Hey, it’s Jeff Salzenstein, and in
today’s video lesson, we are going to go over the return of serve, and how you can
move better so that you can react to those fast serves coming at you.
Now, I don’t know about you, I think you’ve probably experienced this
before, but when I was playing on the Pro Tour, I was playing big servers, and I
would split step and I felt myself lunging in both directions. Well luckily, I started going to the game
tape. I started studying a lot of great pros, and I particularly studied
Andre Agassi’s return of serve. Now, Andre had one of the best returns of all time,
and one of the reasons was because he had great eyes and great technique,
but a little-known tip that I picked up that most people don’t know about is that
when he would make his first move, he would kind of move to the middle like
this.So, instead of just going up and down, he would actually shift his weight,
shift his body in this direction, and that allowed him to react and take away
the T serve. Believe it or not it, actually helps with
the wide serve, too, because my belief is that when you split like this, it makes
it more difficult to react either way. So, I’m going to bring Max in right now,
and we’re going to bounce some balls to him, and then we’re also going to show
some footage of him returning with me serving, so that you can see exactly how
this is done. We’ve got Max here with us today.
We’re going to go ahead and show you the incorrect scenario first, where you’re going to split,
and where he’s going to split by going up and down, straight up and down.
Then, we’re going to also show him shifting the correct way, so, this is going to be pretty cool stuff
for you guys to check out. So, what we’re going to do is I’m just going to walk over and toss some balls to him as if I’m serving, and first, Max is just going to split up and down, and we’re going to see that he’s going to
struggle a bit getting out to the ball. Good. So, if you just go up and down, you
don’t really have that momentum. Let’s do it one more time. You don’t really have that momentum. Now, he’s going to shift with his left foot towards the middle of the court as the person is tossing, and getting ready to make contact. So, just, just making that little shift
can make all the difference in how you can cover. We’ll do that one more time, and we’re going to get great timing on that one. Here we go. There we go. Perfect. So, just shifting, just shifting towards the
middle, gives him the momentum that he’s going to need to be able to cover that serve. So, Max, why don’t you tell me what your
experience has been when you play servers, and you’re getting beat? What adjustments you’ve made,
and why you’ve made them. Well, I feel like taking that extra step and splitting while moving gives me a lot of better reaction to the ball, like, my reactions are a lot faster, and if I’m going to be in a certain direction, I’ll try and move that way, so, I take away that serve. Now, so, if he’s moving in one direction, he’s going to be able to react, because he’s moving to one side. He can actually push off in either direction, and if a guy has a great T serve, he can take that away, and I’m sure if someone has a great wide serve, you could even shift the other direction, right? Absolutely. Okay. So now, we’re going to go- we’re going to show some voice-over video analysis of Max doing his thing as well. Let’s take a look at Max here, and he’s going to split step, and he’s going to do the traditional split step that pretty much everyone is taught, because I’ve never really seen anybody move or taught the way that Agassi and other returners move before the server hits the ball. So, let’s go ahead and look at what Max does here. Just slow it down, and you can see he just goes up and straight down. Now again, nothing necessarily wrong with doing that, but I found that your reaction time is a lot slower, and you’ll see here Max goes up and down. He gets beat on that T serve, and he’s just lunging at the ball. So, let’s look at that again in slow motion, and you can see that he’s just going to go straight up and down, gets nice height, but he goes straight up and down, so, what we want to do is we actually want to shade in one direction. We want to move slightly to the left or slightly to the right,
so that we can push off faster in either direction. Look at Max shading to the left when he makes his
first move, and this is what i really like to do on first and second serves.
In this case, Max is hitting a second is hitting a second serve return, and you’ll notice here when he’s getting ready, look at that step right there.
I’ll back it up real quick for you. He steps a little bit, and actually, it’s a pretty good step to the left. So, he’s going to be covering the T serve, but what’s cool is even if the serve goes out wide, he will be able to push off with that left foot and get back to the wide serve. That’s the experience that I found with this type of movement. Now that he shaded to the left, if the server goes down the T, he can easily step out and hitting a nice return, and you’ll see here, he uses the back-to-front footwork pattern. He really covers that ball, and hits a laser inside in. So, you’ll notice he loads up this back leg, and then switches to the front leg, and is able to hit a nice return inside in, but again, notice that he’s not at this place right here at the very beginning. He’s not just going up and down with a split step, he steps to the left right there, and that’s what you’re wanting to work on: stepping if you’re right-handed, or stepping to the left, and the deuce court and maybe even in the ad court you can step to the right to cover the T serve.
Of course, if you’re playing someone that’s good at the wide serves,
you might want to step out in the direction of the wide serves to get a good jump on the ball. I really hope you received a ton of value from this lesson today, so you can go take action on the court as soon as possible. If you want to see more in-depth breakdown of this lesson and many others, make sure to join us inside the Total Tennis Training inner circle, where you can get cutting-edge tennis tips and strategies that can fix your weaknesses, and improve your strengths. If you want to be a part of our growing online tennis community and get the best tennis lessons on the planet, go ahead and click the link below, and
we’ll help you go to the next level with your tennis. I’m really excited to help you out, and
thanks for taking the time to watch this lesson today 🙂

