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Serve Return Lessons - What to expect

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    Posted: 02/08/2019 at 4:22pm
I signed up for a 5 session (1hr/session) package of lessons.  I told the coach that I wanted all 5 sessions to focus on serve return and that I was ok with going back to the very basics at first because I just felt wrong doing even simple returns.  The first lesson did not go the way I had in mind.  Nothing bad , but not the approach I had envisioned.

Was wondering what you guys would expect to go on in the first couple of sessions?

Mark


Edited by mjamja - 02/08/2019 at 4:22pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NextLevel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 4:40pm
Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

I signed up for a 5 session (1hr/session) package of lessons.  I told the coach that I wanted all 5 sessions to focus on serve return and that I was ok with going back to the very basics at first because I just felt wrong doing even simple returns.  The first lesson did not go the way I had in mind.  Nothing bad , but not the approach I had envisioned.

Was wondering what you guys would expect to go on in the first couple of sessions?

Mark

First lesson should be just about reading serves with you doing virtually nothing. Either that or a focus on how to read and return a particular kind of serve.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fulanodetal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 4:59pm
When I started playing and training, I noticed I was having a very hard time returning serves as well.

So I started investigating all the ways of returning serves. There's many ways. And since there are many playing strategies, some returns fit one playing strategy and not another strategy. This is very confusing and bewildering for a beginner.

It helps to first define what type of player you are. And then you find players who are more advanced than you, and see what they do! I noticed attackers topspin almost every single serve they receive! And so that's been my focus in the last few years. It really simplifies things. 

So try to define what type of player you are first and that will help you concentrate on what type of returns you will most likely need.

This clip clearly illustrates what I'm saying....






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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote serr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 5:04pm
I'd just like to say that reverse banana return (strawberry) with short pips (I saw your post that you  use them) continuing the spin vs right sidespin reverse pendulum, backhand serve or whatever is very effective especially if you mix under and topspin on your returns. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lightspin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 5:40pm
You need to be able to return the basic serves when they are served to the easiest locations to a location so that the ball doesn't immediately get smashed.  Once you can do that figure out what to do if the ball is served in a difficult location.  Once you can do that then you can work on changing the location of your return.  Once you can do that, you can not only change the location of the ball but also put the spin that you want on it. 

Work on the basics and do not get too fancy.  One of the coaches at the club I work at once said that a player shouldn't be freaking out about their banana flip until they were over 2400.  Learn to do the basic returns and learn to do them very well. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mjamja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 6:08pm
How would you expect a coach to go about teaching serve returning in a series of 5 lessons?

Would he normally focus first on reading spin and maybe use all 5 sessions for that?

Would he work first on technique for a particular serve return until you show some proficiency on it and then go to next one?  What progression (of serves and return types) might be best.  

Would he start with fixed serve,  some randomness (like mix of short and long or sideunder and sidetop,  or with something more like serve mix in game.

Would you be focusing on some general footwork priciples and drilling those first?

Would each session focus on something different even if you show little proficiency,  so you get a broader view of things to work on after the lessons?

Mark
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GMan4911 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 7:11pm
If it were me getting lessons, I'd want multiball with one serve of the same type to the same location until I demonstrated proficiency.  Once I'm proficient with that, multiball of the same serve to different locations.  Rinse and repeat with each of the different serves, starting with the basic serves, working your way up to deceptive serves.  Then I'd want to do the process again with a coach who uses a different grip because shakehand vs penhold serves can be quite different.

Edited by GMan4911 - 02/08/2019 at 7:12pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mts388 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 8:28pm
I'm with lightspin and GMan4911.

I'd start with a very simple backspin serve.  When you got that down, I'd add a little sidespin.  When you got that I'd go back and forth between the two until you could tell the difference and place it where you wanted.  Each time I would add an element and when you could return that serve I'd go back over the others, etc.etc.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hookumsnivy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 9:44pm
I think the best way is to talk to your coach about what you're trying to get out of it. What is your biggest concern? For example, are you having trouble reading the serve and therefore have trouble returning it, or are you reading it properly but need to work on the quality of your return. Those are 2 very different things and require different types of training.
If it's the former, then you need a large variety of serves in random sequence with tips on what to look for and how to best deal with different types.
If it's the latter, then drilling 1 serve at a time with some placement variation probably makes more sense.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Slowhand Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 10:12pm
Originally posted by mts388 mts388 wrote:

I'm with lightspin and GMan4911.

I'd start with a very simple backspin serve.  When you got that down, I'd add a little sidespin.  When you got that I'd go back and forth between the two until you could tell the difference and place it where you wanted.  Each time I would add an element and when you could return that serve I'd go back over the others, etc.etc.

