Volleying can be either the most satisfying shot in tennis, or be the most intimidating. It can be a very unfamiliar area on the court or an area of tremendous enjoyment.
In PBI we don’t use the word punch to describe the volley and this is the first layer to understand to become more effective at the net. Punching leads to a very aggressive mindset. You’re definitely hitting something. Your arm goes from bent to straight when you punch. This is a fantastic idea when you’re participating in a Muay Thai class here at Thanyapura, but we feel this is a negative action at the net on a tennis court.
Peter Burwash likes to call the volley a C&D shot, a controlled-directional shot. However, he is also the first to say if you are close to the net and the ball is high then just pound it, swing away, finish it – but until you get that opportunity for a super easy ball you need to be able to do a few other things.
The word ‘catch’ for the volley provides a much calmer and more realistic mindset for players. The volley should be about subtracting speed from the ball rather than adding speed. Simply put, adding is punching and subtracting is catching. When you catch a ball in your hand typically your arm is bent and your hands are soft, there is some ‘give’ when you catch an object. The same when you are volleying, there should be a little bit of ‘give’ and ultimately this give will equal feel and touch. The first layer that needs to be laid is for your hands to become softer, so catch the ball instead of punching it.
The next layer is simple racket preparation when the ball is coming at you. You need to prepare for the height of the ball coming to you. The ball coming at you will be high or low, it may be slow or fast but it is the height of the ball that is the important issue.
Another layer to add is aiming the volley. In reality this is the simplest aspect of volleying. We all understand mirrors and how they work. Aiming a volley is just like using a mirror. Simply put you are reflecting your opponents shot either back to them or away from them. Simply aim the mirror (your racket) where you want the ball to go and let it ‘reflect’ off of your racket. Aiming a volley is not such a big deal, getting to the ball and judging it correctly are far more difficult tasks, but once you get to the ball make it simple by just using your understanding of the mirror.
The last layer to add is the concept of backspin on the volley. If you understand the concept of having an open racket face (tilting the racket so it is slightly pointing towards the sky, or roof) then you are well on your way to being able to create backspin as you volley. A volley struck with an open racket face will create spin and there is no need to do anything more than that to create the spin. This spin creates friction with the air and slows the ball down. Spin also allows you to have more ‘feel’ when you are volleying. You must be able to ‘subtract’ speed on your volley to be a good volleyer. Spin, along with relaxed hands will allow this to happen.
The following are your points for review for getting unstuck with your volley game:
-Get away from thinking ‘punch’
-‘Catch’ the volleys
-Think about subtracting speed when you volley, as opposed to adding speed
-Use a mirror to aim your volleys, reflect the ball away from your opponent
-Hit volleys with an ‘open’ racket face to order to create spin and consequently control
These points will increase your comfort and success at the net.
Happy Controlled Volleying!