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Returning the return of a low serve (single)

Discussion in 'Techniques / Training' started by Ballschubser, Jun 11, 2019.

  1. Ballschubser

    Ballschubser Regular Member

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    Okay, I just started to try out backhand low serve in singles and encountered some issues vs an experienced player. He attacked all my serves by pushing/driving them into the back corners, much like an attack-return in double games. The attack was too fast for me to reach it in time, the only chance I got was to intercept the shuttle, which put me under pressure and works only occasionally.

    When watching pros, they never return a serve like this, so I guess, that either my serve is too weak or that my response is too weak (most likely both).

    So, why do pros not return a serve like this ?

    Because the serves are so good, that the receiver is unable to push it into the corners or that if the receiver try to push it into the corners the shuttle would be intercepted and returnes much harder ?

    To prevent it, should I learn to do better serves or to intercept the shuttle ? How ?

    Or is it, because my opponent returned my serves like playing a double game and I just need to play more deep flick serves to 'teach' him a less aggressive playstyle ?
     
  2. DarkHiatus

    DarkHiatus Regular Member

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    As you said, it's a bit of both.

    Your singles serves should land a little further from the service line (1-2 ft behind), which actually makes it more likely your opponent will want to play a lift/drive.

    However, it means you shouldn't need to worry about the net so much because it's harder to play a tight net on a faster, flatter serve. Therefore any net shot will pop up a bit, and it easier to move forward and lift to the back if you need to (which is perfectly fine in singles because you make your opponent move the full court front to back).

    So onto the next point. If you serve flatter/deeper like this and expect the flatter/lifted return, if your opponent plays an attacking lift/drive, you should be able to reach it in one step and intercept it. Since your opponent has committed to moving forward by attacking the serve and taking it higher, a flat clear return or even a drive down the sideline will often tip the balance in your favour. You don't need to be able to counter with a smash, but if you watch some pro matches where (occasionally) this type of serve return is played, the players do a single jump from the base position and smash it hard and steep straight into the opponents body or down the line. They are just too fast and risk allpowerful to allowing their opponents a smash from midcourt. In pro singles, you should only ever allow your opponent to smash from the rearcourt.

    To get this movement down, practice 1 step footwork patterns rather than trying to move all the way into the corner. You don't have to move far, you just need to get there and have enough control to play a straight clear (doesn't have to be high). If they try and smash your clear, then a block by you is likely to win the point, or force a weak reply, because they will have just attacked a serve, moving forwards rapidly, then shifted backwards to play a smash whilst probably still moving backwards, and have to move all the way forwards again.
     
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  3. SnowWhite

    SnowWhite Regular Member

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    Since it hasn't been mentioned yet and might play a significant role in your troubles, in singles, you stand further back when you serve, even with a short serve. Since you don't have a partner, you want to make sure you're in time for any lifts by standing further back rather than toeing the service line like you would in doubles.

    Also, if your service is continuously attacked in singles, it is much easier to flick over your opponent since you have to worry less about hitting it out. Flicks in doubles are trickier, because aside from needing the element of surprise, there is only a small space where the shuttle lands close enough to be in, but far enough to not be smash food. In singles you have a far bigger margin because the back tramlines are in as well, which makes it much easier.
     
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  4. Cheung

    Cheung Moderator

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    Check carefully the highest point of the shuttle path. If the shuttle passes the net and is still rising, then you put yourself in a difficult position .
     
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  5. Rob3rt

    Rob3rt Regular Member

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    They sometimes do, but only if the low serve is really bad. Normally they don't do that because:

    (1) The opponent is too fast and will heavily punish a flat shot by driving it back or even smashing it down.
    (2) The opponent will just play a lift by intercepting the shot in the mid court and the other player has no way of moving back so quickly after committing.

    That's why they always go for the safer shots. Deceptive high lifts, net shots, you name it.

    Don't worry, when I first started using the low serve I wasn't fast enough to intercept fast shots, either. It just takes some time to get used to it. After that your opponent will stop playing those shots because he will lose all those rallies if you are good enough to return them with interest. But, realistically, you only really have to use a low serve at recreational to semi-pro level if your opponent has a devastating smash from the backline or very deceptive overhead shots. In fact, at the lower levels the return of the low serve is the only way some players can apply pressure.
     
