I have been following your videos relating to return of serve which are excellent. One of Tom’s solo videos during lockdown described how you should not be predictable in your return but look for change in pace, spin and direction when returning an opponent’s serve. One of the serves I find difficult to return agressively (as a player with an attacking style of play) is a strong sidespin/backspin (tomahawk style) where the opponent serves a half long ball to my forehand side. The ball keeps low over the net and after bouncing on my side of the table the sidespin takes it towards the right hand edge of the table, dipping low before leaving the table. As it is half long, any attempt to topspin is weak and the ball crashes into the net. I can push it back but this leaves me open to a third ball attack. I can’t use a forehand flick as the ball is below the level of the net.
What would you suggest could be used to return this type of serve? For example, Is there any part of the ball I should be aiming at to try and counteract or lessen the spin to allow me to regain the initiative? I am a right handed player.
I look forward to seeing you new videos.
Ok so for this type of serve I would suggest trying to push and work on this aggressive low type of push which is still hard for the server to 3rd ball attack. Of course if the push is too weak this will leave you open to attack as you said and often playing a half long topspin can also end up a bit weak. I often use an aggressive push return as an option for this serve and find with practice you can keep it low and deep.
To do this you need to make sure you take the ball early and also contact on the side of the ball against the side spin to counteract it but also help keep the ball low. Also try not to be too careful with the return, it’s important to be decisive and positive against a high spin serve.
Let me know if that all makes sense.
I think what you are describing is more like a fast aggressive ‘Jab’ stroke against the sidespin. I will try taking the ball earlier (as soon as it bounces) The other serve which caught me out was a slow reverse pendulum with sidespin which just crossed the net. This was well disguised and the opponent could change from topspin/sidespin to backspin/sidespin with a turn of the wrist at the last moment before contacting the ball so if I tried a short push return the ball either went into the net or popped up for an easy kill…A good serve which was difficult to read. Hopefully, with practise I will develop a better counter to these types of service.
Thanks again for your comments.
Yes that’s right Alex, it’s pretty much a jab push return which when mastered can be really effective, I personally use it a lot. The reverse can definitely also be tricky to return for sure and lots of players find this. I think mostly its a case of practice returning these serves and adapting like you said.