Returning Flat Forehand Serves

Discussion in 'Techniques / Training' started by Bigbag, Jan 14, 2021.

  1. Bigbag

    Bigbag Regular Member

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    Intermediate singles players here. I play with a variety of people above, at and below my level but I'm having particular trouble countering this one guy's serve.

    I'm a lot stronger than him in footwork and racket power but he perhaps has better touch and accuracy than me... and his serve is killing me.

    He serves forehand to the back in a really flat arc. It's too high for me to intercept early but low enough that I can't generate enough power to clear to the back or send a steep smash.

    I've had some success with half smashes, drop shots and outright smashes to his backhand but those shots give him the opportunity to block/ net shot while I'm scrambling to get to recover my base/ get to the front court.

    If the service is mine or I can get a decent return I will often win the point in an extended rally. But when he serves well, my returns are poor so the rallies are often short and the point goes to him.

    Many of the other people I play with I would consider above his level but I have less problems playing with them, or at least I can understand how to counter them in theory. This one I just can't work out though.
     
    #1 Bigbag, Jan 14, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021
  2. speCulatius

    speCulatius Regular Member

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    That cannot both be true. If you're at an intermediate level, you can play a clear there easily.

    Since you already say that you're having success with half smashes and in longer rallies, why not with the obvious tactic (that an intermediate singles player knows)? Play a neutral game. A neutral shot is flat above the net, fast, landing behind the service line, also staying away from the tramlines. It can be played upward if taken below the net, but it crosses the net already at a downward angle.

    This doesn't put pressure on your opponent but it limits his options to put pressure on you.

    BUT... a flat serve in single is like a gift that you just need to take advantage off, at least when it's not surprising. You can play everything you want to put pressure on him, because your position is really good. Work on your stroke and footwork if you cannot put pressure on a player that you consider below your level with attacking clears, a variety of drops and smashes. Or accept that maybe he's not below your level.
     
  3. Bigbag

    Bigbag Regular Member

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    I can play a clear, just not with enough power to go high and deep enough from the angle I'm receiving the shuttle. Other players that send deep/high clears are no problem. I can get enough arm extension and generate enough power to push the shuttle back.

    What am missing from my clear technique in this situation? In most situation my clears aren't a worry.

    So basically a drive from the rear court? Or more like a half smash?

    That's not something I said. I said that I have an easier time with clearly stronger opponents. For example that particular group has a young Indian woman that used to compete at district level. She kicks both of our asses of course but I've taken the odd game off her and the games I lose are often close and I'm rarely super behind. With the other, although I've won more games, he is way more frustrating to play simply because of his serve.

    Perhaps I'm just missing the obvious and a neutral shot tactic on return of serve is something I need to work on. Will incorporate it next time and post my results.
     
  4. SnowWhite

    SnowWhite Regular Member

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    Too high to intercept is high enough to get under and play a clear, at least when it's a serve.

    In a rally, you are mostly able to cover the entire court if the opponent doesn't put any pressure on you, right? When receiving a serve, not only is the court less than half the size, but you're also not under pressure and perfectly positioned to cover the serve.

    If you're having trouble regardless, just adjust your base to cover the specific shot you have trouble with, and adjust your mind to expect the shot. If your opponent then decides to mix it up and serve short, it doesn't matter much if you have to reach low, because you can simply play a high lift and you're fine. It also stops your opponent from playing the flat serve over and over, because you'll be consistently punishing it.
     
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  5. speCulatius

    speCulatius Regular Member

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    Impossible to tell without seeing you. Feel free to share a video!

    A drive travels parallel to the floor and is quite fast, so more like a fast drop shot. staying away from the area close to the net and the lines to limit his options.
    That's what makes it hard to draw clear lines between different levels of play, is also about matchup.

    Other than that, what I wrote before and what @SnowWhite said.... and a video would be of more help than anything else.
     
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  6. dnewguy

    dnewguy Regular Member

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    Hello,

    As others have mentioned that a video would be much helpful to fully understand your situation.
    You can still make it clearer by adding more details like your height, racquet arm, opponent's service action etc.


    What I understand is that the opponent is right handed and is serving from his right side court and you are also right handed. If this is the case then you shouldn't be having problem when he is serving from his left side court ?

    When I face people doing a fast flat serve (doubles) then :-

    * I change my base position accordingly to cut his most attacking angles.

    * I switch my legs (right/left forward whichever gives me more confidence).

    * I bend my knees more and sit lower than usual to intercept better, with my racquet arm half extended and wrist cocked, and racquet head open in anticipation.

    * If the serve is still difficult to intercept (fast & high) then I let it pass, it will land outside the court.

    Cheers.
     
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  7. Bigbag

    Bigbag Regular Member

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    Update: Neutral shots recommended by @speCulatius helped a lot. As did playing flatter clears. Before I was going for high defensive clears which I just couldn't seem to get enough length on when returning the flatter serve but more of an attack clear gave me the length I needed.

    Still a tricky opponent but today I won 2/3 games and was under far less pressure throughout. Hopefully not just a one off. Thanks for the advice!
     
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  8. Magwitch

    Magwitch Regular Member

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    There's a guy I saw with an interesting serve, as he'll do a high toss, looking like a long forehand serve, but then he dinks it short and low
     

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