Friday, May 4, 2012


The art of playing at the net has almost disappeared.  This is due to a variety of reasons.  Players are hitting much better ground-strokes today, with more power, spin and greater accuracy. This has put a lot more pressure on any player who comes into net. Courts today have also become more similar, the faster courts are being slowed down, while the traditional slower courts such as clay are playing faster because of the type of tennis balls being used.

This is illustrated best when we look at Wimbledon and the French Open. The grass surface at Wimbledon has been changed to make it slower and to encourage longer rallies. The authorities have done the opposite at the French Open.  To eliminate long boring rallies they have introduced tennis balls that reward players who like to attack the point.

Modern doubles exponents have also departed from traditional volley technique. When you get a chance to poach the ball at the net in doubles you have the luxury of taking a full swing because you are so close to the net.  It’s a very offensive position.

It’s different in singles however because you have to make your way forward to the net from deeper in the court and that presents several key differences that require a different approach to the way you volley in doubles. Often the first volley in singles is executed from deep in the court, mostly around the service-line.  Contact can also be quite low, below the level of the net-band.  When you volley from the service-line with the ball low, the tendency is to “chip” the ball and give the opponent a high bounce at the other side of the net, meaning your opponent can attempt a passing shot.

Coming to net in singles is much more difficult and requires much better technique.

Here are 3 important points I emphasize when I teach the volley…

Creating a Solid Surface
It’s crucial that the ball comes off a solid surface when you volley.  That rebound effect off a solid surface allows you to hit your volley with a minimum of swing and movement. Remember, we are creating volley technique that works at the highest level and under all situations.

To create a solid surface you need to lock your wrist by putting it in the position shown in this picture. This locks the wrist and the arm together as one.
Locking the wrist and creating a 90 degree angle with your arm and the shaft of the racquet

Now any ball striking the racquet-head will rebound strongly off the strings with minimal effort.

Under-spin for Control
We have now created strong rebound off the face of the racquet.  The next step is to create under-spin for control of the ball.  Spin is a tool to help control a balls’ flight.  When we volley we create control spin with the use of under-spin.

We can’t produce under-spin by using the wrist because the wrist has been “locked”, instead we can produce under-spin by presenting the racquet-face “open” to the ball. To achieve an open racquet-face on both forehand and backhand simply roll the wrist in preparation for contact. Rolling the wrist will not destroy the lock and will create the open racquet-face needed for under-spin.

Knuckles facing upwards for
the Backhand Volley

Palm facing up for the
Forehand Volley

Use the Elbow to Create Penetration at the Other End
When you volley there will be times when you simply allow the ball to rebound off the racquet-face, no need to add anything. But there will be times when you do need to add more to the volley and create penetration at the other side. 

To achieve this we work the racquet-head through the ball by extending the elbow.  This short extension of the elbow, once it is timed correctly, gives the volley tremendous speed without destroying the locked wrist.

These 3 tips will produce volleys that will work for you at all speeds and under all situations.

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