Nobody likes getting lobbed. In tennis, a lob can be hit offensively or defensively, as a last-ditch effort to stay in the point, or a flashy winner. The pros make returning lobs look routine, but as you well know, returning a lob effectively can be one of the most difficult shots in tennis. There are a variety of ways to return a lob to stay in the point, or even take the offensive. Here are three simple tips to return lobs with ease and turn one of the most flummoxing shots in tennis into one you beg your opponents to hit.
Move your feet!
This may sound simple, but it is the absolute most important part of effectively returning a lob. Chances are, if you get lobbed, you are not going to have nearly as much time to get your feet set as you would for a groundstroke hit in the middle of a rally. That makes it even more important to move your feet and establish a solid base with your feet to hit a solid reply. First things first, you need to chase down the lob. Even if you think you have plenty of time, make sure you get to the ball as quickly as possible. As you always would in tennis, once you are approaching the ball, use small, quick, athletic steps to get in position to return the ball. If you have time, get set to hit a forehand or backhand as you normally would. However, the ball will be bouncing much higher than on a rally ball, usually over your head, so you will want to set up further behind the bounce than you normally would.
Play for percentages!
So you just got lobbed. You are immediately in a defensive position, so the last thing you want to do is commit an error and give your opponent an easy point. Getting the ball back in play is your top priority. Even if you have enough time to recover and get under the ball, don’t try to hit an overhead. Sure, you may get lucky and hit a highlight reel winner, but tennis is all about playing the percentages, and if you go for the kill shot on an overhead from behind the baseline, you will lose a whole lot more points than you will win. In fact, hitting an overhead is actually quite the opposite of how you want to return a lob. If you are successfully lobbed, you will be out of position, meaning your opponent typically will still have the advantage in the point even if you hit a decent ball back. And what do you need more of in order to recover fully before the next shot? Time! So, the best way to return most lobs is to lob the ball back. Even if you are unable to hit a lob as good as the one that put you in this position, by hitting the ball back high in the air, you will give yourself plenty of time to get set for your next shot, giving you the best chance of being in a position to get back into the point. If you can, put a little bit of topspin on your lob return. This will not only increase the margin on the shot, but it will also bounce higher, creating a more difficult shot for your opponent to hit, and again, putting you in a good position for your next shot.
Take advantage of your opponent’s complacency!
You will find, especially at the recreational level, that most players become very complacent after they hit a good lob. They will watch the ball go over your head and admire their shot instead of closing the net quickly and trying to finish the point. This is an opportunity that you want to always try and take advantage of! If you are able to hit a good reply when you are lobbed, you may find yourself with multiple options. If you hit a good lob and catch your opponent in no mans land, mix up your approach. Sometimes, you may want to sneak into the net, expecting a short ball reply from your top spin lob. Try faking an approach to the net too. When you are engaged in “lob warfare,” all bets are off. It is a sort of tennis limbo, where neither player has a comfortable tactic to take over the point. When your opponent is comfortable thinking they are about to win the point, you have a chance to not only win the point, but swing the momentum of the match your way by disheartening your opponent!
It is never fun to get lobbed, but follow these three simple tips, and you may even start looking forward to getting lobbed! Let us know how it goes in the comments section.