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Friday, January 12, 2018

More on The Return of Serve Target

Be sure to positively identify your target before hitting the ball...

Last week, I posted (Is the Middle the Right Target for the Return of Serve?) a Mark Renneson video in which he suggested that the best target for the return is the weaker opponent. His rationale is that a hit down the middle cedes control of the point to the opponents' best player. This contrasted with my earlier post in the "targeting" series (Targeting: Where and Why - The Return of Serve). 

In that article, I identified the primary target as deep down-the middle for 3 reasons:
  1. It could create a hit by a weaker backhand if placed properly.
  2. It draws the opponent to the middle and exposes the sideline for the next shot.
  3. It holds the potential for an easy point if the opponents get confused about who should hit the ball.

Mark posted his video in Facebook and I engaged in the discussion. I added another couple of reasons to those listed above. Any shot down the middle takes away the down-the line shot from opponents. This allows the good guys to set up their wall at the NVZ line in the center 2/3 of their court. This positioning optimizes the defense of the shot as illustrated above. At the same time, one of the opponents is now starting from the midpoint of the baseline, creating some angles that the good guys can potentially exploit.

Several good points were brought up by other participants as discussed below. 

My biggest takeaway was that a return to the stronger opponent can actually be a good strategy. If your opponents have a player who covers a lot of the court and poaches, a return to that player helps you keep control by forcing the dominant player to the spot you want. It prevents him from making shots of his choice. A deep return may also keep him from advancing to the NVZ line as quickly.

Another suggestion was to return crosscourt - back to the server but toward the outside part of their court. This shot forces the opponent to hit through your partner...who is already parked at the NVZ. 

The general consensus was that being somewhat unpredictable was important. Returns of serve down the middle, crosscourt, at the weaker opponent, or even at the stronger opponent all can be sound strategies and trying some variety in a game is a good way to go.

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