I'm with lightspin, GMan4911 and mts388. If you want to do this systematically then do it systematically. Of course there's more than 5 lessons worth of common serves and serve variations to cover. Not to mention that for each serve there are usually several possible responses plus variations. It's a combinatorial explosion and in the end you only become really good at returning serve by becoming really good at tt and vice versa. Which is why I'm also with hookumsnivy. You and your coach should decide together how best to spend your limited training time. That's the first thing I'd expect to accomplish in the first lesson.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote qpskfec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 10:35pm
Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

I signed up for a 5 session (1hr/session) package of lessons.  I told the coach that I wanted all 5 sessions to focus on serve return and that I was ok with going back to the very basics at first because I just felt wrong doing even simple returns.  The first lesson did not go the way I had in mind.  Nothing bad , but not the approach I had envisioned.

Was wondering what you guys would expect to go on in the first couple of sessions?

Mark



I would not expect anything. I would tell the coach what my objectives are and what I wish to accomplish. At your level of play, you should have an opinion of what you want to do and why.

For example, if I was taking serve receive lessons, I would want to work on chiquita BH/FH flicking short balls. Attacking long/half long serves. All this would be in mind of what I would like to do with the 4th ball.

What part of the table would you like the 3rd ball to come to? What do you want to do with the 4th ball?

Do you want to open first or are you comfortable with letting the opponent open and then blocking/countering?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mjamja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 10:38pm
Thanks all.  I thought I had explained what I wanted before the first lesson, but I tried not to tell the coach how to coach.  In that 1st hour we spent about 10 min with standard Fh and Bh topspin warmup.   Then for about 40 min he served to me and made comments on my returns when I missed and most times hit a 3rd ball for me to react to when I got the serve on the table.  But in that 40 min he used 4 different service motions, hit under,dead, and top spins with each motion and served both long and double bounce serves.  I got practice trying to read spin, but with so many variations I felt like the only thing I learned was that I could not read spin.  Also with so many variations I never felt like I was able to consistantly do the stroke mechanics as he identified them.  I learned I should be doing things in a different way, but do not feel I came anywhere close to being able to do them even 50% of the time.  And I never got to the point where I could feel when I was doing it right or wrong.  Only when I saw the ball miss could I "guess" what I did wrong based on how the ball missed.  At the end we played points with him serving.  It was not much different than the first 40 min, but at least I was more into the proper mindset to look for any and all kinds of serves.

Maybe I just need to be specific about what I want to try. 

Maybe I should just shut up and let the coach coach the way he wants to do it.

Mark
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mts388 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 10:57pm
You might need a different coach.  Having you miss a bunch of different serves isn't helping you.  The coach needs to show you what serve he's doing, then show you how to return it.  Then keep doing it until you understand it and can return it. 

Sometimes at the club and once in a tournament I asked my opponent to give me the same serve over and over again until I return it.  I don't think I've ever been turned down.
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Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

Thanks all.  I thought I had explained what I wanted before the first lesson, but I tried not to tell the coach how to coach.  In that 1st hour we spent about 10 min with standard Fh and Bh topspin warmup.   Then for about 40 min he served to me and made comments on my returns when I missed and most times hit a 3rd ball for me to react to when I got the serve on the table.  But in that 40 min he used 4 different service motions, hit under,dead, and top spins with each motion and served both long and double bounce serves.  I got practice trying to read spin, but with so many variations I felt like the only thing I learned was that I could not read spin.  Also with so many variations I never felt like I was able to consistantly do the stroke mechanics as he identified them.  I learned I should be doing things in a different way, but do not feel I came anywhere close to being able to do them even 50% of the time.  And I never got to the point where I could feel when I was doing it right or wrong.  Only when I saw the ball miss could I "guess" what I did wrong based on how the ball missed.  At the end we played points with him serving.  It was not much different than the first 40 min, but at least I was more into the proper mindset to look for any and all kinds of serves.

Maybe I just need to be specific about what I want to try. 

Maybe I should just shut up and let the coach coach the way he wants to do it.

Mark
Speaking as someone who has spent a fair amount of time practicing rallies from service with you, I've never felt that you were bad at returning serves.  If I had to list weaknesses in your game, I doubt that would make my list of top five.  I think there are certain serves that you handle very well and some that you do not handle so well.  That implies that you need training on specific types of serves. And I think there are certain types of returns that you try that don't work well out for you.  That implies you need to adjust your tactics.  

My recommendation is that you figure out specific combinations of serves and/or styles of returns where you struggle, and then get coaching in those.  That will help your coach to focus more where you need help the most.

