What To Do With Problem Serves

By Larry Hodges

Everybody has at least one serve that gives them trouble. It might be a certain sidespin, or a deep serve, a short serve, a no-spin serve, an angled serve, etc. The question is what to do against these problem serves?

The obvious answer is to learn how to return them. If you do this, your level will go up - and relative to your new level, you will find other serves that give you trouble. So you should learn how to return each serve - but at the same time, you have to know what to do with these problem serves when you see them in a match.

Try a "scare tactic." If there's a single serve that really bothers you, attack it hard the first time you see it. Loop kill it, flip it hard, even smash it! Scare the dickens out of the server. Even if you miss it, most often he won't use it again, at least very often. (If he does keep using it, then you'll just have to figure out how to return that serve because you're up against a smart opponent!)

By going for the shot, you are not really giving up the point. You still want to win the point, and the shot may hit. But even if it doesn't hit, keeping your opponent from using the serve will often pay off in the end.

Conversely, is there a serve that you are very good at receiving? One that you really can loop kill at will, for example? Don't go overboard attacking this serve early in a game or you'll never see it again! Consider slowing down your attack of this serve, being consistent, and slowly building up a lead. At the end of a game, go for it!