June 1, 2020 - Do You Have a Quadruple Threat Receive?

Many players get used to receiving any given serve the same way, because it's safer that way. This is especially true against short serves, where many players predictably push everything back long. Others reach in and predictably flip over and over. But this makes things easier for the server, since he knows what you are going to do. Some receivers may vary the receive in simple ways, such as the placement of their long push, but this still leaves them rather predictable.

The exception is against deep serves, which you should attack in some way, unless you are facing a server who can't effectively attack a passive return. But even then you might want to mostly attack, since presumably your goal is to learn to beat stronger players. Learn to attack deep serves with both forehand and backhand, and to vary the speed, spin, depth (though mostly deep), and placement of your attacks.

It is against shorter serves that you should focus on variation. If it's short topspin (which most players can't do), then you should mostly attack it. But against most short serves, you should vary pushing long, pushing short, and flipping. By having this complete arsenal, you can both use what is most effective against that server, and vary your returns, so he doesn't know in advance what to prepare for.  Even if you are very good at one type of receive, that receive will be even better if you vary it so your opponent can't anticipate that receive.

Perhaps find a good ratio of how often to do each receive. For example, some top players use the 2-2-1 rule - out of five receives against a short serve, they flip two, push two short, and push one long. Others use the 3-2-1 rule - three flips, two short pushes, one long push. (Not that this ratio "rule" really should vary, depending on the server and his strengths and weaknesses, so you favor the receives that give him the most trouble while still varying them.) At lower levels, perhaps do more long pushes, but don't completely rely on them.

So what is that quadruple threat receive? Attack the deep serve while using all three receives against shorter serves - push long, push short, and flip.

How to develop these receives? Get a practice partner or coach and take turns practicing serves and receives. Ideally, get a box of balls and don't even play out the point - the server serves and grabs the next ball as the receiver receives. After doing this for a time, then perhaps play out one shot, where the server serves and attacks, and then grabs the next ball as the receiver just receives and returns the first attack. After doing that for a time, then you can move to full game-play and play out the points.