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  6. Ballschubser

    Ballschubser Regular Member

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    I think that a smash is always 'devasting' when its placement and speed equals the 'inablitly' of the opponent to play it back. Actually the younger players are the ones who advice me to start using the low serve in singles too, because they are quick enough to smash from the backline, still hard enough for me to counter it.
     
  7. DarkHiatus

    DarkHiatus Regular Member

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    For a lower level player, if you can get a good deep, high serve to the back, you do not need that much strength in defence to return it. You're not aiming to lift it back to the back with your defence after all - you just need a tight block to the net.

    Especially in intermediate level, due to the prevalence of doubles, players' defence skills tend to be much stronger, relative to 1) the ability to play accurate, angled, powerful smashes from the deep rearcourt and 2) the ability to cover the rear corners effectively from a short serve in singles.

    That is because everyone practises smash defence in doubles, and often defending from weak lifts or having to defend the full width of a doubles court because your partner did not move back into sides formation! Compare that to how often you smash a really deep high lift from the rearcourt. I often win 4-5 points alone from players unable to hit the deep high serve consistently because it's to alien to doubles players (because they hit a weak reply, often because they try to smash it and miss, or are unable to follow up into the net!). Also compare that to how often you move from playing a shot to the net, to moving to intercept a drive/flat lift that is travelling into the deep rearcourt - in doubles you'd leave that to your partner because if you played a net shot, your priority is the net.
     
  8. Ballschubser

    Ballschubser Regular Member

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    My issue is more, that I'm unable to reach the smash in time when they play it long line or cross.

    High serves in doubles aren't that uncommon in our club, without much trouble of reaching and smashing it back. But there are other reasons when you avoid smashing it back all the time. One reason is, that a really high serve drops really steep and smashing this shuttle has a high risk of hitting the feathers, therefor killing the shuttle (they stop using the shuttle once a feather is broken). People are not amused if you kill 4 shuttles in a single match ...
     
  9. LenaicM

    LenaicM Regular Member

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    They could play with plastic or hybrid shuttles if they go as far as to refrain from smashing on high/deep serves in order to save shuttles... It's just not right.
     
  10. DarkHiatus

    DarkHiatus Regular Member

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    Nobody does a high serve in doubles, because it's not legal for it to land in the rear tramlines at the back. There is a huge difference between defending a smash from the true rearcourt, and the doubles service line. 1 ft leads to a lot of speed reduction, and more reaction time.

    This leads me to believe your high serve is not correct. Watch some professional women's singles players serve, and watch how far the receiver must move their feet to hit it correctly.

    Next time you try a singles game, try a high serve and watch where your opponents feet are when they are able to smash. If they are both outside the court, then your serve is good, if they are both inside the court, your serve is not acceptable.

    As a side note, losing feathers is not due to smashing a high serve correctly. That is due to bad technique and mishitting the shuttle, mostly likely because they are not used to attacking high serves and mistime their stroke.

    I mean, the pro MS players sometimes do a high serve for variation, and used to do it a lot more even in the age of Peter Gade/Taufik Hidayat. They didn't replace a shuttle every point, and if they did, it wasn't due to a full feather breakage!
     
    #10 DarkHiatus, Jun 12, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  11. Ballschubser

    Ballschubser Regular Member

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    A high serve is not a far serve,it is okay as long as they do not fear a devasting smash. We have a really wide range of players, some are 30 years younger than me (jump smash, speed), some are 20 years older (stationary, trick-shots). Some play in the lower leagues, some are going to the BWF World Senior Championships this year.

    I check it from time to time where my high serves land. Even hitting the backcourt T is possible, but it is not consistent. Nevertheless, I would like to try out a low serve to learn a more attacking style serve, instead of the defence style high serve. I try to improve it instead of going back to a more safer variant. Failure is an important part of learning.

    We are by far no pros and my technique will be bad enough to explain it this way, but the racket head is turned slightly downward and the shuttle is almost falling vertically downward, that you will hit the feathers first in this case, won't you ?

    Shuttles are replaced very often in top games, thought most likely due to minor damage or tactical reasons (some seconds more to take a break). And for sure not every smash results in a broken feather, but the risk is much higher than playing a low serve.
     
    #11 Ballschubser, Jun 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
  12. Cheung

    Cheung Moderator

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    Then your high serve in singles is not good enough or your opponent is too good for you.
     
