A great weapon to have in your arsenal is a solid service return. You can use the return to put your opponent on the defensive from your first strike of the ball. If you receive a weak second serve, it gives you the opportunity to be aggressive and hit out on your return. Be careful though, as a soft ball is sometimes harder to control than one hit with pace.
A weak second serve (or first serve for that matter) is one that doesn’t have much pace or spin and lands in the middle of the service court, or shorter. It is one that you can easily step in and maneuver around to hit your favorite shot. Because the pace is slower, you should have plenty of time to get your racket back and prepare mentally to execute the stroke perfectly. This is what gives you the advantage.
TIP: Since the ball will be much slower, run around all backhands and attack with your dominant forehand.
If you like to hit hard, and prefer playing big hitters, then you should be able to take advantage of a player with a weak second serve – but you’ll need to generate the pace yourself. To be successful against this type of player, you’ll need a lot of patience, because you won’t always be in a position to blast their weak second serve for a winner. If you’re not able to control the shot, add a bit more topspin and wait for a better opportunity.
TIP: Hit the ball from high to low, either down the line for singles, or at the net person’s feet in doubles, making it difficult for your opponents to return.
You’ve heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect”, right? Practice with a partner who will serve or hit slow or medium speed balls to you, and work on driving your return for consistency. When you can hit 7 of 10 deep in the court, go for a bit more power, and make sure you are always in control of your swing. You should allow yourself to “go for it” at certain times in a match, but should generally try to be ahead in the game when you do. If you miss the return, go back to just getting it in play until your timing improves.
Remember that just because your opponent is hitting a weak serve doesn’t automatically mean you can hit a winner off it. You need to be patient and learn to wait for and recognize the right opportunity.