The volley can often be the defining factor between maintaining the offensive or surrendering the point. It’s a shot that is executed before the ball bounces on the court, typically performed near the net, and it can be both a finishing move as well as a setup for a strategic advantage. Mastering the volley requires keen anticipation, sharp reflexes, and precise timing. Here’s a step-by-step guide to on how to volley in tennis and become a more formidable player at the net.
What Are The Different Types of Volleys?
1) Punch Volley
This is the most basic type of volley and involves a short, punch-like motion. It’s used when the ball is at a comfortable height, and the player can make a firm and controlled contact, guiding the ball into the open court.
2) Drop Volley
A drop volley is a finesse shot designed to barely clear the net and drop quickly on the other side. It is often used when the opponent is far back in the court, and the goal is to make them run forward with as little time to react as possible.
3) Drive/Swing Volley
Also known as a “swing volley,” this type of volley is hit with more force and resembles a groundstroke hit out of the air before the ball bounces. It’s usually a more aggressive shot. Often used to finish the point when the player is inside the baseline but not right at the net.
This is a difficult shot that is hit immediately after the ball bounces on the court. It requires excellent timing and is often used as a defensive shot when the player doesn’t have time to let the ball rise to a more comfortable hitting zone.
5) Angle Volley
Executed with a slight twist of the racquet face at the point of contact. This volley aims to send the ball across the court at a sharp angle. It’s especially effective when the opponent is out of position. Or when you’re close to the net and can create a wide-angle to exploit.
6) Block Volley
The block volley is a defensive shot that is used when facing a powerful shot from the opponent. The player simply “blocks” the ball back over the net with little to no backswing, using the speed of the incoming ball to redirect it.
7) Lob Volley
This is a high, defensive shot that aims to loft the ball over the opponent’s head, often used when they are positioned close to the net. It requires a delicate touch and can be challenging to execute successfully. This shot is particularly useful in doubles to disrupt the net dominance of the opposing team.
How To Volley In Tennis
Step 1: Adopt the Right Grip
The Continental grip is universally recognized as the optimal grip for volleying. To find it, hold your racquet as if it were an axe you’re about to swing. This grip allows for a firm wrist position, which is essential for a stable volley. It also makes transitioning between forehand and backhand volleys seamless. Plus, its effective for serves and slices, making it an all-around grip for the net player.
Step 2: Get into Position
Footwork and positioning are vital in setting up a good volley. You want to split-step—a quick, small hop—as your opponent hits the ball. Stay on your toes and be ready to move forward. Ideally, you want to hit your volley at net level or above to exert more control and place the ball more effectively. Also, your racket should be in the ready position in the middle of your body.
What is a Split-Step?
The split step is a fundamental footwork technique used by players to prepare to react to an opponent’s shot. As the opponent hits the ball, the player performs a small hop with feet shoulder-width apart. Landing on the balls of the feet as the ball crosses the net. This action primes the muscles and readies the player to move quickly in any direction. It’s a critical movement that allows for rapid, balanced, and effective transitions to reach the next shot.
Step 3: Master the Forehand Volley
For a forehand volley, your shoulders should be turned sideways with your racquet head up and in front of you. The key is to “block” the ball on the forehand side, rather than swing. Keep the wrist firm, and use a short punching motion with the racquet head to meet the ball. Your contact point should be out in front of your body. Plus, you should aim to hit the ball squarely with the center of the strings.
Step 4: Perfect the Backhand Volley
On the backhand volley, ensure your non-dominant hand is on the throat of the racquet for better support and control. Like the forehand volley, you want to keep the swing compact. Lead with your non-dominant hand to the point of contact, and then push forward with your hitting arm, maintaining a firm wrist. Your follow-through should be minimal, as the control comes from the initial contact and slight push.
Step 5: Practice the Swing and Follow Through
Remember, volleying is about minimal backswing and a concise follow-through. Your power comes from your body’s forward momentum, not from the swing of your racquet. Practice this by keeping your racquet head above the wrist and making short, sharp punches at the ball during drills. Your swing should be more of a guide than a hit. By almost deflecting the ball where you want it to go with controlled force. Continue to follow through and move forward with one or two steps after your volley.
Step 6: Work on Your Net Presence
Being an effective volleyer is as much about presence and intimidation as it is about technique. You want to “own” the net. This means being alert, ready, and showing your opponent that you’re in control of the net. Practice closing in on the net to cut off angles. This will give yourself the best chance of hitting a winning shot. Also, learn to disguise your volleys to keep your opponent guessing.
Step 7: Drill Consistently
Practice is key to improving your volleys. Use basket drills to work on your technique without the pressure of a moving ball. Have a coach or practice partner feed you balls at the net, focusing on placement, angle, and consistency. Once comfortable, incorporate movement into your volley drills to simulate match scenarios.
A strong volley game in tennis can exert tremendous pressure on your opponent. Therefore its imperative to learn how to volley in tennis. It will force errors by the opponent and/or set you up with easy finishes.
By focusing on the right grip, positioning, minimal backswing, and consistent practice, you’ll be volleying like a pro. Remember, volleying is an aggressive move. So with confidence, practice, and a bit of flair, you can turn the volley into one of your most potent weapons on the court.