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Three Basic Responses For Receiving Serves 03/22/04
By Masaaki Tajima, U.S. National Junior Girls Coach

Ever since the introduction of sponge rubber in competition in 1957, tactics, strategies and equipment technology have been evolving. But since then, one tactic remained constant, the third-ball attack; first ball is the serve, the second its return and the third is attacking the return with either some variation of topspin or a hit establishing an offensive advantage. And because of today’s ever-creative serves, the server has the advantage.

To counter this, the receiver’s first choice should be to attack it with topspin or a loop because most serves are short but not so short that you cannot attack it. Second choice should be a flip or a roll, fast as possible to reduce your opponents response time as short as possible. And third, push, if it is backspin and too short to flip or loop it (Do not push short topspin serves unless you know exactly what you are doing).

This is basic tactics. Which shot you should use and when depends on the strength and weaknesses of your opponent, flow of the match and the level of your competency and confidence. As an example, some times, it is wiser to push when you see that your opponent is not good at attacking backspin and you see that they either miss attempting to attack it or you know they will push it back allowing you the extra anticipation time to respond with a strong attack.

And some times, even when you are not so competent or confident at attacking or flipping serves, you may have no other choice. When you experience this, you will know you reached a certain playing level and will not advance any further if you don’t work on attacking serves. At higher levels of play, all weak service return will be attacked immediately and you will be on the defensive. Even if you are a defensive player (Chopper) or a counter player, you should have this skill as an option to use. The more weapons you have, more versatile you will be in handling multitude of situations and styles.

To be able to attack the serve, you should first have some level of fundamental looping capabilities. There is no point in trying to attack serves if you are not consistent in basic looping skills. 

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