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The Tennis Volley: A Comprehensive Guide For Singles

The tennis volley, though used less than it used to be, is still a pivotal shot in both singles and doubles. The ability to apply this technique can often dictate the flow of a match and showcase a player's finesse and tactical acumen. In this guide, we delve into volley technique and cover training drills and tactics for singles play.

What Is A Volley?

The volley is a shot executed before the ball touches the ground. In theory, it can be hit from anywhere on the court but is most effectively played close to the net. This strategic position significantly enhances the angles available for the shot, which are inaccessible from further back on the court. Mastering the volley provides numerous benefits, including:

Taking Control Of The Point: The ability to get to the net and use volleys gives you an added dimension to your attack. Being at the net reduces your opponent’s available court space and reaction time. This forces your opponent into a defensive position and puts pressure on them to hit a well-executed and accurate shot.

Closing Out Points: The extra angles available at the net mean you can attack with placement more than you can from the back of the court. Aggressive volleying can be instrumental in finishing off points swiftly, preventing opponents from regaining control.

Volley Grip

Most types of volley require the continental grip or slight variations of. The drive volley would require your regular groundstroke grip to achieve maximum topspin.

Here’s how to find the continental grip:

Types Of Volley

1. Punch Volley

The punch volley is generally the first volley we learn. It is also the most commonly used. It’s simple and short action allows us to execute the shot swiftly and accurately. It is an aggressive shot to drive the ball with pace and precision.
Technique: To execute a punch volley, use a firm, but not tight, hand and wrist, making contact slightly in front of your body and punching through the ball in the direction you are aiming with a short movement. The use of your body weight through the shot helps to add power.

2. Drop Volley

The drop volley is a finesse shot that gently drops the ball over the net. It is often employed to catch opponents at the back of the court off guard.
Technique: A drop volley is generally hit from a low ball, as it is easier to drop the ball by gently lifting it up and over the net. Use a short backswing and soften your hand at the contact point to absorb the pace of the incoming ball. Aim underneath the ball to lift it back up and over. The ball should drop short and close to the net.

3. Stop Volley

The stop volley is a variation of the drop volley, designed to deaden the ball upon impact and surprise the opponent. It tends to be hit from a mid-height ball. Like the drop volley, the objective is to have it land short and close to the net, but now you are just taking the pace off rather than lifting it back up and over.
Technique: To execute a stop volley, meet the ball early and soften hand and wrist at contact to absorb much of the pace. As it is mostly a mid-height ball, the contact should be more on the back of the ball to send it straight forward.

4. Drive Volley

The drive volley is an aggressive shot that puts pressure on your opponent with pace, depth, and spin.
Technique: Timing is easier if the backswing is shorter. The key to a good drive volley is achieving a good contact point in front and a long follow-through to help add speed and spin.

Check out this great tutorial from Ryan Reidy:

5. Block Volley

The block volley is a reactionary shot used when the ball arrives quickly. It can often be a defensive volley or a more neutral shot vs an attacking type of volley.
Technique: Focus on getting the racket on the ball quickly. It doesn’t have to be a pretty volley; it's more about effectiveness. Simply hold your strings to the ball and block it with a firm wrist and racket face, redirecting it back over the net with minimal backswing or follow-through.

6. Lob Volley

The lob volley is a technique for lofting the ball high over an opponent at the net, often as a defensive or tactical maneuver. When executed effectively, it is one of the most fun and rewarding volleys.
Technique: To execute a lob volley, use an open racket face and a gentle upward swing with firm contact to lift the ball high, aiming to clear the opponent and land the ball deep in the court.

7. Half Volley

The half volley is a challenging shot played immediately after the ball bounces, typically when approaching the net. So it is more of a groundstroke than a volley, but the technique is similar to that of the punch volley.
Technique: To execute a half volley, anticipate the bounce and make contact with the ball just after it rebounds off the court, using a compact swing and controlled touch to direct it accurately over the net. Guide the racket in the direction of the ball target area.

Court Positioning

Position yourself strategically at the net to cut off angles and cover the court effectively. Stay close to the net without crowding it, allowing yourself room to react to shots. Anticipate your opponent's next move based on their positioning and shot selection and adjust your positioning accordingly. You should constantly be moving and not standing in one spot.

Follow The Ball: You should always follow the ball with your body position. See the image below. This closes down the available angles for your opponent to hit into. If Pat Rafter had stayed in the middle of the court, then there would have been a large gap for Agassi to hit into down the line.

volley

Don’t Stand Too Close To The Net: If you stand too close to the net, you will struggle to react to the incoming ball. You will also leave a large part of the court exposed behind you, and the lob will be an easy option for your opponent.

When To Come To The Net

Deciding when to come into the net in singles is a strategic choice that can significantly impact the outcome of that point. While every point and situation is unique, there are several critical scenarios in which it's advantageous to approach the net:

1. Short Balls

When your opponent hits a weak or short ball that lands near the service line or mid-court area, it's an ideal opportunity to move forward and take control of the point at the net. By closing the distance to the net, you can pressure your opponent and force them to hit a difficult passing shot.

2. Opponent On Defense

If you hit a shot that puts your opponent on the defensive or forces them to hit a defensive reply and stretch to the ball, it's a good time to approach the net and capitalize. A good example of this would be “Serve and Volley”. If you have a strong serve, capitalize on that a follow it into the net!

Here’s some great Serve And Volley Points!

3. To Neutralize Opponent

If your opponent has a strong baseline game or is comfortable dictating rallies from the back of the court, coming into the net can disrupt their rhythm and neutralize their strengths. By removing their preferred hitting zones and angles, you can force them to hit more challenging shots under pressure.

4. To Mix Up Your Game

Incorporating net play into your overall strategy can keep your opponent guessing and prevent them from settling into a predictable play pattern. By varying your tactics and mixing up your shots, you can keep the pressure on your opponent and maintain control of the match.

5. To Use Your Strengths

If you have strong volleys, excellent court coverage, or good anticipation at the net, you may want to consider coming into the net more frequently to play to your strengths. By leveraging your skills and expertise, you can assert control over points and dictate the flow of the match.

Volley Drills

Net Positioning and Footwork: Start by practicing proper net positioning and footwork. Perform drills where you move quickly to the net after hitting a groundstroke or approach shot, ensuring you're in an optimal position to volley.

Touch And Control: Work on developing soft hands and touch by practicing volleys with a partner, focusing on absorbing the pace of the ball and directing it precisely over the net. Emphasize controlled racket head speed rather than excessive power.
This is a great drill to do to help develop overall racket control and touch:

Reaction Drills: Improve your reaction time and reflexes with reaction drills. Have a partner feed balls to various court areas, and practice reacting quickly to volley them back. You can also use a wall to practice volley-to-volley. This is one of the best reflex exercises!

Multi-Ball Drills: Utilize multi-ball drills to enhance volley consistency and rhythm. Have a coach or hitting partner feed balls rapidly, allowing you to practice volleying continuously and develop a smooth, fluid motion.

Target Drills: Improve your accuracy and placement by marking out areas of the court for which to aim!

Summary

Mastering the tennis volley is a journey that requires dedication, practice, and a keen understanding of technique and tactics. By incorporating specialized drills, honing fundamental skills, and developing a repertoire of specialized volley techniques such as the drop volley, stop volley, and drive volley, players can elevate their game and become formidable forces on the court. With perseverance and commitment, the tennis volley can become a potent weapon in any player's arsenal, capable of turning the tide of a match and securing victory.

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