The New Volley Paradigm

If your feet are not in the right position, your technique is going to change and your accuracy is going to change and your balance is going to change. You're going to be reaching, flicking, and lunging.

So I always try to tell people to volley with their feet. That means their feet have to get to the ball. It's been my experience when you have very little backswing that your mind tells your feet, "I've got to get in position better."

What I am really talking about is aligning to the ball. I want the person to get behind the ball so they can drive the legs and the racket through to the target.

I also want players to load on the outside foot. I want people to understand that even though the volley is a shorter, more compact stroke, the power still starts from the ground. I want them to get on their outside foot and push down, especially on the backhand.

Height of the Ball

The height of the ball dictates the angle of the racket. The higher the ball is, the flatter the shot. The lower the ball, the more beveling or opening of the racket.

Keeping the racket at eye level is crucial for an effective volley.

But the basic motion is not going to change. The player is still going to stay compact and hit through the shot as much as possible. As the contact point goes down, the player needs to keep the racket at eye level, or as close as they can, depending on the ball.

To accomplish this, I very seldom tell a student to bend their knees. Instead I say, "Keep the racket at eye level." I think this is more effective. Because you can bend your knees and still drop the racket head. But if you try to keep the racket head at eye level, you will use your knees automatically.

Moving Through

Regardless of your stance, the important part of a winning volley is movement through the shot.
You can hit the volley with a variety of stances, but I want players to move through the volley as they hit it. I think you can get too focused on the exact steps and this can detract from the flow forward. It can lead to getting stuck in the court.

I think when you flow through the volley in this fashion, it promotes confidence. It's part of the emphasize on calmness and seamless movement.

The Wrist on the Forehand

"Keep your wrist firm on the volley." That's something you hear all the time. But this is one of the biggest mistakes I see on the forehand volley. I see kids that come here, nationally-ranked kids, good players. They're keeping their wrists so firm on the forehand volley that the whole motion is locked up and the contact point is late.

The reality is there is a lay back in the wrist on the forehand volley. You can see it clearly in footage of the good volleyers. The hand is driving the racket with the wrist laid back. It's very important and the motion can't really be fluid without it.

The Backhand Volley

As with some other top coaches, I refer to the backhand volley as a karate chop, struck with the edge of the racket hand. I like to see a stretch in the shoulder, and to see the racket going out. At the same time, the back arm moves back the other way.

I always teach the one hand. I never teach a two-handed backhand volley. I have five-year-olds and six-year-olds that can volley with one hand. People see an eight-year-old at the net and say, "Wow! This guy's got an amazing backhand volley. How did that happen?" I say, "Well he started at five the right way."

Then I see a 16-year-old girl with a two-handed backhand volley, and the coach or the parent say, "Well now she's big enough, so it's time to change her backhand volley." That's a big developmental mistake.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: What does the ball look like coming off the racket? Does the ball really pop or squirt off the racket? A good volley has a certain look. I don't care if it has no backspin on it or has a little or has a lot. A good volley always has a certain look when the ball comes off the strings.

Calmness, compact technique, the ball popping off the strings, the player trying to get his opponent off balance, taking advantage of every opportunity to come forward.

I don't think it's too much to ask, and I think that we can look forward to seeing it at higher levels soon. And for recreational players who take these ideas seriously, the sky is the limit. That's the great thing about this game, it's always evolving to the next level.
Rick Macci is widely regarded as one the world's top developmental coaches. In the last 20 years, students of the Macci Tennis Academy have won 98 USTA national junior championships, and have been awarded over 4 million dollars in college scholarships. For more in-depth analysis and videos of the world's top players, visit
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