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  13. DarkHiatus

    DarkHiatus Regular Member

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    Clearly, I am not going to convince you to improve your game with a good high serve, because you are hellbent on improving your game with the low serve, just as I was a couple years back. Got the videos to prove it too ;)

    The problem with learning by failure is that it often creates or reinforces bad habits instead.

    Anyway, from a tactics perspective, the short serve isn't for an attacking game, and a high serve isn't for a defensive game, it's actually the other way round in singles. In singles, you should not confuse hitting a shuttle downwards as attacking play - that is reserved for doubles.

    The short serve is used to neutralise any advantage your opponent might otherwise have if you high serve by limiting the options he has reply with but if you are weak to him flicking it past you, then your short serve isn't creating a neutral situation anymore anyway. Since your opponent receives it in a relatively central base position, you're not creating any attacking opportunities, but nor are you giving him any immediately. Unfortunately, as you're finding out, most people are VERY used to short serve due to the prevalence of doubles, therefore it's even more 'defensive' than a high serve is, because players are more used to attacking them.

    The high serve is also used to neutralise most advantages your opponent might have, unless he possesses an extremely hard and accurate smash, and it has the added advantage of creating space in the front of your opponents court, so it is actually more attacking than the short serve! If you return a smash with a tight block to the net, then you have one of the most energy efficient attacks in singles - I mean just watch Kento Momota against Axelsen for example.

    Finally, regarding hitting feathers on high serves, if your racquet is facing downwards enough to hit the feathers without contacting the cork at all during the stroke, then it's not going to make it over the net. If you hit it in such a way that you hit the feather first, then hit the cork, then you will do minimal damage to the shuttle, because it's actually very strong in this direction, as long as you end up hitting through the cork. The hitting feathers first is actually one of the reasons why the high serve is so effective - it sucks power out of a smash by elongating the contact time with the racquet strings, and dampens the flex/trampoline effect of the shaft bending/strings deforming.

    Anyway, enjoy learning the short serve journey :)
     
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  14. Ballschubser

    Ballschubser Regular Member

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    They, the much younger and still more experienced players, are for sure too good for me. My goal isn't to win a game yet, but to challenge them more than the week before.

    I know, therefor I post in a forum full of experts to help me avoiding this case.

    Hmm...

    Hmmm.. that acutally coincides with my experiences.

    Momota has excellent defensive skills, thought he get in trouble when playing vs a strong smasher like Shi Y. Q.

    Going to a forum, asking for help and then hold on old habits is just stupid.

    Therefor you conviced me to let go of the low-serve and try to get better at high-serve and defending smashes. You are right, the low-serve put me under much more pressure than the occasionaly smash return from my high-serve.
     
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  15. DarkHiatus

    DarkHiatus Regular Member

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    What is fun about the high serve, is that you can also throw in a short forehand serve every now and then - you do have to practice this serve so that it is not far off your backhand short serve, but it doesn't need to be as tight because you're opponent is not expecting it when you use it (just like flick serving with backhand short serve does not have to be as tight!).

    Since you are using it for variation purposes, it makes your opponent less sure about smashing the high serve (as his footwork may be less sure, and much less likely to be jump smash), and also has a bonus that you are less likely to be attacked on your short serve, so you can practise the responses to your short serve without a huge amount of pressure (unless you're playing someone VERY strong or course, but you'll have problems anyway).

    As you become more comfortable doing forehand short serves and responding to the likely replies, you can adjust to backhand short serve if you want more consistency if you want. Or simply if you identify that your opponent is weaker to short than high serves - Tai Tzu Ying is a notable example of a player who varies her serve a lot - she does forehand high and short serves, as well as backhand short/flick serves, often all within a single game. She is known as the queen of deception, and there is nothing better than variation to keep your opponent guessing. Believe it or not, there are some people who are weaker to forehand short serves than backhand short serves, even if the shuttle takes the exact same trajectory. It's like playing a left hander, the shuttle trajectory is the same, but it's unusual and that difference often causes loss of anticipation, and even timing issues leading to mishits.

    Some players never let go of the forehand short serve because they develop it to be very accurate e.g. Jan O'Jorgensen, Wei Nan. These pros are not losing because their serves are inadequate; after all they almost always manage to get into a rally in a neutral situation...they are just not as strong as their opponents overall to be WR#1 players. I admit this is a bit unfair to JOJ since he did attain WR#2 which is incredible already!
     