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Dennis Veasley

86 thoughts on “TENNIS TIPS | The Secret Agassi Tip For The Tennis Return Of Serve”

  1. Great video! I'll be sure to incorporate this to my game. Could you elaborate on how you know which way to take that side step especially if the serve is coming in fast and you don't know how to read it? Thanks!

  2. I actually go Anton of value from this one Jeff! Thank you greatly, I never would've been able to pick up on that myself. Logically a great tip and I'm anxious to get out and try it! Thank you!!

  3. Interesting concept, if one is able to read the opponent's serve? I'll get into trouble if I split into the middle when the serve turned out to be wide. I'll give it a try… Thanks for sharing the concept.

  4. Great tip Jeff!
    Can I ask you for your future video contributes to spend some time on "how to read a serve". It is one of the most difficult things to master.
    Keep it up and many thanks

  5. Nice tip coach! if i have an opponent who likes to play a wide 2nd serve, i can do this shift also on mi right foot to cover the wide trajectory, am i correct?

  6. Thanks for the great tip coach! What about Novak's return of serve game? Many say today he is the best returner on the tour. I don't really see him do this little shifting, does he? Got to look at my video recordings again. Can you point out what Novak's tip is?

  7. It seems like Ferrer is also doing this (I just watched highlights from his match against Raonic in Barcelona) and Djokovic and Murray too, but on a slightly less visible manner (Murray seems to zigzag a little bit).
    Thanks Jeff for what seems to be a great tip (I can't try it on court for now, we have a too windy weather here in Marseille (France), but I can't wait to see the enhances it can bring to my return since I'm doing well with the balls near my body and struggling the rest of the time)

  8. is it a matter of momentum? moving your body into the court towards the ball being served?

    i.e. step left and into the court when on the right side, or step right and into the court when on the left? I don't usually play many big servers, but sometimes get the odd fast one.

  9. awesome video! I'll try that tomorrow. thanks so much for your help! I just discovered your channel 3h ago, and since then I've been watching all of the videos! Thanks Jeff! 🙂

  10. Thats what im wondering too. If you move towards the T everytime, then serves out wide will ace you all the time.

  11. What I think he means is that if you do it soon enough, you will be able to recuperate and "bounce" to the other side as well.

  12. its feels like your just leaning one direction and hoping he serves to the T. If he did serve wide you'd be on the full stretch. I dunno, maybe should show examples of both service placements that wasnt predetermined.

  13. i like the bounce forward mostly towards the server in general. Helps me stay learning forward and able to use my weight on the returns compared to the just hop in a stationary position

  14. Thank you! Just returned from the court experimenting with return body weight shift. It made such a difference and felt so comfortable!

  15. Hi Jeff i have a question for you.. I just started playing tennis! I'm right handed with 2 handed BH. My question is, When I'm returning on my BH side, which grip should i use with my right hand?
    Should i use the FH grip (right hand) along with BH grip (left hand)?
    Or should i change my right hand from FH grip to a BH grip?
    The same goes during the rallies, which grip should i use for my right hand on the BH side?
    Ive searched this on youtube but never find something for this issue!
    THANK YOU!

  16. I guess the logic here is to find out what side you opponent likes to serve to and then make that "shading" movement to that side on your return preparation. Correct?

  17. with the up and down method he's playing a lefty who's serve is obviously going to kick left not right and yet hes standing halfway in the alley….idk about this one.

