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The Volley
by Clark Corey
PBI Director of Tennis Kapalua
USPTA Tennis Professional

There are two places to play tennis from during a point. You can either rally from the baseline with groundstrokes or you can move forward to the net and volley. Both can be effective ways to win a point against an opponent. When you play from the baseline you will be hitting forehands and backhands and looking to put your opponent in trouble and hoping they will make a mistake. When you play from the net with a volley you are becoming more offensive and looking to end the point rather than keep it in play like we would from the baseline.

Many opportunities have been lost by players who have hit wonderful groundstrokes from the baseline only to stay put there and not come in and volley away an easy ball. Two players come to mind that fit this style, one would be Andre Agassi and the other Monica Seles. Champions in their own right and wonderful tennis players both have to play extended points as they rarely, if ever, come to the net.

Part of the reason why players don't come to the net and volley is that they never learned the proper technique for volleying. The following information will provide you with the ability to volley and thus come to the net and win some points.

The fundamental key on the volley is holding the racquet with a grip called the Continental grip. You would hold the racquet grip just firmly with the index knuckle on the corner bevel and the base of your hand on the same bevel. By having the Continental grip this allows you to have a racquet face that is pointed slightly to the sky or openand allows the ball to have backspin, both of which are fundamental to a good volley.

When most people come to the net they make one of three mistakes or if they are unlucky they make all three mistakes. The first mistake is to take a swing at the ball like they would do for a groundstroke. This is a common mistake and somewhat built in as players learned to take backswings when hitting groundstrokes from the baseline. In order to avoid this mistake a player needs to realize that when they volley they are standing about 10 feet away from the net rather than 40 feet as if they were on the baseline. Since they are only 10 feet away from the net and hitting a 2 ounce ball it would make sense that a swing isn't necessary.

A good way to eliminate the swing is to think CATCH. When a ball is hit at you place your racquet out in front as if you were going to catch the ball on the strings. When someone throws an object at us we don't pull our hands back behind us to catch the object we actually reach out in front to catch it. This is the exact same motion we want to do when going to hit a volley. Place your racquet out in front to catch the ball on the strings and let the ball rebound off and over the net. Keep in mind the volley is a controlled directional (CD) shot and not a powerful swinging shot. Every time a player swings three things can happen and two of them are bad, the ball can go in or more likely the player will either miss the ball completely or hit it way out!

The second mistake we tend to make is to be too close to the net. A player should be half way between the net and the service line when attempting to volley. Most players stand right next to the net and get surprised by the speed of the ball, have no room to move to hit the volley or get lobbed and then have to run all the way to the back of the court to retrieve the ball. The best place to stand is half way between the net and service line. This location is called the Ideal Volley Position (IVP). This allows a player to step forward for low balls stay put for high balls and also get back for balls that are lobbed over their head.

The last mistake we want to avoid is having a racquet face that is pointing down or straight ahead. When we hit a volley with the racquet face pointed down or straight ahead the ball has a tendency to either go into the net or land in the middle of court, which is right where the opponent would like it. It seems hard to hit a ball into the net when we are so close to the net but when the racquet face is pointed down or straight ahead it happens all the time. The best way to eliminate this is to have the racquet face open or facing the sky at a 45 degree angle. This will allow the ball to have enough arc to get over the net and spin to help you control the where the ball will land.


Tips Archive

Getting Started

Three Fundamentals of Tennis

The Foundations

Serve and Return
Forehand and Backhand
The Volley
The Lob and Smash
Keep Your Opponents Off-Balance with Backspin
Give Balance Priority