Showing posts with label volley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label volley. Show all posts

Monday, September 10, 2012


Junior tennis often follows the trends that dominate the professional game. Today very few juniors have an understanding of when to use under-spin, nor do they have solid technique to allow them to use under-spin in a match. However the ability to use under-spin as a tool in points is beginning to make a come-back. 

For too many years players have relied almost totally on topspin to attack and defend in points.  Recently the top male players in our game have started to use under-spin more.

In the 2012 US Open there were several instances whereby players who were struggling to match their opponents in the baseline exchanges were forced to change the pattern of the points and attack the net. Roddick, Federer and Murray all used under-spin to force a new pattern on their opponents.

As tennis gets more and more diverse in its skill complexities, players today must have an understanding of when to use under-spin and how to execute under-spin.  Here is an outline on the key points I emphasize when teaching under-spin.

     1        THE LOCK

I teach players to lock their wrist whenever they want to hit under-spin.  Whether it’s the volley, approach shot, or a one-handed under-spin groundstroke, I insist on a locked wrist.

The "Lock" involves creating a 90 degree
angle between the racquet shaft and the forearm
The advantage of a locked wrist is that it creates a solid surface (racquet-face) for the ball to rebound off.  There is no need to swing or add wrist to the contact because the locked wrist allows the player to use the natural momentum of the on-coming ball and rebound the ball.

Create an open racquet-face by rolling the knuckles (Backhand) and palm (forehand)
Insisting on a locked wrist also forces the player to work harder on their position.  If you don’t get close enough to the ball you can’t stay locked in the wrist.  You will need to extend the wrist to reach the ball.


One of the biggest mistakes you can make with under-spin is to hit the ball early and in front.  Even worst is to “punch” the ball in front.  I know that these phrases are used often to describe the volley mechanics but they will destroy your under-spin and they are incorrect.  Early contact will “open” the racquet-face and diminish control of the flight of the ball. An early contact point is for top-spin not under-spin.

Contacting the ball on the side helps
maintain an open racquet-face
through the contact zone

Under-spin requires the contact point to be a little later.  A deeper contact point, roughly parallel to the body, will allow the racquet-face to stay “open” through the ball. This late contact effects the amount of under-spin on the ball and the amount of under-spin controls the depth and bounce at the other side of the net.

To achieve a late contact point on a short ball in front, the player must learn to use a side-ways cross-over step.  I like to work this cross-over step into fitness workouts so that the skill can be perfected and the player becomes more confident in moving this way


Because the wrist is locked the energy to the ball comes from the rebound effect and by extending the elbow through contact.

Keep the elbow relaxed so that it can
extend through the contact zone
The player must anticipate where the ball will be contacted and prepare a locked wrist and a slightly relaxed elbow.  Once the ball is being contacted, the wrist remains locked and the elbow extends through the contact to help provide penetration on the bounce at the other side.
4.    VOLLEY

Apart from the technique of hitting a good volley, which has already been outlined, I highlight two other objectives to a player:

                                                  i.    The Volley is a placement shot and not a put-away shot

Accurate placement will always be better than attempting to bludgeon the ball. Very often the volley is the finish shot but the mindset should be one of placement.

                                                ii.    Be conscious of the height of the ball in relation to the height of the net band

By being aware of the net band a player will know how much they can and can’t do on a particular ball.  A ball struck below the height of the white band puts the player in neutral or even defense, while any ball contacted above the white band of the net will be a much easier ball. It’s important to know clearly what role you are in on each situation.


The player hitting the approach must slow the
arm and rely mostly on his/her forward momentum
These are my key points for the approach shot:
                                                  i.    The ball is struck primarily by using the forward movement of the body running forward and the player continuing their run towards the net, Don’t over-do the racquet work!
                                                ii.    Keep the arm slow for under-spin. A fast arm is for topspin
                                               iii.    Your objectives are to keep yourself safe at net by keeping the opponents feet deep in the court and/or keep the opponents contact point low


Many of the points remain the same but additional points are:
                                          i.    Maintain a disciplined finish at the completion of your stroke. The finish should end with the knuckles of your racquet hand in front of your face.  Finishing out to the side of your body shows that you are using too much shoulder in your swing.  Dominate with the elbow.

Create a finish check-point high and in front

                                        ii.    Establish a contact foot that draws power up from the ground. Many players who use a two handed backhand lack strength in their arms. Enlist the ground forces to supply power to the single handed backhand.

The power, balance and timing for the
one-handed under-spin backhand comes
from the players connection to the ground

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.

Watch "Volley Like The Pros" on youtube @