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TENNIS TIPS | The Secret Agassi Tip For The Tennis Return Of Serve

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 🙂

David Frank



  1. Jon Yu Posted on December 5, 2012 at 4:05 am

    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. Quoc Nguyen Posted on December 5, 2012 at 7:18 am

    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. FYProduction Posted on December 5, 2012 at 8:17 am

    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. stefanodirector Posted on December 5, 2012 at 11:06 am

    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. SSPeriway Posted on December 5, 2012 at 11:22 am

    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. Derek Tempongko Posted on December 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    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. JPAM3891 Posted on December 5, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    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. relinquis Posted on December 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    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. Vincent G Thomas Posted on December 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks. A great lesson. Going to try and change today.

  10. Mauriciovideomaker Posted on February 3, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    actually he takes the step to the left an then does the split step….

  11. Matthew Posted on February 9, 2013 at 5:23 am

    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! 🙂

  12. Guy fitz Posted on March 5, 2013 at 11:59 am

    thanks a lot, because my weakness point is returning serve..

  13. 方明骏 Posted on March 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

    i am wounding how could u know which direction he is going to serve?

  14. affenkeks Posted on April 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

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

  15. flounderize Posted on April 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    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.

  16. annoyerx Posted on April 23, 2013 at 8:42 am

    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.

  17. annoyerx Posted on April 23, 2013 at 8:44 am

    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

  18. Legolas Dixon Posted on May 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    thx, you provide the best advanced online tutorials

  19. Dunnbar Posted on May 25, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Ya, I totally know that feel of playing on the pro tour and lunging.

  20. Dunnbar Posted on May 25, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Very, very good point though bruv

  21. Julia Kulakova Posted on May 28, 2013 at 12:59 am

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

  22. 640 Posted on August 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    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!

  23. WorldTennis24 Posted on August 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Andy murray does this too

  24. Ben Hine Posted on August 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    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?

  25. Robert Brasso Posted on September 3, 2013 at 1:21 am

    He's also like 3 feet closer to the baseline when he does the second technique…

  26. itennis09 Posted on September 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    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.

  27. ossamah durrani Posted on October 4, 2013 at 12:02 am

    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.

  28. Suryameet Singh Posted on October 16, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    coz its a second serve return

  29. Wentao Wang Posted on October 20, 2013 at 11:36 am

    What about a single hander?

  30. Donovan Williams Posted on October 23, 2013 at 6:34 am

    Good pointers. Thank you

  31. Josh Diaz Posted on December 8, 2013 at 12:12 am

    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:

  32. tobo86 Posted on December 13, 2013 at 1:07 am

    That coach has got the widest shoulders I've ever seen

  33. Naomi Posted on December 30, 2013 at 4:26 am

    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.

  34. Naomi Posted on December 30, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Was also wondering if you could demonstrate this technique working on a wide serve possibly?

  35. barnysan Posted on January 14, 2014 at 7:30 pm


  36. MrJonswift200 stories Posted on February 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    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.

  37. gjenc pula Posted on February 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    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,

  38. Ben C Posted on March 11, 2014 at 3:19 am

    I disagree with this

  39. Nuby29 Posted on March 13, 2014 at 2:17 am

    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

  40. Jeff McIntosh Posted on April 6, 2014 at 4:28 am

    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.

  41. Jeff McIntosh Posted on April 6, 2014 at 4:32 am

    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

  42. Jeff McIntosh Posted on April 6, 2014 at 4:38 am

    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!*

  43. DanTuber Posted on April 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

    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.

  44. Ilias Faqir Posted on May 6, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    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:

  45. ossamah durrani Posted on June 23, 2014 at 1:53 pm

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

  46. Siddharth Macal Posted on July 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    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?

  47. Darian Flores Posted on August 15, 2014 at 4:31 am

    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!!!

  48. Daka Success Posted on August 20, 2014 at 9:36 am

    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

  49. BERNARD MCKEY Posted on September 22, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    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
    push with right leg
    cross step
    split step

  50. imateapot51 Posted on November 11, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    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.  

  51. Rick Martin Posted on January 9, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    it works –

  52. R Sh Posted on February 8, 2015 at 11:33 am

    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.  

  53. badblueboxman Posted on August 24, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    lol I don't care who you are, if you're standing inside the baseline you'll never effectively return my serve!

  54. nicojay2009 Posted on October 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Great tips. How can you anticipate the serve direction?

  55. TheAmazeer Posted on March 9, 2016 at 11:17 pm

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

  56. Sz Ki Posted on September 14, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    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.

  57. The Magic Farmer Posted on November 3, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    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.

  58. Tennis GripFinder Posted on November 8, 2016 at 5:23 am

    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!

  59. thereal Bubba Posted on November 18, 2016 at 1:36 am

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

  60. monstertrucktennis Posted on December 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    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.

  61. Diana Reiman Posted on January 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    This was a great tip and i will be using it to improve my return of serve thank you

  62. itry2brational Posted on March 15, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    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.

  63. lazy laurie Posted on March 23, 2017 at 1:47 am

    What if you're not good at listening??😂

  64. Thomas Tessier Posted on April 29, 2017 at 7:12 am

    I also disagree with this. A wide serve will be missed.

  65. JW Kim Posted on May 20, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    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.

  66. M B Posted on May 28, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    Why do people say 'height-th'? Isn't it height?

  67. Pablo Reali Posted on June 19, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    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

  68. A. David Imperial Posted on July 11, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    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.

  69. Finny R Posted on July 12, 2017 at 4:05 am

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

  70. Chuck Coleman Posted on July 22, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Could we call this the "I-Have-A-Hunch" step? Very cool video IMHO.

  71. otogigamer Posted on December 2, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Teach me another tip since I'm 46 and playing against a 20 year old who serves 130 with control and placement

  72. AlMaslool Posted on February 14, 2018 at 5:25 am

    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….:…..

  73. prigg88 Posted on April 15, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    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.

  74. Cameron Posted on April 17, 2018 at 10:38 am

    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.

  75. Cameron Posted on April 17, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    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.

  76. Dr. Louis Emmons Posted on April 19, 2018 at 2:01 am

    Great lesson but how do I discern serve direction?

  77. Pacer Dave Posted on May 8, 2018 at 11:37 am

    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.

  78. eribaldo Yes Posted on July 24, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    You can confirm this review checking Agassi´s return in this match

  79. mjw2080 Posted on August 11, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    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

  80. Paul C Posted on October 29, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    No backswing is how Andre returns

  81. Jish Keh Posted on November 13, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    more like nishikori's stance in returning a serve…

  82. L Cervantes Posted on March 6, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    Great point! This works! Came across this on Twitter of Roger keeping his feet/stance on return:Check out @kah22jad’s Tweet:

  83. tavomagno5 Posted on April 1, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    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

  84. Rich Simpson Posted on April 4, 2019 at 3:21 am

    Question. How can he step to the side and move forward?

  85. Ian Rivlin Posted on May 6, 2019 at 10:46 am

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

  86. L Cervantes Posted on October 8, 2019 at 4:31 am

    Shading either way is a product of being able to read the serve.