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Tennis Tip: Volley Out Not Down

July 29, 2009

This tip comes from yesterday’s practice session.  I’m learning to play left-handed as I rehab a torn tendon in my right arm.  I was hitting with an instructor at the Hilton yesterday.  After an approach shot, he hit me a half lob to the backhand side.  I was able to get back far enough for a pretty decent swinging backhand volley, which was followed by an even deeper lob to the backhand side.  I was kind of excited after hitting the second one back, especially since the instructor set me up with a shoulder-high forehand volley for the next shot.  I had to stretch quite a bit to get there, but kept the racquet head above the grip, bent my knees, and watched the ball all the way into impact.

As soon as the ball impacted, I expected to hear the instructor say ‘great volley!’  Instead, I was greeted with the sound of the ball hitting the top of the net tape and watched it fall back on my side of the court.   I can’t blame the fact I was hitting left-handed.  I had let my arm drop a bit to ‘bring the volley down into the court.’  This is something I’ve even seen professionals do repeatedly.

Psychologically, there seems to be an impression that if the ball is well above the net that we have to ‘work’ to bring it back down or the volley will go long.  In reality, the ball only goes where the racquet head directs it.  If the racquet head is in the proper position and aimed at the desired location in court, that’s where the ball is going.  We don’t have to do anything else to keep the volley in-court and on target.

Did I remember that?  No.  Instead, I let the excitement of hitting back-to-back swinging backhand volleys get to me and missed the easier forehand volley.

When I practice volleys on the ball machine, I always start by trying to direct the volley outward enough to make sure it goes long.  Then, I adjust the impact angle so that the volleys go deep in the court in order to get the proper feel for good depth.  Volleying should be a position of dominance; one where you are in control of the point.  There is nothing more frustrating than being in a position to win the point and dumping the ball into the net.  Often, this is a result of trying to put too much ‘direction’ on the ball to bring it downward out of fear of hitting the volley long.

If you find yourself hitting makeable volleys into the net, then either the impact angle is bad or you may be trying to ‘force’ the ball downward going into impact.   When I warm up at the net, I always try to tell myself ‘volley out not down’ before the first volley.  If only I had kept that thought yesterday.  Hope this one helps you.

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