Tennis 101: The Volley
The volley is a shot made up around the net, as opposed to ground strokes which are made in the back court around the base line. The “conventional volley” is a punching or jab shot, with a very short backswing. The “swinging volley” is a bigger, more aggressive shot, made with a full swing. The “half volley” is a “conventional volley” made low to the ground, and right after the ball bounce. When I was learning how to play tennis, my instructor was very adamant about my staying far, far away from the “swinging volley”, because he thought it was much too risky and, being a former old school pro-doubles player, thought that the “conventional volley” was more effective. So we will focus on this form of the volley, because…I agree.
Generally, the volley is used as an aggressive shot, by sneaking or charging into the net during a point and making a winning shot. With the volley, you can take time away from your opponent and force your opponent to make a difficult shot by keeping the ball low. Also, being at net puts you in prime position to put away any floaters or short lobs. Here are a few tips to remember when working on the volley:
-Get in quick! Volleys are tough to make when you don’t get into the net (or at least within the service boxes) quick enough. If you’re not close enough to the net, you’re forced to have to hit the ball up over the net, which makes for more work and doesn’t allow you to keep the ball low. Also, you may have to hit a “half volley”, which can be tricky, because you will have to get really low and bend your knees. So, to avoid “half volleys” and to take the net out of the point or out of the equation, get into the net as quickly as possible.
-Split step, step. Footwork is extremely important with any shot in tennis, so of course its important with the volley. In order to be ready to make a good, effective volley, you need to do a couple of things with your feet. First, when your opponent makes contact with the ball, you need to split step, or do a small hop, and plant both of your feet on the ground at the same time. Then, once you have decided whether you’re going to hit a forehand or a backhand volley, you need to take a step. If you’re going to hit a forehand volley, bring over your left foot and step with the shot. Or your right foot for your backhand volley. This will help you get ready for the ball and make a good shot.
-Don’t drop your racquet head. One of my coaches told me to pretend that there was an invisible table around my waste. Obviously, a racquet could not go through a dinner table. You want to try to avoid dropping the racquet head below your wrist. If you have a low ball to deal with, bend your knees and get down to the ball. It’s not the best form or technique to stand straight up and drop your racquet head down to get a low ball. Don’t be lazy! Get down to the ball!
-Finally, remember these things when making contact with the ball. If a ball had a rear end, that’s where you would want to make contact, not on the top, back or bottom. Also, chop outward, not downward or upward (we wouldn’t want the ball flying into the next court or into your side of the net). And finally, notice I said “chop” and not “swing”. The “conventional volley” is meant to be a short, chop shot. Taking a full swing, so close to the net, would send the ball into the fence.
Remember these tips when practicing or playing. Many times volleys can be the key to your success or to your demise. Practice makes perfect!