In this section we want to introduce you to one of the most important aspects of winning tennis, The Volleys! The volleys are a main component of the All-Court game that we recommend at Elite Tennis Training for our students. Learning how to volley with crisp, compact movements, will enable you to turn defense into offense and control more points while attacking your opponent and controlling the court.
This skill set will advance your game to the next level and put allow you to put intense pressure on your opponent to come up with increasingly difficult passing shots to win. The percentages of success will be swayed in your favor if you use this critical skill properly, so let's take a closer look at The Volleys!
The Volley is a shot that every player must learn in order to become an advanced player and elevate their game to the higher levels. One of the most important aspects that the volley provides is the reduction of time that your opponent has to return your volley, this is known as cutting time. The opponent is forced to respond faster and this inevitably creates more pressure on your opponent and ultimately more errors as well.
The Grip: The grip can be different depending on if you’re hitting a forehand or a backhand volley. On the forehand volley the Continental grip is the best choice, and on the backhand volley the player can decide between a Continental grip or an Eastern grip. The Eastern grip can be beneficial in providing additional back spin and on low volleys it will work nicely for you as well.
The Stance and Footwork: As the player on the baseline approaches the net, the first thing that needs to be accomplished is staying in the ready position. This varies slightly from the ready position at the baseline, in that the non dominant hand moves off of the handle and up to the throat of the racket, and the dominant hand assumes the volley grip. Much like the baseline ready position, the player should be standing with the feet shoulder width apart, the knees are slightly bent and the weight on the balls of the feet, the racket should be straight out in front. As in every shot your movement will be predicated on the velocity, spin and direction of the incoming ball. Your judgement of these external factors will decide how you move to strike the volley.
A split-step should be the first movement, again the split-step is a little hop-step where the player hops and then lands on both feet spaced about shoulder width apart. This prepares the player to move in an instant in either direction, it also activates the legs and prepares them for maximum explosion from the legs forward into the direction of the incoming ball. The posture of the body should be chest upright, knees bent, and the legs loaded like a spring ready to provide the power on the volley.The player then steps toward the incoming ball, this step should typically be in a diagonal fashion using the opposite foot. (Opposite foot meaning for right handed players, they would use a left foot cross-step to hit a forehand volley and conversely they would use their right foot cross-step to hit their backhand volley. The exact opposite would apply to you Lefties out there!)
Preparation & Rotation: After the split-step and after deciding which direction the incoming ball is headed the preparation of the stroke begins to take place. The length of the back swing is directly proportional to the shoulder rotation that occurs. On the Forehand volley the non dominant shoulder should move from being parallel to the net into a perpendicular position to the net, if your shoulders were aligned on a clock they would move from 9 and 3 to a 11 and 5 position. In doing this the racket is organically drawn back to the proper back swing distance. The shoulder turn on the Backhand volley will bring the dominant shoulder from the 3 and 9 position to a 1 and 7 position.
For both the forehand and the backhand volleys the player needs to try to line up the racket face on the same plane as the incoming ball, whether that is below the waist, at the waist to shoulders level, or above the shoulders, into the body, or stretched wide to either side. This will mean that in order to get to the low volley, you will need to bend at the legs to get the racket onto that lower plane, DO NOT bend at the waist or hunch over. When hitting the backhand volley the non-dominant hand should provide additional control by holding onto the throat of the racket through the shoulder turn.
The Stroke: The player needs to transfer the energy and power from their legs into the shot, the volleys, maybe above all other shots are predicated on the legs. The best in the world, if you watch them, will illustrate how to use your legs and your momentum to move forward into the ball as you strike your volley. The stepping into the volley usually follows the guidelines of the non-dominant foot stepping diagonally across on the forehand volley, and the dominant foot doing the same on the backhand volley. The racket should travel a short and compact distance to the point of contact, commonly referred to as a "punch" and the elbow should be slightly bent. Again, the racket should extend out to meet the ball in front of the players body. The acceleration of the racket head is brought to an immediate halt after contact with the ball. The striking of the ball and the step of the player should occur at essentially the same time.
Follow Through & Recovery: After contact is made with the ball, the player recovers by moving back into the original ready position quickly and bringing the non-dominant hand back onto the throat of the racket in front of the body. Again, refrain from any “swinging” motion on your volleys, you must simply release the racket from the coiled shoulder position and bring the racket face to meet the ball at the point of contact in front of you.