Promoting Player Competitive Skills During Serve/Return Practice…

Serving and returning are obviously 2 of the most important areas of the game…

But serving/returning practice can be quite time consuming.

So it’s important that we, as coaches, find ways to promote the development of other skills while practicing serves/returns.

With this in mind, here are 3 serve/return activities that also promote player competitive skills/mental toughness simultaneously (you can also watch the video above to see examples of me completing the activities with USC Freshman Jack Jaede and Brisbane Boys College High School Senior Nick Liddy)…

1.) Serving Set Play

In this activity players play service games/sets while hitting only serves (where if they make a first or second serve they win the point, and if they double fault they lose the point).

To add difficulty to the task:

i.) The player nominates the 3rd of the service box (tee, body, wide) that they will hit their serve into and if they miss the correct third of the service box it is considered a fault

ii.) The player starts each game behind (e.g., 0-15, 0-30, 0-40)

#So, for a player with a UTR ranking of 12, for example, you might ask them to play a set, or a first to 4 set with short deuces, beginning each game at 0-30, and require that they hit the serve into the correct 3rd of the service box…

2.) Consecutive 2nd Serve Success

In this activity players simply need to successfully make a certain number of 2nd serves consecutively before moving onto another activity/finishing the session.

To add difficulty to the task:

i.) Increase the number of serves required

ii.) Require the player to nominate the 3rd of the court that they will hit the serve into (tee, body, wide)

iii.) As the player gets closer to the target number, add distractions such as making a noise/yelling out/sledging during their serve

#Players naturally experience a degree of nerves as they near the target number, and a degree of frustration/anger when they miss a serve when close to achieving the target…

This gives us a chance as coaches to use these moments to help develop player skill in responding to these internal challenges as I attempt to do in the video above

3.) Returning Set Play

In this activity players play games/sets while hitting only returns (where if they make the return they win the point, and if they miss the return they lose the point.)

To add difficulty to the task:

i.) Returners have to nominate a specific section of the court that they have to successfully return into to win the point (e.g., back half, across body half).

ii.) The player starts each game behind (e.g., 15-0, 30-0)

Alternatively, if you have 2 players, they can play a serve-return set implementing these rules where either i.) one player serves the whole set/short set, or ii.) Players alternate server each game so it becomes an actual set (and to make it more competitive we can adjust rules based on the standard of each player)…

And of course, all of these activities can be used to promote players’ point-by-point routine/process.

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2 thoughts on “Promoting Player Competitive Skills During Serve/Return Practice…

  1. Hello Anthony,

    I enjoyed your serve and return game activities. You are so correct on the serve and return of serve being the most important of strokes that don’t get used in practice. I do implement serving and returning into drill/games, but designation sections of the court for points is a great idea. I have my ladies 3.0 and 3.5 teams concentrate on serving down the middle of the court. I will use your game activities to allow them to serve for that segment of the service box to score points. I point out to my receivers to return down the middle and I will target the middle area of the court for points on return of serve. Thank you for your fun activities. I will also put some of those serve and return points into my club newsletter. Much thank my friend.


    USPTA/Director of Tennis
    St. Lucie Trail Golf Club