John Newcombe’s Sneaky Return of Serve Forehand Tactic

Peter Freeman

Pete has coached college players, national champions, and been named USTA Georgia Pro of the year. Recently he made a video course with legends, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, and John Newcombe.

John Newcombe is a former tennis player from Australia who won seven Grand Slam singles titles and an all-time record 17 doubles titles. He is one of the few men to have been ranked world No. 1 in both singles and doubles. – Wikipedia

John Newcombe gives a great tennis tip whether you are a beginning tennis player or advanced tennis player.

Here he is talking about the return of serve and how to hit a forehand, from the backhand position. This tip will intimidate your opponent and give you many free points.

Pete: Hey, this is Peter Freeman here for CrunchTime Coaching, we’re here with John Newcombe, we’re here at the Newcombe Ranch with a Tennis Fantasies camp and it’s just a surreal experience. When I got here and I get off the plane, and I get introduced to this guy right away and he’s got a big “G’Day” for me. He puts me on the court with Brian Gottfried, he’s hitting the ball about a foot away from the baseline. It’s unbelievable here, you have to come and experience it. Today Newc’s got a tip for us on being a little more aggressive on the return of serve, and specifically, running around and hitting a forehand, right?

John Newcombe: Exactly Peter, and I’ve got to congratulate you on the way you handled yourself on that first day because that was not easy to just arrive off the plane and come right out and get tested on your skills by hitting with Brian Gottfried.

Peter: I was nervous, but it was fun.

John: One of my favorite tactics on the second serve was to run around the backhand and hit my forehand, which was a powerful forehand return of serve. It was very intimidating to my opponent.

You’ve got to learn how to use this and use it smartly. You don’t want to do it all the time or your opponent will get used to it. He’ll get to know when you’re going to run around and try to hit the forehand and he can ace you down the middle or out wide to the first court.

So where we are in the match, I’d be standing in like this on the second serve and I’d run around a backhand and crunch a forehand return and hopefully it was a really good one.

Now, for the rest of the match, every time my opponent went to hit a second serve, I’d just be making little moves like that, not enough for the umpire to say I’m deliberating putting off the opponent, but enough for my opponent to maybe realize I may be running around.

I may not do it for another 20 minutes and then all of a sudden on a big point I’m going to be doing this and I haven’t run around, I haven’t run around, suddenly I’m running around and crunching a forehand return of serve!

Peter: So the key is you’ve got to be unpredictable, right?

John: I’m putting doubt into my opponent’s head.

I’m playing a match in the Davis Cup finals in Cleveland, I was playing Stan Smith and Neil Frazier, my captain, kept saying to me, “Run around, run around.” I said, “No, no, I’m happy with the way I’m returning and I’m going to wait for that tactic.”

A very important game, we were neck and neck in the fifth set. I had a break point 30/40, I hadn’t run around, I hadn’t run around. Stan went back for a second serve and I started doing this, and then I ran around the second serve. He tried to ace me down the middle and double faulted.

So I had planted a seed of doubt in his head about what I was going to do. It’s a very useful tactic, it can be an aggressive one, and it can put a heck of a lot of pressure on your opponent throughout the match from always worrying about that tactic.

Peter: That’s great, now I’ve got one question, is there a specific time when you want to make your move. I imagine if you go to early, you can really leave yourself out to dry.

John: Well you can decide, yes, I’m definitely going to run around this. Or you can be moving and moving or not moving and then just take a gamble and do it.

It’s really a game of cat and mouse with your opponent and the pressure is all on him because remember, it’s his second serve, especially if it’s a 30/40 point. All the pressure is on him in the game of cat and mouse, you’re the cat, he’s the mouse

Peter: I like that. Alright, so guys, out there, be sneaky, get in their heads and you might get a free point on a big point, might not even have to hit a shot, right?

John: Exactly, Peter, exactly. Now don’t you do it against my team this afternoon!

john newcombe


  1. Clement Bowen

    Very good tips! My son just qualified for inter high school tennis competition and he’s so exited for your tips.
    He’s ready to face his opponents confidently!
    Thank you

  2. Henry Scott

    A friend of mine went to his camp facilities and had a blast…it’s on my bucket list to do…back when the Aussies were dominating tennis…Newk was always my favorite!!!!

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