The first thing you need to know when returning serve is what to look at. Watch the toss. More specifically, watch the ball as it is tossed up into the air. You will then see the ball as soon as possible after your opponent has struck it. You may not see the ball at once, but you will see it sooner since you are looking where it should be. As soon as you read the flight of the ball, take your racquet back as quickly as you can.
The second thing is what swing to use. I do not advise my pupils to use the looping swing to return serve. Take the racquet back directly. The faster the serve, the shorter the take-back. Reason: the serve is providing the power when it is fast. You are providing the power when it is slow.
The third thing to remember when returning serve is when to step in the return and when not to. Do not step into a powerful serve. Instead, turn your shoulders as you take the racquet back and hit with an open stance. The exception is when your opponent hits a wide powerful serve. I suggest you lunge at it. By this I mean the following: step forward and across your body (toward the alley),taking your racquet back and swinging at the same time. If you are lucky you will hit a bullet down the line for a winner.
You may step into a spin serve or a slower serve if you can do it and still control the return. If not, stand in closer and use an open stance.
The fourth is where to aim your return. When returning a fast serve, aim it across your body. (A forehand return in the deuce court is aimed crosscourt to the server’s deuce court. A backhand return in the deuce court is aimed at the server’s Ad court.) The reasoning is that your return is likely to be late against a fast serve. By aiming it across your body, your late return has more chances of going inside the court. The opposite is true against a slow serve. You will tend to be early and pull it too far. So, aim down the line from the deuce court with your forehand. Aim your backhand from the deuce court back toward the server’s deuce court.
The fifth is what to do after you hit the return. In singles the general rule is to stay back behind the baseline. If you have hit a deep crosscourt return you may want to stay put if your opponent likes to return crosscourt. Otherwise, recover toward the center, making sure you have stopped when your return lands in your opponent’s court. If your opponent usually serves short you may want to stand closer in. If so, you should return down the line and follow your return to the net. If you are on or behind the baseline and the serve is short, hit it down the line on the run.
The general rule in doubles is that the first team to the net wins the majority of the points.If you can control the return, you should be able to move in behind it. Be sure to keep it low and
The sixth key to returning serves is the adjustment for doubles. Your primary goal in doubles is to avoid giving the player at net an easy shot. I suggest you begin by altering your stance so you are facing a little more crosscourt than usual. In this way your return will more easily go crosscourt. If you aim for the corner of the service box near the alley on the server’s side, the net player cannot reach it without poaching. It is also a difficult shot for the server, whether or not the server comes to the net behind the serve. If the net player poaches (running to the server’s side to pick off your return), hit the return where the net player vacated. You can do this if you take the racquet back as soon as you read the serve.
If the opposing net player is close to the net, try lobbing over the net player. If you see that your opponents are letting your lob bounce, follow it to the net.