Another thought is on choice of coach: it's relatively easy for any advanced player to provide multiball practice with comments on basic strokes or footwork.  Serves and service return require a lot more thought and are much more individualistic, so that requires a much better coach.  Or perhaps, a coach who is most in-tune with your particular thinking and style and less generic.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote nv42 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/08/2019 at 11:56pm
I would focus on improving your basic bh and  fh push /cut against backspin, no spin ,differnt side-Spins and even topspin . I would focus on teaching you to receive them off the bounce as well as really late ( mainly for those spinny long serves which are tough to ready ). If you don't have a pretty good push or touch play, then even if someone tells you how to receive a particular kind of serve, you'd still have difficulty giving a decent quality return. The first two to three lessons would be foccusd on this, id focus on helping you identify spin and talk abt usual serve tactics and how to effectively return them to prevent a third ball kill.etc in the final lessons. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Alwin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/12/2019 at 12:53am
In addition to the technical points discussed, I'd also want to learn about receiving strategy. For example, against a backspin serve I'd want to practice pushing short to the forehand, half long to the forehand, fast long to the backhand and flicking. Then I'd like to learn about how/when to vary my return (sometimes a good push is as effective as a good flick). 

Also, I'd want to practice my footwork to set up a good fourth ball. One example here is that after flicking I usually forget to take a half step back to get ready to counter loop/hit. Just some food for thought for your future potential lessons Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote vanjr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 9:20am
I know you/mjamja are a big believer in muscle memory, and this does not sound like what you want. That said, it sounds like a great training session to me!

Savell's Serve Return Tutorial
1. Learn to read the serve-mainly its is top (with or without side) or underspin (with or without side) or is it dead? 
2. Have a plan how you want to return-attacking, short return, setting something up, etc. This can and should vary-doing the same return against a certain serve never works well.
3. You want to learn to return serves well? Play A LOT OF TOURNAMENTS at different locations or as many different players. (mjamja is doing this).

Someone mentioned in an earlier post the Chiquita flip. I am pretty sure mjamja cannot physically do this due to lack or wrist flexibility. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mjamja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 10:33am
Originally posted by vanjr vanjr wrote:

I know you/mjamja are a big believer in muscle memory, and this does not sound like what you want. That said, it sounds like a great training session to me!

Savell's Serve Return Tutorial
1. Learn to read the serve-mainly its is top (with or without side) or underspin (with or without side) or is it dead? 
2. Have a plan how you want to return-attacking, short return, setting something up, etc. This can and should vary-doing the same return against a certain serve never works well.
3. You want to learn to return serves well? Play A LOT OF TOURNAMENTS at different locations or as many different players. (mjamja is doing this).

Someone mentioned in an earlier post the Chiquita flip. I am pretty sure mjamja cannot physically do this due to lack or wrist flexibility. 

It was very good for learning to read spin.  However lately I would guess 70% of my mistakes have been reading the spin correctly but still missing the return.   I have been having problems returning against even 1500 level players with relatively simple serves.  

When I do play against good deceptive serves, I get fooled a lot.  So I do needed to improve on spin reading.  It was just my thought that I should work on being able to return effectively when I know spin before working on reading the spin.  That may not be the right approach.

Mark
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hookumsnivy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 11:10am
Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

It was very good for learning to read spin.  However lately I would guess 70% of my mistakes have been reading the spin correctly but still missing the return.   I have been having problems returning against even 1500 level players with relatively simple serves.  

When I do play against good deceptive serves, I get fooled a lot.  So I do needed to improve on spin reading.  It was just my thought that I should work on being able to return effectively when I know spin before working on reading the spin.  That may not be the right approach.

Mark

I would say that if you're reading the type of spin correctly but not returning it effectively then that should be your primary focus. What good is reading the spin if you can't control it?

I'm curious what mistakes you make after you read the type spin correctly. Is it placement? Is it overestimating or underestimating the amount of spin? Do you feel like you lack time? Does bad muscle memory take over? Are you trying to do too much with the serve? Are you too tight? Is your equipment too fast?

I only ask the last one because when I switched to a slower (still OFF) blade, it really helped my service return. Keeping the ball short became so much easier.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 4:20pm
Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

Originally posted by vanjr vanjr wrote:

I know you/mjamja are a big believer in muscle memory, and this does not sound like what you want. That said, it sounds like a great training session to me!

Savell's Serve Return Tutorial
1. Learn to read the serve-mainly its is top (with or without side) or underspin (with or without side) or is it dead? 
2. Have a plan how you want to return-attacking, short return, setting something up, etc. This can and should vary-doing the same return against a certain serve never works well.
3. You want to learn to return serves well? Play A LOT OF TOURNAMENTS at different locations or as many different players. (mjamja is doing this).

Someone mentioned in an earlier post the Chiquita flip. I am pretty sure mjamja cannot physically do this due to lack or wrist flexibility. 

It was very good for learning to read spin.  However lately I would guess 70% of my mistakes have been reading the spin correctly but still missing the return.   I have been having problems returning against even 1500 level players with relatively simple serves.  

When I do play against good deceptive serves, I get fooled a lot.  So I do needed to improve on spin reading.  It was just my thought that I should work on being able to return effectively when I know spin before working on reading the spin.  That may not be the right approach.

