictate which player receives the return.
  10. Practice returns...with a purpose.


In The Return of Serve, we learned that the first goal of the return of serve is to keep it in-bounds and the second goal is to hit it deep. A deep return reduces the serving team's options, gives the returner more time to gain the kitchen line, makes the serving team's shot longer allowing the returning team more time to adjust, and makes it more difficult for the serving team to gain the kitchen line. In addition, a high serve is advantageous because it provides more time for the returner to get to the kitchen line. Finally, the target should be one of three areas. 1. The middle creates confusion and draws both players to the center of the court. 2. The weaker opponent will hit more errors. 3. Backhands are harder for most players.

In Pickleball Statistical Analysis - Return of Serve, we learned that a statistical analysis shows little apparent thought in the way a team returns the serve. Returns would be deep and short on a seemingly random basis. This happened despite the analysis showing that a deep return more frequently put the serving team at a significant disadvantage.

In The Basic Overall Strategy of Doubles - Phase 1, we learned that the primary objective of the return is to allow the returner to get to the kitchen line. When both players on the returning team are at the line, it allows them to keep their opponents deep and provides a huge advantage.

In Is the "Formality" Phase Dead?, Mark Renneson, in his usual contrarian way, discusses the benefits of of a more offensive approach to the return of serve. He does confirm the deep return should be used and adds that a specific target - such as a weak opponent - should be the goal. He also suggests adding spin to give the opponent one more thing to think about.

In Return the Serve Down the Middle, Right?, Mark again presents the contrarian view in one of his quick tips. He states that, despite many arguments to hit the return down the middle, the best option is a well-directed return. This allows the returner to dictate who plays the third shot rather than giving the choice to the serving team.

In The Return - Deep and High, we get further confirmation that the best return is high and deep. High is good because it gives the returner time to get to the kitchen line and deep because it puts the serving team in a defensive position. The exception is a short serve. Then the returner can make a more offensive return.

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