The return of serve is a very critical part of tennis which can many a times prove to be a game changer. A good return of serve has the power to put the opponent off balance and hence provide the edge to win a game. Every player has their own approach to a return of serve. But, there are two players who do it better than the rest. The current World No.1 Novak Djokovic and the former World No.1 Andre Agassi who retired in 2006.
Andre Agassi is considered to be among the best returners in the game. His serve was never a threat to the other players, so his returns made up for it. His approach for a return may sound easy, but is difficult to execute and maintain. He follows the technique of turning his hip as the serves come and that helps in reacting better to the ball. “My return is based 100 percent on a simple hip turn. Imagine the butt of the handle of your racquet is taped to your stomach, so the racquet points at your opponent as you face him. Now if you just turn your hips, your racquet is going to be prepared to hit the return. A good drill to teach a quick hip turn is simply to stand as if you’re about to return serve and have somebody shout “forehand!” or “backhand!” and you react instantly with a hip turn, without a ball. The hip turn is an easy way not only to be prepared quickly, but also to keep yourself from swinging too big at a ball that you don’t need to swing hard at”.
On the other hand, against Novak Djokovic there is nothing better a server can do. He not only returns the serves with a lot of power and gusto but also with impeccable accuracy and immaculate placement. He has won over 24000 points in his career on service returns (that accounts to about 40%). He has won crucial matches in the past wherein the returns made all the damage. The famous semi-final of US Open 2011 against Federer is still remembered by tennis aficionados which is a perfect example of complete turnaround in a match. Federer was up 5-3 in the 5th set. The scoreboard flashed 40-15, match point for Federer and anyone could have placed their bets on him. Djokovic then played some sensational tennis, firing extraordinary returns and destroying the hopes of Federer who had beautifully built up the game till then. He played some exceptional return games in the Australian Open finals 2015 as well which speaks volumes about his consistency. His break point conversion is as high as 45%.
While Andre Agassi was the best returner in his time, Djokovic has far greater ability to reach out to more balls. Not only do experts, but Agassi himself believes that Djokovic is a notch better returner. ‘’The best all-around returner because of his length and his ability to defend and attack, is Djokovic,” said ESPN’s Brad Gilbert. While Agassi referred to Djokovic as “the precedent-setting standard for the return”. Djokovic is also consistent with the returns which is why he is always tough to ace and also why it would be rightful to conclude that Djokovic is in fact the better returner of the two.
I am pursuing B.Sc.(Hons.) Mathematics from Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University. I am an avid follower of tennis and enjoy watching cricket as well. My interest lies in portrait sketching and swimming.