Knowing how to properly execute a tennis volley, complete with timing and approach, is paramount to mastering the game. These shots are necessary when there won’t be time to get the ball before a second bounce or you are simply wanting to include an attack on the net as part of your strategy.
A tennis volley can be classified as any shot made near the net. A shot landing in the forecourt should be countered with a volley shot. To do this, you will have to move closer to the net, leaving the baseline behind.
Timing is everything.
Serve and Volley
Those players who like to move up to the net after a serve, are using the serve and volley technique. Tips for approaching the net with a serve:
- Serve toward the outside of the court. This will cause your opponent to chase the ball, giving you time to get to the net and set up for their return.
- Serve close to the T of the service box. This will again cause your opponent to chase the ball and give you time.
- Serve toward your opponent’s body. This will cause a return that is often weak and therefore easy to react with a volley to.
When you move from the baseline up to the net in order to volley, you’re using the baseline approach. This technique should happen if your opponent hits an approach shot—where the ball is hit close to the service box. This shot forces you to attack the net because you’ll either return the ball to mid court in a weak hit or be late to the net and unable to return it before a second bounce happens.
A proper baseline approach is executed by running up to the mid-court then hitting the ball while using the momentum you’ve created. To guarantee a successful baseline approach, hit the ball away from your opponent. This will buy you time to approach the net and set up for an easy put away shot.
With the exception of the drive volley, all tennis volleys use a continental grip. To maximize your volley hits, hold your racket at a forty-five degree angle while turning your waist. When you start learning the tennis volley, a good training exercise is to practice catching the ball with the face of your racket, the objective being to use your racket to follow the ball at the point of impact to absorb the shock and push it back. The exercise will help teach flexibility and give you a better feel for the ball.
There are several types of tennis volleys that can be used by players.
Doesn’t use a full swing. In the case of a volley, the best way to fix timing is by shortening the swing. To hit a ball hard and fast with a short swing, you need racket speed, hence the punch volley—a short swing with a punching motion.
Used when you’re left with no option but to block due to a fast approaching ball. Requires a stable arm to use your racket like a wall. There is no swing in this hit, only the existing momentum of the ball returning off your racket.
This hit is similar to a punch volley minus the fast swing. It’s useful because it’s like a drop shot, but done in the vicinity of the net. Used when your opponent is staying near the base line so all you have to do is give the ball a slight touch to throw them off-balance.
When at the net and facing a shot that is close to the ground, you want to return them with a low volley. This is one of the hardest volleys to execute; needs a neutral stance with deep knee bend.
The most aggressive tennis volley is the drive volley. Also an approach shot, it uses a full swing and is done before the ball has a chance to bounce. Unlike the other volleys, the drive generates both topspin and power. Contact point is shoulder height.
Low Volley Counter
The low volley counter is typically used as an approach shot. The point of contact is below the knee. To execute the low volley, you run forward and return the shot with a block using your weight and momentum. This shot differs from the drive volley since it doesn’t use a full swing and uses the continental grip like the other volleys as opposed to the western grip needed on the drive.
A combination between a serve and volley, an overhead volley is also known as a smash. Requires movement of feet and torso, in addition to being prepared to chase the ball while keeping your eye on it in the air.
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