How To Return The Padel Smash (5 Steps)

A lot of people do not know how to the return the padel smash. 

They tend to freeze up when a ball comes flying towards them hard in padel. 

If they come from tennis, squash, badminton, any sport or no sports, they are not going to have an instinct of what to do in this situation. 

It is actually a lot easier than you think.

But how do you return the smash in padel? To return the padel smash, you need good anticipation, and quick movements forward. Once you are at the net, then you can turn, watch the ball and then play it to the opponents.

Let’s review this in more detail, here are 5 steps for you to know how to return the padel smash.

how to return the padel smash

What Will Happen When Someone Smashes?

Before we get to the steps of how to return the padel smash, we need to know what will actually happen when someone plays a smash. 

When someone plays a smash, flat or with topspin. The ball will bounce, hit the wall and fly forward quickly. The outcome of where the ball ends up depends on different factors:

  • If the ball was played with a lot of topspin
  • How deep the ball is played
  • How hard the ball is struck
  • How far back the opponent is 
  • Technique used
  • Weather conditions
 
There are a lot of different variables, this is why it is hard to know how to return the padel smash!

We Don't Always Know

The more people smash, the more you will learn how far forward the ball is going to come. Someone might smash hard with poor technique, so the ball won’t go as far forward.

It is a good idea to look at the amount of topspin was put on the smash, if it is a lot then the ball is going to come very far forward. 

If they are really far back, it is more unlikely that there smash won’t come as far forward!

I bolded weather conditions because this is a big one, if it is wet and cold, the ball will barely bounce and you won’t need to run forward very far.

We don’t always know, but in padel we have to able to adapt to different situations and be ready for anything. Assess every situation for the smash to try and work out what the outcome will be for the smash.

Saca Por Tres (out by three)

“Saca por tres” means “takes it out by three”. This means the opponent has smashed, it has hit the ground, hit the back wall, and then gone out the side. 

Now this might happen to you when someone smashes, today we are going to look at how to return the smash when it stays in the court.

We are ready to move on to the steps of how to return the padel smash, let’s get started.

Step 1: Watch The Opponent

The first step you need to take is to watch the opponent.

It sounds fairly obvious but there are a few red flags we have to look out for when we know the opponent is about to smash:

  • Preparation of the racket
  • The type of ball they are receiving
  • Body position

Let’s go through each one:

Preparation of the racket: 

If the racket is prepared very high, with the arm stretched out. Then it is likely they are going for a smash. Have a look at the opponent are they “reaching” for the ball, if so get moving forward.

Type of ball they are receiving:

If they are gifted a high and easy ball, they are likely to smash it. If you give them a deep high ball, they are a lot more likely to run back and play a bandeja. If you gift your opponents an easy ball, you need to be thinking straight away, I need to run forward.

Body position:

There are a few other signs with the smash, do they arch there back, or do they bend there legs slightly. These are clear signs.

Sometimes, you can just look at the player as a whole and think “does he look like he is going to smash!” and it is fairly obvious after a while.

how to return the padel smash
Look at this preparation!

Step 2: Move Forward...Fast

The second step you need to take is to move forward, fairly fast. 

This isn’t to say that you need to be sprinting forward, but you still need to get moving fairly quickly in order to catch the speed of the ball. 

I do believe that you can get far enough forward to reach the ball, you just have to make sure you are on your toes.

Before every single shot the opponent plays, you should have the split step, which is a little bounce to make sure you are ready for every point.

if you do this, you will be a lot more ready to move forward quickly.

How Far Should I Run Forward?

We mentioned this before, it depends on the smash. Let’s say the smash is hit well, with good technique, topspin and we are playing in hot, dry conditions.

You will need to run all the way to the net in this case. The ball is likely to travel far and it may even be hard for you to reach it.

You SHOULD be able to tell how far the ball will come as it is being hit, you can usually tell by the rotation of the ball and the technique used if it is going to be really effective.

Step 3: Watch The Ball

This one is crucial if you want to know hot to return the padel smash. 

DO NOT lose track of the ball.

I watch people running forward because they know they have to, but they don’t watch the ball. 

This will end up with them losing where the ball is and not being able to reach it. 

Most of your running needs to be done AS the ball is travelling towards the glass, so that you can then, turn around and watch where the ball is going. 

how to return the padel smash

Step 4: Get Out The Way Of The Ball

People often say “i don’t know how to return the padel smash because the ball hits me if I run forward”

It isn’t uncommon for the player to get hit/tagged when the opponent smashes. 

But as a part of your run, you need to be moving out the way of the ball as well as running forward.

This also allows you to keep track of the ball easier, if the ball is straight at you then it is going to be a lot harder. 

Hug The Cage

The smash is going to be played fairly central usually, so your run should be nice and tight to the cage. 

This will allow you to be out the way of the ball and not lose your momentum.

Momentum is a big thing.

If you are running forward, then have to move out the way of the ball, and then continue running again, you are going to be MASSIVELY slowed down.

Compared to, if you run forward, tight to the cage, already out the way of the ball, and then turn and see where the ball is. This is MUCH faster.

Remember, if we want to know how to return the padel smash, we need to be fast.

Step 5: Communicate With Your Partner

The secret to learning how to return the padel smash is to work as a team.

You and your partner need to know what happens when a smash is played. Is one of you going to run? Is one going to stay back? are you both going to run?

My best advice is:

One player runs for the smash while the other one stays back to cover if the smash is a “fake smash”.

That way, the player who run’s can run very early and be able to retrieve the smash the earliest.

In case you haven’t seen it the “fake smash” is where a player pretends to do a big smash but then disguises it and does a very soft overhead. 

This is effective as usually the players will run forward and then not be able to retrieve the ball that has gone past them.

Watch the clip below of how partners deal with a big smash!

The Overall Process - how To Return the Padel Smash

The overall process for how to return the padel smash is not too complex.

Below is what should happen on the court.

  • Poor lob has been played – Player is anticipating smash
  • Opponent has smash preparation – Player starts to move forward, hugging the cage, partner is covering
  • Opponent does a padel smash – Player runs forward towards the net
  • Ball bounces and hits the glass – Player turns and looks to see where the ball is going
  • Ball travels towards player – Player plays the ball over to the other side.
Overall, if we have good preparation and anticipation we should be able to return the padel smash. if you follow these steps you will increase the amount of smashes you return! 
 
Here are some awesome videos on padel: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8bkkjpCvyo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwx17UtIAqo

“How to return the padel smash” – Ewan Ramsden
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