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Drive serve returns

Discussion in 'Techniques / Training' started by Gollum, May 29, 2006.

  1. Gollum

    Gollum Regular Member

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    For a long time, I have had difficulty returning drive serves in doubles. I know that many other players have the same difficulty.

    (Terminology: a drive serve is a serve that travels flat towards the back of the service court.)

    I am aware that most drive serves by club players are illegal; but it is possible to perform a legal and effective drive serve, even from right at the front of the service box. You can do this on the backhand as well as forehand.

    I like to stand right at the front of the service box when receiving ("toeing the line"), so that I can attack low serves. In this situation, a drive serve is very hard to respond to, because it will often pass before I react.

    Recently, I discovered the solution. It's obvious really: practise receiving drive serves. Don't just wait until they surprise you in a game; practise receiving them in isolation from any other stroke.

    Here are my tips, based on observations in practice:
    • You must intercept the drive serve immediately. You must not let it get past you and force you to move backwards.
    • You must not move your feet at all. If you start to move backwards, the shuttle will be moving past you when you are unbalanced and unable to hit. Stay still so that you are balanced.
    • Do not attempt to turn your shoulders. Just hit with your arm.
    • For drive serves directed straight down your backhand side in your forehand service court -- which are the most common and effective drive serves -- you will often need to take your racket arm behind your head to hit the shuttle. It's pretty odd, but it works well. It's a bit like one of those "round the back" trick shots, but actually necessary and useful.
    • You do not need any special preparation for a drive serve; just get ready in your normal receiving posture. I use a neutral grip and hold the racket in front of me at about net height. Do not allow the threat of a drive serve to make you compromise your receiving position (for example, you could compromise by switching to a panhandle grip).
    • Given this ready position, my response to the drive serve requires that I make a backswing before I hit the shuttle. There is just enough time to do this if you do not move your feet. The typical return is a sharp downwards drive/flat smash that will probably be a winner. Hit using forearm pronation.
    Those tips apply to flat drive serves that can be intercepted without moving from your ready position. Some drive serves are higher; these will go out the back if served fast. If these higher (looser) drive serves are slowed down, then you have time to jump back and up (a block jump) and intercept them slightly behind the ready position.

    Once you can respond to these serves in a closed practice, you need to learn to respond to them in a mixed serving practice, where the feeder can serve flick serves too. The problem is this: for the flick serve you must move back immediately, but for the drive serve you must not move. Therefore you must recognise what the direction of the serve is before you move (high or flat); knowing that it is fast is not enough, because the drive serve will catch you moving back for a flick.

    Actually, this is a good discipline anyway. If you start moving backwards as soon as you see the server's racket speed up, then some sneaky servers will fake a flick serve and play a low serve instead (use a fast action and slow it down). So there are two benefits to this kind of discipline. Don't move before you see the shuttle!

    For those of you who use drive serves, beware! When someone returns them in this way, they will often come straight back at your face! You are very likely to be hit in the eyes, so you must look away immediately. If your drive serve was successful then you will win the point; if the receiver hammers it back in your face, you have no chance to win the point -- so protect your eyes! You will not be ready for this kind of response.
     
    #1 Gollum, May 29, 2006
    Last edited: May 29, 2006
  2. bchaiyow

    bchaiyow Regular Member

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    Hi Gollum,

    Hmmm, never quite scrutinize in such depth, but I agree with you. After reading your post, even when I drive serve, I noticed that opponents who can return smash it, they were usually standing very still and just need to move the arm. Even when playing against good players, they make the same mistake you are talking about, where they will "jump" back to try and return it, which undoubtly will result in mis-hitting the bird totally, or the bird will end up in the net. Regarding the do-not-move rule when receiving, I agree as well that the drive serve is very effective for those who break this rule.

    Rioght now, I'm just concentrating on practising my flick serves because, if my opponens can return drive serves, I will never use it on them again. Also, note that, lets say they can return the drive serve if you serve to their backhand side, then try their forehand side next time. They may not be able to return all drive serve, but if they can, oh well, back to flick server or low serves.

    bchaiyow
     
  3. silentheart

    silentheart Regular Member

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    Thank you Gollum for the detail advice. I just want to add one additional point. For the low drive serve to your backhand, you can also lower your body so your head is below the shuttle. At this point, it is easier to excute your point #4. Be sure to drive the service back to the open court.
     
  4. cappy75

    cappy75 Regular Member

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    The low drive that goes to the backhand is the hardest to return. Other than that, the rest are actually easier to return. Smoke 'em if they're within reach; let them go if they're high and too fast.

    Totally agree with Gollum that practice makes perfect whether in closed practice or just regular games (I used to get loads of 'practice' from community center drop-ins who either didn't know how to serve or just love to cheat:p).
     
  5. cappy75

    cappy75 Regular Member

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    Actually, in one baddy course I took last summer, we were taught to attack all serves with low body profile.

     
  6. event

    event Regular Member

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    I like driving a serve down the centre line to a righthander in the odd court, too. It isn't a point winner like the one to the even court or like a good flick serve but it is safe from attack and very often produces a weak, short lift.
     
  7. mettayogi

    mettayogi Regular Member

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    Is it really possible to perform a legal and effective drive serve from right at the front of the service box? Can someone explain how to do that and still be legal?