  18. He is playing with jeff. He is left handed.
    I guess his videos are mirrored most of the time. So all right handers can pick it.

  19. This is a great video about improving the return. Thanks for taking the time to put up this tutorial. I'm a tennis coach and this is helpful for me to find a different way to explain how to hit a great return to my students.

    I have a website with a few quick tips for beginning tennis players if anyone is interested: http://startingtennisintro.blogspot.com/

  20. Very helpful and something I'll try to incorporate into my next upcoming tournament as the return is a vital aspect hindering my game. I was watching my recent match film and often since I only split up and down I had a hard time going towards balls and lunged a lot even though I knew I shouldn't especially towards the end. Even the girl I played in consolation took advantage of it and hit a lot of down the T serves knowing I was struggling getting pace on them. The step seems to let the body use the momentum naturally to bound towards either direction. Always, thanks for the informative video coach.

  21. I think max should  learn to return with a one handed slice return. for more flexabilty . like federer I have had good luck with this.

  22. if the first serve gets in, there's little or no time to use this technique. anyway, a great tip to get a killer on the second serve. thanks,

  23. I've seen alot of players stand further back and then step in, this demonstration Max is too far inside the baseline. Might work for 2nd serves but would not be the best of strategy for 1st serves imho

  24. That is retarded, hes making all these little steps with the second technique. He or u or all of us need to split step and then step forward and bisect the angle, not parallel step 45 degree bisect return. He looked like he was gonna trip over his feet on that silly shuffle u suggested! U catch the ball earlier by meeting it at 45 degrees and are in a better attack mode than stepping to the side or doing some tap dance that u are teaching this young man.

  25. Max needs to split step and move foreward not along the baseline, this looks very set up, like u are going to fix an obvious flaw and want credit, low level stuff

  26. U have that momentum if u step at 45 degree, meet that ball earlier, cut it off and put yourself in a better attack mode. Please dont tell me u played on the tour reaching with a split step and moving horizontally!*

  27. 5:23 Even though he takes a step left, he still does a split step after that. This move is only good if you anticipate where the serve is going.

  28. One thing that I'd like to point out, more of technique issue really, and that is he jumps too far up. At 3:31 and 4:40, his  legs are fully extended…this will add a lot of delay to your reaction time. It's supposed to be a split step not a jump. Check this video out of Agassi doing this while doing a forehand return on the deuce side: http://youtu.be/rLX0Y2H1m9o

  29. my question is , how u will be able to react then for short wide or deep slice , sliding serves on ur forehand, ??

  30. Hi there, in this video I only saw the player took a particular split step pattern where he could address the serve coming to T. But there was no tip for serves coming that are aimed wide. Any thoughts?

  31. All I can say is wow. Never would have thought such a simple technique would be so effective. Just finished playing a tournament and realized my returns weren't up to par to the rest of my game and I was split stepping straight up and down. I'm currently watching Federer vs Monfils at cincy and Federer executes this technique perfectly on first and second serve returns. I would've never noticed this small crucial mistake I was making in my game! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!!!

  32. I think the problem with this is that the wrong leg moved first for Max, his right leg is meant to move to the left first then his right. He hasn't gotten down enough to that sit down position which will make him so much more faster getting to the ball. I'm 15 and I know that what he's doing wrong isn't moving to the side but instead bending his legs more when finishes his split step. If you didn't understand what I meant then watch this video: Tennis Footwork Fundamentals

  33. Excellent split step and movement is the key because it also allows you take the ball early on the rise-and its the same with movement on baseline shots-

    Cross step
    open step
    hit
    recover
    push with right leg
    cross step
    split step

  34. I noticed that the student was still in the air when the serve was hit so the timing of the split step is also kind of critical.  

  35. Would be helpful to see the reaction to the wide serve when he steps to the middle.  It is expected that stepping to the middle helps w/ return of T serve, but I'm not convinced it will help w/ return of wide serve.  

  36. Step back one or two feet go forward as the server makes contact then you have momentum to go left or right…

  37. good tip if you can read the direction of the serve. otherwise, once you commit to the t , there's no way you can cover wide as well. Agassi read it will plus these days the pros have a lot of video and ibm stat data, so they know their opponents tendencies. return of serve instincts as a strength is a gift. you either have it or you don't. you can improve it through practice but you can't make it a strength.

