Most of the club players and weekend warriors of today struggle with the volley--and success at playing at the net in general.
Why is that? Because gone are the days of the pure serve-and-volleyers and net rushers like John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Martina Navratilova and the last to win a major, Patrick Rafter.
Players coming up in today's game have no one to emulate when it comes to winning from the net, and the tendency will always be to emulate or imitate your favorite players.
As a result, we see more grinders and aggressive baseline players and less net play.
Here are three basic principles in dealing with the volley.
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c.2005 Barbara Banks
The majority of all doubles players start off with the server's partner positioned at the net and the receiver's partner on or near the service line. We also have the single's player strategy with both players starting from the baseline.
Normal doubles positions have a little advantage at all levels of tennis because there is less court for each player to cover.
Singles positions are far different because of having to work the point when being a receiver or the server.
When stationed at the net, the ready position is key for success.
Strong Athletic Position
Do not think that you must be a super athlete when I say "athletic."
What is important to understand is that when you are fairly close to the net the ball travels a far less distance which demands that you be ready earlier. A strong athletic position consists of :
- The knees slightly bent and your weight forward
- Extend your arms and elbows away from your body with the racket head fairly high (shoulder level)
The closer you are to the net the less time you have to prepare. Most tennis players hear the words "Get your racket back," and they do the wrong thing.
Their backswings are often too far back and their shoulders are still wide open (parallel to the net). Instead, what you want to do is to turn your hips and shoulders from the ready position -- do not move your hitting arm and racket.
By doing this, your backswing is much more compact, your front shoulders are more perpendicular to the net and you step with your front foot to the net (weight going forward).
Move to the Ball
Everyone must understand that the more distance your hitting arm is away from your body during contact the less control you have of the ball. Move towards the ball with short quick steps, making sure your elbow is fairly close to your body for the forehand volley.
For the backhand volley you want to ensure that you hold the throat of the racket with your non-hitting hand as long as possible before contact with the ball. If you are too far away from the ball and stretch out to volley without the support of your non-hitting hand you will have less control and spray many of the balls.
No matter what grip you use these basic principles can help you with your volley. The best thing to do is to consult your local pro for specific questions about your grip and how it pertains to the volley.
You must be prepared to take one step back in order to take two steps forward when learning the proper volleying techniques. Be prepared to lose a match or two in the beginning while you experiment coming into the net.
In the end you will be a better player for it.
Nick Bollettieri founded the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1978, the first full-time tennis boarding school to combine intense training on the court with a custom-designed academic curriculum. He has coached 10 players who have reached No. 1 in the world, including Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Martina Hingis. To learn more, visit IMGAcademies.com.