    I once had an argument with a drive server in my club. He serves several inches behind service line, and hit the bird at navel height. He insists this is 'waist high'. I disagreed. How would you resolve this fairly?
     
  8. cappy75

    cappy75 Regular Member

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    It's possible to drive serve if he's standing a feet or two back from the service line. The only way to tell if the guy's serving is legit is to observe him on the side while he serve. You might be biased if you're receiving it while you check out:p.
     
  9. Gollum

    Gollum Regular Member

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    Usually, players bring the racket head higher than the hand holding the racket. This is a fault because the whole of the racket head must be below the whole of the racket hand when you hit the shuttle. They do this to get power on the drive serve by rotating the forearm.

    You do not need to rotate the forearm, however. You can just use finger power (search the forums) to tap the shuttle for all the power you need.

    You must hit the shuttle below the waist, which is defined as the lowest part of your ribs. Service judges use the level of your elbow (when hanging relaxed) as an indicator. Your opponent is not breaking the laws by hitting the shuttle at navel height!

    At my club, almost all the serves are flick and low serves. So I don't get much chance to practise drive returns in a game; and when they play a surprise drive serve, I make a mistake and lose the rally!

    I get plenty of practice with low serves and flicks in games, but not drive serves.
     
  10. taneepak

    taneepak Regular Member

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    There is one player in our group who uses drive serves quite frequently and quite effectively. Initially I had huge problems dealing with them. But, now I just bend my knees a bit, and his drive serves are being met with fast smashes. He now has problems serving drive serves to me, and he has somehow also lost some of his confidence when reverting to low and flick serves when serving to me. I like to partner him because he does get easy points from his drive serves, but I have to remind him not to overdo it.
     
  11. CWB001

    CWB001 Regular Member

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    Not any more. The laws approved by IBF at its recent AGM included the following new wording for the relevant law

    "9.1.6 the shaft of the server’s racket at the instant of hitting the shuttle shall be pointing in a downward direction"

    to replace the old wording:

    "9.1.6 the shaft of the server’s racket at the instant of hitting the shuttle shall be pointing in a downward direction to such an extent that the whole of the head of the racket is discernibly below the whole of the server’s hand holding the racket as in Diagram D".

    This is a much lower standard (the head could be just 1/4" lower than the end of the handle) and means that players are going to have to get used to a lot more (legal) drive serves.

    In addition the bottom rib clarification is now built into the law. I don't know where the idea that the navel is too high comes from. My navel is 4" lower than my bottom rib and a shuttle level with the navel is legal by a mile (well, 4" anyway!).
     
  12. event

    event Regular Member

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    Actually, with that wording, the head wouldn't even need to be below the level of the handle. For the shaft to point downward, you just need to have the base of the head lower than the base of the shaft. See the image below with the red horizontal line showing that the shaft is not horizontal.
     

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  13. CWB001

    CWB001 Regular Member

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    I completely agree.
     
  14. taneepak

    taneepak Regular Member

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    Well, we now have a new lethal weapon-the drive serve. Tall players take note. How about something to offset that for the shorter players?
     
  15. MikeJ

    MikeJ Regular Member

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    I'm no expert, but I think ultimately, if enough room will be left for interpretation, it will be up to the service judge to determine if that's ok or not. (unless the umpire or anyone else in the tournament can over rule the service judge).

    (IMHO, it's like driving below the speed limit :D. Even if the speed limit is 100KPH, it's best to drive noticeably below the limit instead of driving at 99.99KPH. But then again, that's just my opinion, and I drive defensively)
     
    #15 MikeJ, May 30, 2006
    Last edited: May 30, 2006
  16. CWB001

    CWB001 Regular Member

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    There is no room in the laws for interpretation. Either the handle points downwards (even by a minuscule amount) or it does not. The service judge has to call what he/she sees.
     
  17. ryeung

    ryeung Regular Member

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    Is there a link to the new revised laws? Thanks.
     
  18. CWB001

    CWB001 Regular Member

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    Just go to the IBF website and follow the Rally Points System link.
     
  19. crosscourt

    crosscourt Regular Member

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    I use the forehand drive serve quite a lot. I don't hold the racket to my side but pretty much have the racket pointing straight down and so it is maybe more of a fast-flat-flick serve. The problem is that whilst there is no question the serve is lawful, there is only a very small margin of error.

    The players who have returned the serve best are :
    1. Short people
    2. Players with a good around-the-head shot
    3. Players who stand with their racket leg forward holding their racket up with a backhand grip (but this can cause them other problems)

    I've learned that it is vital to get your racket up quickly after the serve as Gollum's right in saying that a good opponent will send it back very fast! A good drive serve often results in the point being concluded within 2-3 strokes.
     
  20. event

    event Regular Member

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    For me, it just means that the laws now reflect the way people have always been playing. There are some pros in Korea who break the old rule on every low serve. Gao Ling and Lee Hyo-jung have this funny-looking serve where they start with their racquets nearly vertical but by the time they make contact, it looks to me like the racquet is basically flat. They get called from time to time though so I'm pretty sure the judges watch them carefully. I've never seen pros use drive serves, though, so this issue doesn't affect them in that way.
     

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