#8 Best Return Locations

Returning is a monster part of doubles.

Some spots are better than others.

Having a solid return is key in doubles, and knowing where to hit it is half the battle. The server has two options – serve and volley or serve and stay back – so let’s explore the best targets for both scenarios because they are extremely different. A lot of players try to hit hard, flat groundstrokes when returning, and while the ball has good speed, it sits right off the hips for a pretty straight forward volley. The power is then rebounded back at the returner and is actually used against them. The harder you hit a ball, the quicker it gets to the other side of the net, and the quicker it gets back to the returner.

Remember, the best return is the one that sets up the volleyer for the next shot. That’s the primary goal. Make your partner look good at the net!

Best Returns vs Serve & Volleyer

There are a couple of main options here so let’s cover all of them.

Anywhere in the front of the court 

You want the server to have to half-volley or deal with a very low volley that they have got to defensively hit up from below the height of the net. That’s great news for the Returner’s Partner prowling at the front of the court!


The Side T

This is a great place to aim – right where the service line meets the singles side line. This is a high percentage cross court return that can really make the server uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. The first is that the ball is very low, and it will more likely be hit as a tough half-volley or an even tougher low volley. It also stretches the server wide, putting them off balance for the shot. The real beauty of this return is that it delivers the ball quite often straight to the Returner’s Partner, who then has a huge hole to hit the volley right through the middle of the court.


Returner’s Partner Feeding Frenzy

The tough half volley is not an easy shot and the server will be looking to get the ball back cross court as much as possible. But the tendency is to catch it a little late down low and the ball ends up going a lot straight to the Returner’s Partner for a pretty routine volley winner right through the middle of the court. It’s a great return to set up the net player against a serve and volleyer.

Best Returns vs. Serve & Stay Back

This is a different scenario and one we are seeing a lot more of the past few years at all levels of the game. The reason players serve and stay back is very simple – they are more comfortable hitting a groundstroke than a volley.

Deuce Court – Server Stays Back

This is a really simple one. Most players are right handed and nearly all of them can hurt you more with their forehand than their backhand. This also conforms to the rule that a ball in the middle tends to stay in the middle. Hitting the deuce court return to the “B” area puts the ball in the middle of the court and gives the server less angle to hurt with – also using their less potent weapon.

Natural Angle

This is where it gets fun for the returning team. A good return hit to “B” creates a feast for the Returner’s Partner in the middle of the court. The natural angles wide to the alleys are very tough for the Server to hit, so the ball naturally goes right down the middle of the court through the Center Window. It’s a predictable shot that the returning team can win a lot of deuce court points from.

Ad Court – Server Stays Back

Once again, playing to the less potent backhand wing is a trump card here. There is also another element in play – if the ball gets a little behind you it’s easier to rescue it with a forehand than a backhand, so hitting a quality return cross court will reap a lot of benefits if you can take time away from the server, as the slightly late shot will go a lot to the Returner’s Partner. Some opponents may actually have a weaker forehand that you may want to target, but start with this play and adjust from there.

 Rush The Backhand

This is another perfect way for the returner to get their partner at the front of the court immediately into action. A quality return cross court to the backhand often times rushes the shot, making the server hit it slightly late. This is perfect for the returning team as the cross-court directed backhand actually goes more middle where the Returner’s Partner can clean up with an easy volley right through the middle of the court.

Strategy Drills

1. Playing Drill

Objective – To help the returner hit key targets to bring the Returner’s Partner into play on the next shot.

  • Play a set.
  • Target specific locations such as the Side T against a serve and volleyer, or deep to the backhand if the server is staying back. Put small targets on the court as reminders or draw the areas with sidewalk chalk. Only hit towards those targets for a set.

Variations – Award two points if the general target area is hit and the returning team win the point.

2. Feeding Drill

Objective – To help develop the returner’s ability to hit the best return targets.

  • Serve a variety of first and second serves.
  • Put a target out for the returner to hit in the locations mentioned above.
  • Work for a specific period of time only hitting those targets.

Variations – Include the Returner’s Partner. Hit the practice serve, and when the return is hit to the desired location, feed the next shot down the middle for the Returner’s Partner to intercept in the Center Window.

Go Do This

Get the ball below the height of the net against a serve and volleyer. Make them hit up.

Always use the return to set up the Returner’s Partner for the next shot.

Wide to the Side T is a great target to aim at. Easy to practice and get good at.

Return to “B” in the deuce court if the server is staying back. Your partner will love hitting volleys.

Rush the backhand return in the Ad court, and bring the ball to the Returner’s Partner at the net.