- The main goal is to return the serve deep to keep the serving team at the baseline; power is not as important as control. A short return brings the serving team forward, allowing them to reach the NVZ line and negating the receiving team’s advantage.
- The serve must bounce before being returned.
- Wait behind the baseline for the serve in order to permit moving forward to hit the return with momentum.
- The preferred service return stroke is a forehand with a backswing and follow through, stepping forward to meet the ball in front of the body. This allows the receiver to quickly move toward the net by following the natural momentum of the follow through.
- A shot lofted deep to the opponent’s backhand gives the receiver time to reach the NVZ line and keep the serving team back.
- Follow through, move to the NVZ line and return to the ready position to be set to return the next shot.
- Watch the ball. If you realize you can’t make it all the way to the NVZ line before the ball is hit by the opponent, stop and assume the ready position. Return the ball, then continue to the NVZ line. Stop again if necessary. In tennis this is often referred to as the “split step.”
Pickleball Channel 411: Improve Your Game with the Soft Return (Bob Youngren, Gail Dacey)