    #15 DarkHiatus, Jun 14, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
  16. LenaicM

    LenaicM Regular Member

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    Same goes with the flick when performing a backhand short serve. I also find the flick to be a more deceptive variation to the short backhand serve than the short forehand serve is a deceptive variation of the long forehand serve.
     
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  17. LenaicM

    LenaicM Regular Member

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    Don't give up on the low serve. If you get attacked on the short backhand serve it is simply because it is not done right yet and because you don't move fast enough around the 4 corners of the court. Just practice to make it better.

    The short serve is much more consistent when done right than the high deep serve. At our level it sure is perceived as an advantage to serve high because we expect the opponent to have weak smashes but what if he doesn't smash and just drop or clear the shuttle? We become the ones being pressured.

    Also how many players at our level can perform a consistent high deep serve? On a set, let alone a full match, high deep serves easily results in 3 to 5 points lost. Whether the shuttle is out resulting in a direct fault or too short and can be smashed easily. It's very hard to perform a consistent deep high serve landing between the two back lines of the court every single time. To perform a consistent short backhand serve is much easier although it might take more time to practice and a better footwork ability to be ready for the opponent's answer to our short serve.

    Short serves also work at a lower level. But obviously it has to be done right and with the occasional flick to push back the opponent to his court when too aggressive and even when he is not aggressive yet a flick here and there helps to remind the opponent it's around the corner so he can't even think of attacking the shuttle too hard.

    How to improve your backhand low serve? Well I don't know for sure I'm no coach :p but here is my method and what worked for me: get a box full of shuttles or at least a few tubes, and serve on both pair and unpair sides until right. We're talking about thousand of serves here. After each serve position yourself slightly on the side of the court where the shuttle lands. After your serve gets consistent and pass right over the net and the shuttle starts to descend as soon as it enters the opponent's court zone you're good to go. Now add a simple 4 corners shadow exercise: serve and practice your footwork on the 4 corners of the court to simulate one of the 4 possible returns of a low serve which are mainly the 4 corners. Once you can move to those 4 corners quick and efficiently after serving and your serve is consistent enough, you can do the next exercise with a partner that will practice his return of short serve on the 4 corners (and try to precisely land the shuttle at the net or at the back of the court) while you will practice your serve and the third stroke of the rally before exchanging roles. You can do mini games of 5 serves each before exchanging roles. It's fun and a real good exercise for both players to become more consistent at the beginning of the rally and stop loosing points quickly whether on the serve, the return of serve or the third shot. That being said if done right a high deep serve is a killer asset too but I don't think low serves are to exclude entirely from the amateur singles scene.
     
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  18. DarkHiatus

    DarkHiatus Regular Member

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    Easy fix - just become better at the thing that is most fundamental to badminton, and that everyone is trying to improve already! a.k.a. footwork.

    By pushing to develop his game solely with the backhand serve, you are asking OP to run before he can walk.

    You say many amateurs can't high serve accurately - if they served half as many times as they did backhand serves in doubles, you can guarantee the quality of high serves would be better.

    Anyway, it's either:
    1) backhand serve and get good at covering 4 corners quickly
    2) high serve and get good at defending

    Given the fact that most players get smashed at very often in doubles compared to having to cover 4 corners, the defence improvement is probably easier. That and playing a block to net also requires a lot less learning (and difficulty) than learning how to quickly cover 4 corners under the high pressure that amateurs often attack short serves with.

    As always, it's best to be able to do both, but if you're looking at improving soon, the high serve will be a lot easier to pick up, and you'll then become fast enough to handle backhand serving.
     
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  19. Cheung

    Cheung Moderator

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    The trouble is with low serve is all the amatuer guys think it's a normal serve because they see it in done routinely in videos.

    Thus they don't see the tactical advantages of the high serve.

    For the OP, in singles, the quality of the low serve is not good enough. But even if you played a good low serve, I doubt you would make headway. With a good high and consistent serve, it's a very powerful and subtle mental weapon over the course of a match. That's what @DarkHiatus has discovered after me telling him get a good high serve. Now, you may not see this benefit so obviously in a 21 point one game match at your club.

    I applaud you. One must be open to change. You will revisit the low serve but with better experience in the future. You can always observe and try to analyse why does an opponent rushes your serve and not someone else's.
     
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  20. Cheung

    Cheung Moderator

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    I find the opposite. I have played winners from the latter.
     

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