By Peter Li
While competing in two junior circuits in China, I realized something. What separates most of us top US junior players from the top juniors in the world is not necessarily our skill in the rally, but the quality of our serve and service return. In the rally, I do not feel like we are particularly at a disadvantage, but when it comes to service and service return, an obvious weakness in our games is shown.
In the US, we are more concerned of how we play during the rallies than on setting ourselves up for a good shot. Therefore, the quality of our serve and service return is very low in comparison. Our service return is very simple, with little variety, as if we just want to put the ball on the table to get into a rally. However, in the US, such a return is enough to get by since the majority of US players have simple serves as well.
But when competing with top players internationally, a simple serve and return only presents itself as a disadvantage. Top players emphasize the importance of service and third ball attack and service return. The simple long pushes and soft flips we are so used to doing in the US only give our opponents an easy ball to hit past us, while our simple serves allow them to set themselves up for their next shot. Even if you may be really good in the rally, you never get the chance to if you are spending the whole match trying to defend strong attacks from the opponent because of the easy shots you are giving him/her.