Unforced pickleball errors are often the difference between winning and losing. Among the most frustrating is a poorly hit return of serve. Today we focus on just 3 keys to hitting a solid return of serve.
Solid Return of Serve, Key #1:
The first key to a solid return of serve is to decide before the point begins where and how you are going to hit it. The more decisions we can make prior to when the point begins, the easier it will be to execute when the time comes. It is best if you communicate with your partner where you intend to hit the shot. Letting your partner know, better prepares them and makes it more likely you will be successful.
If you prefer to hit a forehand, as I do, prepare to do so early. You might want to assume a position that favors hitting the return of serve with your forehand. Since I prefer to hit a forehand, I will start moving toward that shot as soon as my opponent serves. Early preparation is key. Too often players wait until the ball has crossed the net to move. This is too late. As soon as your opponent hits their serve you want to start turning and moving your paddle into position to hit the return.
Solid Return of Serve, Key #2:
The second key is to focus on the point before it starts. Often we are still thinking about the last point as we wait for the serve. Thinking about the prior point won’t change it. It will only make it more likely you will mishit the next shot. Being present is key:
- Take time to exhale and relax your shoulders;
- Be certain you are aware of the score and that you are the correct receiver and in the correct position.
A solid return comes from your hips and shoulders. If you are tight and choppy during the return it will most likely be short or off-line. Don’t rush through the shot. Take the time to hit a solid return and set up your team to be on offense.
Solid Return of Serve, Key #3:
Focus on your feet. For me, this is the most important key to a solid shot. Our feet are usually the root cause of our issues. Moving your feet properly creates the weight transfer required for every shot. It also provides the space to allow you to move forward through the ball. The ideal movement I call 1-2-3. Step back, then forward (allowing your weight to transfer into the forward foot), then connect with the ball. You don’t want to run through the shot. Getting your weight down prior to contact allows you the maximum range of motion and lift from your lower body. You don’t need to take a big backswing. Good returns are a fluid motion through the ball.
Pickleball matches are most often won by the team that has the fewest unforced errors. A reliable return of serve is every bit as important as a reliable serve.