  38. I think there's no real advantage doing that, you cover T better but you definitely end up losing some control over wide. For Agassi, my guess is that it's just pure anticipation, maybe it's good to deal with side spin (to off-throw the server's aim and better the chance to hit forehands?), maybe to cover more of the weak side and play a better defense, maybe both. The bottomline is that if the server hit wide and hit well, chances are you can't really consistently get to it; therefore, by strengthening the middle, you push the server to go at extreme angles and force errors. Not really useful in recreational tennis, because very few people can consistently hit wide angles.

  39. Any time you can learn from Agassi's technique, you can't go wrong.  THE BEST RETURNER OF SERVE of all time, in my opinion!

  40. Although he's my favorite player of all time, Federers return is unmatched, I've seen hit a clean winner of 140 mph serves

  41. Interesting.  It would have been helpful to show the effect of moving toward the T and then having to react to a short wide serve.  Looks like you're giving up 2-3' of court by moving so aggressively towards the T.  Personally, I think you overlooked what might have been AA's greatest service return tool-  the ability to read the serve and then react in the right direction.

  42. What an amazing tip/discovery. There's a clip 56 mins long of Agassi returns which will only confirm this slight wide-to-middle move. Sometimes the lateral move is slight, other times more exaggerated but the hop is always low to the ground. In serves vs Sampras, you will see him start out covering wide, make the slight lateral move to the middle on the hop even though the serve went wide and Agassi still returns that ball making contact with it at the double sideline. So, even though he moved left and the serve went right he's still able to sufficiently load and launch in the opposite direction. In the clip there are dozens of instances where Agassi has moved in the what should be the wrong direction but it doesn't hinder his ability to get to the ball.

  43. WHat if the serve is not a T serve? If the serve is sure to be T serve, you don't have to bother to step sideway, rather you just stay around the T area. This video seems to be a lecture for its own sake.

  44. HI Jeff, very interesting video! I have two questions: 1. this first step in the case of a left handed person should be done with the rigth leg? 2: in case of a wide serve this first steps helps two or we get jammeds with our own feet? Thanks1

  45. Maybe Agassi is just simply standing out wider than normal on deuce side to try to bait his opponent to serve down the T. Then as the server goes into his motion he creeps over to the left to get in normal service return position with his opponent unaware of this move to the left. Agassi's backhand is the more compact stroke that is more reliable especially against pace or a fast serve and especially since he takes service returns so early.

  46. Or you could just time the split-step properly…returner is consistently late thus defeating the purpose of the split step.

  47. One thing that helps me in returning really fast serves is to keep my body low with my knees bent and do a split that way …it helps me to react to the ball faster and keep the serve from rising above my waist level because then the return becomes too defensive….
    I have problems returning fast serves from a lefty on the ad court though…the ball spins into my body and I don't have enough time to side step after the split….:…..

  48. Thanks for this – I just watched Tennis Best Returns Ever in my recommended feed for this video and I slowed it down to 0.25 speed and could clearly see that most of the top players do this.

  49. This is exactly what the pros do – take a look at Federer just as the ball gets tossed up by his opponent – I never realised – thank you Salzmiester.

  50. Unbelievable! I just got back from playing my club's top player, a guy I never beat, and tried out this technique. I didn't break him once, I broke him three times to the point he was all over the place and uncharacteristically, lost his temper. I am thrilled! Thank you, again. Lets have more of tips like these that the regular players like us just don't hear about.

  51. Why didn’t you demonstrate stepping to the left and still cover wide serve? Hard to believe. If you know which direction the server is going to go and step that way then it makes sense.

  52. You can confirm this review checking Agassi´s return in this match https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtnhixokLK4&t=71s

  53. Just found this. About 50 years too late. I have always been susceptible to big serves. Instead of the "split jump" as I call it. I would step into a split step, for momentum. It works well for volleys, but hard serves just flew by me. Thanks, Dave

  54. Great point! This works! Came across this on Twitter of Roger keeping his feet/stance on return:Check out @kah22jad’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/kah22jad/status/1103171509298909184?s=09

  55. How Max knew was going to his left, It wil be good to also know how to read the server direction if not It will be a total guessing

  56. Not really of any use to a "B" grade social player. This is more for young people planning on going professional.

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