Return Serves Deep
With practice, you can learn to return serves with some control. So where should you put the returns? In most cases, you should return deep – as close to the opponents’ baseline as you can.
There are three main reasons:
It is hard for the opponent to do anything offensive with a deep return. Their best bet is a drop shot into your non-volley zone, but it is difficult to do that accurately from the backcourt.
If your return is somewhat higher than you would like, the opponent can’t take advantage of that height very well from the backcourt.
The final reason is that it allows you to approach the non-volley line before the opponent can, since they have to wait for your return to bounce, putting you at a strong advantage.
The biggest exception to the rule is when the serve is short. If you receive the serve in the forecourt, you have options to return it as a dink, with backspin, especially diagonally, or sometimes very fast and low as a passing shot.
Another exception that works surprisingly well is a short or drop shot slice. The athletic experienced player will not have much trouble with a short slice. In fact, the experienced player may make a spectacular offensive shot with your short slice, but the beginning and intermediate players will almost always over-estimate the distance it is going to travel, or have trouble countering the spin.
When you are playing with beginners and return the serve very high, you may find it amusing as they struggle with timing, and mis-hit the ball into the net or out of bounds.
When you are playing with intermediate players, a fast, low return will work better than a high, floppy one. As you start playing at a higher level, you’ll find that high, lazy returns work just as well, and possibly better, as long as they are close to the baseline. By returning high, it gives you time to approach the non-volley zone before your opponents can come forward.