Coaching Tip of the Week - Do You Receive to Set Up Your Game?
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Larry Hodges

Coaching Tip of the Week – Do You Receive to Set Up Your Game?

(By Larry Hodges)

Most players learn early on to serve to set up their game. However, many do not do this with their receive. They will instead focus on just getting the serve back in the most consistent way they can that doesn’t too easily set up the opponent. This works to an extent, but it’s not utilizing your receive as well as you could.

If your game is centered around looping, then you want a deep push when possible. Then why are you taking the safe way by pushing long, thereby letting your opponent loop, and take away your own loop? Instead, learn to push short, which will often cause the server to push, usually long. Then you get to loop!

Similarly, if you are good at looping against a push, why would you flip too many serves? It takes the deep push out of the rally.

If you are a strong rallier, then you want to get into topspin rallies where your opponent isn’t dominating from the start. Then you might want to focus on consistent, well-placed flips to get into such rallies, while mixing in long pushes that might force weak or inconsistent opening shots.

If you are stronger on one side (such as the forehand), then attacking a serve to a wide corner opposite your strength often forces a crosscourt return to your strong side. But it depends on the opponent – aggressive returns like this also allow the opponent to make a quick return to your weak side.

If you are equally strong on both sides, then perhaps you’d want to flip the serve to the middle, which takes away the extreme angles on the return. Then you just stand ready to attack from both wings, with your opponent already out of position from having to play a forehand or backhand from the middle.

Similarly, think about both your game and your opponents’ games, and figure out what are the best receives for you. Remember that all receives should do one of the following: Be extremely consistent (but likely allow the opponent to attack); be neutralizing (so you take away the server’s advantage, but don’t really get an advantage); or aggressive (where you get the initiative, but make more mistakes receiving). Which mix of these receives best fit your game?

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