Mark

Hi mjamja, I think you could try learning soft FH and BH flicks if you can't do the chiquita (just the normal ones), and train it against various types of spin. With the correct bat angle you can soft flick everything. The other one is what I call a sidespin swipe which Waldner used extensively and is quite        disorienting to opponents.  These two strokes are very versatile and can be used against most spins. They are also faster than pushes which means they can jam up attackers better, also you convert the point to topspin where your advantages in countering would be able to overwhelm your opponents.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mjamja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 4:25pm
 Blahness, 

Is sideswipe used against all spins or just against top, sidetop, and side?

Mark
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 4:37pm
Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

 Blahness, 

Is sideswipe used against all spins or just against top, sidetop, and side?

Mark

You can use it against underspin and sideunder by adjusting to an open racket angle, it's one of the most underrated receive methods in table tennis imo. You can generate quite a lot of sidespin with this stroke which can be quite disorienting to many opponents.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 4:44pm
Originally posted by blahness blahness wrote:

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

 Blahness, 

Is sideswipe used against all spins or just against top, sidetop, and side?

Mark

You can use it against underspin and sideunder by adjusting to an open racket angle, it's one of the most underrated receive methods in table tennis imo. You can generate quite a lot of sidespin with this stroke which can be quite disorienting to many opponents.

If you sideswipe and follow through upwards it becomes a sidespin flick. If you follow through to the side it's more pure sidespin and if you followthrough downwards it's more side underspin. It's a bit like your FH pendulum service action except applied to serve receive. 

For me the usual tactic is to sideswipe to the opponent's middle to force a weak opener then block the return down the line to his deep FH. If he steps to the right to use his BH then rip it crosscourt. Because of the heavy sidespin you produce most balls will go back to your BH. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 4:47pm
Originally posted by blahness blahness wrote:

Originally posted by blahness blahness wrote:

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

 Blahness, 

Is sideswipe used against all spins or just against top, sidetop, and side?

Mark

You can use it against underspin and sideunder by adjusting to an open racket angle, it's one of the most underrated receive methods in table tennis imo. You can generate quite a lot of sidespin with this stroke which can be quite disorienting to many opponents.

If you sideswipe and follow through upwards it becomes a sidespin flick. If you follow through to the side it's more pure sidespin and if you followthrough downwards it's more side underspin. It's a bit like your FH pendulum service action except applied to serve receive. 

For me the usual tactic is to sideswipe to the opponent's middle to force a weak opener then block the return down the line to his deep FH. If he steps to the right to use his BH then rip it crosscourt. Because of the heavy sidespin you produce most balls will go back to your BH. 

The movement can be disguised in combination with the FH sidespin push/flick to the deep FH, which will make it more effective. The BH sideswipe imo is similar but more useful against lefties (against right handers it curves towards their FH which is generally what you don't want!) 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lightzy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 5:23pm
Probably I'd want to cover all bases.
But this is very difficult to do with a single coach.

I'd want first to be served weak serves. Low spin, long. Learn how to punish these. This alone takes a lot of practice. Those are the serves most amateurs serve, but you need to get great touch to really punish them and not just return them. So a practice on such serves, trying to return very aggressively.

Then I'd want to practice answering long, fast, huge spin serves. A lot of beginner players have these kind of serves too, usually extreme sidespin. Also, from just returning them to returning them aggressively, and returning them both with a topspin and also a '90 degree chop', just to be comfortable with both kind of returns and sometimes confuse opponents.

Then I'd want to practice short, good serves. Especially topspin and sidespin short, since backspin short is usually not a problem to return for anyone.
Also, return both with topspin and 90 degree fast chop.

Then I'd want to practice against very deceptive serves.

I wonder if I missed something


Edited by Lightzy - 02/14/2019 at 8:06pm
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smackman View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/14/2019 at 7:00pm
There are different approaches
First is you tell the coach your problem serves and then you pracrice that first
then learn different serves each week
then adding randomness of the serves you have learnt to return
then go back and relearn the problem serves or new problem serves again
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lula Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/18/2019 at 3:15am
i find it somewhat difficult to learn people how to return serves. That is alot about experience. 

If i was the coach i would have focus om Maybe this
Teach you that you create different spin when you hit different parts of the ball. 
Learn how to motion looks for the most common serves
Teach you how to return the most common serves. 
Teach you how ro read spin. Look at his motion then the ball. 
Teach you to be decisive, to make a decision. Read the spin, choose a way of returning and never hesitate. Need to so different returns on different serves. Many Times people Do the same return on different serves. 

I Do think the must important thing is to read the spin by looking at rhe motion and the ball then make a desicion and go for it. 

Maybe painting on the ball would help. 

I think you can talk to your coach and he can change. If you Do not it Will be hard for him to know What you want. 
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