September 24, 2017
After I successfully won my last match on a winning volley, I paused to reflect how a miss could have turned the match the other way, giving my opponent confidence while lowering mine. It's evident how important the volley can be yet many of us tend to shy away from it due to many factors. This blog will cover all the important elements of a volley that include mentality, court positioning, and technique. Let's get started!
Part I: Mentality
Check out the picture below. The sheet on the net is supposed to represent your view point at the baseline, meaning you cannot see the court (unless you are 6'7"). That means if the ball is struck for a groundstroke at the baseline, the player must hit UP on the ball, making it hard to be aggressive due to some of the force of the ball going in the opposite direction you want it to go; down. As the player walks closer to the net, one can see more of the court and therefore be able to hit down on the ball to a larger portion of the court. So as one gets closer the more aggressive he or she can get and vice versa as you get further away. In other words win at the net and don't lose at the baseline.
As you can see from the picture below Nadal understands this as he is very close to the net while making a play on the ball in a recent doubles match with Roger Federer in the Laver Cup.
Part 2: Court Positioning
Doubles and Singles positioning vary slightly but have a common purpose in where to be at the net; which is to cover both the line and the middle of the court. In doubles (as you can see below) the cross court player is slightly further back to cover the lob and middle shots. This is because the lob is best hit cross court as the court is longer diagonally. The middle is a much easier shot to hit rather than an angled crosscourt shot near the ally, which is something you can afford to give to your opponent.
This applies towards singles too. When coming to the net, the majority of your approach shots should be down the line so you can cover (just like doubles) the line AND the middle of the court. This limits your opponent to hitting a sharp angle to get it by you. See blow for an example:
Part III: Technique
This is the most important part of the volley. No form no volley. I'll break it down to the three essential elements that make a good volley. All are described in the picture below.
1. Wrist Back: This includes having a continental grip (V of your hand goes down the middle of the handle). Many rec players will use a forehand grip to get the strings of the racquet to face forward rather than bringing the wrist back. Doing this correctly will allow you to have the capability to hit balls on both sides in front of you and allow for the strings to face up on low volleys.
2. Racquet Head Above The Handle: This is important to create a solid impact with the ball. Hitting a volley requires hitting a ball that is about twice as fast as it would be after it bounces at the baseline. By having your racquet head above the handle, you can absorb the impact of the ball and keep impact off of your arm.
3. Racquet Head Back: This is very important for creating spin. If you lay the racquet head back and move forward on impact with the ball, the ball will go forward but also come off your racquet with spin as the head of the racquet is not perpendicular to the path of the ball. This natural spin can keep the ball low without taking swings at the ball to create spin. Think of a baseball or softball player catching a ball. They don't take their glove and swing at the ball to catch it, they simply let the ball come to the glove. This is the same idea with the volley but to get spin, you have to bring the racquet head back to get that without sacrificing control and timing of making good impact with the volley.