Returning Smashes in Singles: Your Options

Published March 31, 2021

In a singles match, you will often find times where you will need to play defense. Particularly when your opponent is an attacking player, you will need to find ways to return their attacking shots and transition to your own offense. In this post, we will cover the different types of smash returns and when we should be using them to get the most out of our defense.

Blocks

The block shot is similar to a net drop. This is when your opponent smashes and you hit a soft shot to the front of the court. This is generally the most common form of smash defense. You can either hit the block close to the net or flatter and further away from the net. Most of the time, this does not require you to use additional power in your shot, since you are utilizing your opponent’s smash power in your return. Either way, this forces your opponents to do movements after smashing and get all the way to the front.

Straight Block

The straight block is hitting the block shot from the receiving spot directly straight. This shot is best done when your opponent is smashing cross-court and you return straight. This forces your opponent to move cross-court from the back to the front, which is the furthest distance. If your opponent smashes straight, you can hit a straight block as well but normally this is easier for them to retrieve and follow up. If you are having a hard time retrieving the smash, a straight block might be the easiest shot to hit just to keep the rally going.

Cross court Block

The cross-court block is hitting the block shot from the receiving spot cross-court. This shot is best done when you are in a good position to add in your technique to the returning shot. If your opponent smashes straight, the cross-court block is a good way to force them to move and transition to your own offense. If your opponent frequently follows up their cross-court smashes, the cross-court block to the cross-court smash is also a good way to confuse your opponent and change their footwork movement.

This video shows a quick example of what these block shots look like.

Drives

The drive shot is a little harder, but also a common defensive shot. This is when you hit a flat, hard return quickly back to your opponent’s court. You can hit this drive shot straight or cross-court, both with their own benefits. The drive shot requires you to add in your own power and needs precise timing to hit properly. Most of the time, this is hit when you are in a good standing position and your opponent’s smash is weaker and not as accurate. This forces your opponent to react to your shot quickly and can easily turn the rally into your offense.

Straight Drive

The straight drive is a great option when your opponent hits a weak shot. This means, you can overpower their attacking shot with a drive and change the rally to your own offense. You can also hit straight drives when your opponent hits a cross court smash. They will need to quickly move to the other side and should not be able to follow up with another smash, since your shot is flat. If your opponent hits a straight smash, the straight drive might not be the best option – they can easily drive or follow up the shot with more attacking shots.

Cross-Court Drive

The cross-court drive – similar to the straight drive – is also a great option when your opponent hits a weak smash. It is also a great option when your opponent hits a straight smash. You will force them to move to the other side of the court and you will be in control of the rally. Similarly, if they hit a cross-court smash, you generally do not want to hit it cross-court back. They will not need to move and can continue to control the rally easily.

The video below shows how you can play these straight and cross-court drives.

Lifts

Finally, the last defensive option are lifts. This is when you return the smash with another high shot. Most of the time, you do not want to hit a lift return as this just gives your opponent another chance.

However, some players tend to follow up their smashes quickly and hope to win the rally with a push. If your opponent has these tendencies, you can test them by hitting a lift return. For some players, this is extremely hard because their body was already moving forward but then have to change their momentum to moving backwards. This will also make these players think twice before rushing forward to follow up their smashes. Test your opponent by throwing in a lift return, but make sure you don’t do this too often!

Defense is Vital

Defense is vital in ensuring that you are able to return your opponent’s shot and eventually win the rally. Knowing when to hit the right shots is important to help you maximize the efficiency and quality of your defensive shots. Try to utilize the different types of defensive returns at the right time so that you will force your opponents into worse shots. The best thing to do is to avoid playing defense altogether, but sometimes you just have to!

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