In the current era of baseline tennis, the volley is a shot that is increasingly less practised and as a result, players are a lot less comfortable at the net. But it is important to have a good technical volley because there are times in a match, both on offence and defence, when players are drawn to the net. The volley is particularly important in doubles, where one player on each team in generally based at the net.
Here are some key components to executing a successful volley:
1. The grip — Players should use a continental grip when volleying. We don’t have time at the net to change grips and the continental grip allows to us to hit effective volleys. It also helps get backspin on the volley to keep the ball low, maintain the correct racquet head angle and help us get lower balls up and over the net. To find the continental grip, pick up the racquet and pretend you are holding a hammer and banging in some nails. This grip is the same as the continental grip.
2. Ready position — Make sure the head of the racquet is higher than the hand and that your racquet and hands are out in front of your body. Players often keep their elbows tucked at their sides and have the head of the racquet at hand level, which is an incorrect starting position. You want to have an L-shaped position from the shoulder to the top of the racquet. The non-dominant hand
should be on the racquet in the throat position.
3. Less is more — The volley is a short, compact stroke. The most common errors are too big of a backswing or an extended follow-through. Don’t try to hit the ball too hard! The shoulders initiate the turn, with both hands on the racquet. Maintain the L shape as you turn your body. If you can’t see the racquet in your peripheral vision when you take the backswing, it’s gone too far. Make contact with the ball out in front and early, and block the ball, rather than swing at it. Pretend you are giving someone a solid high-five, with short hand movement and no follow-through.
4. Footwork — As you go to make contact, step forward and across with the foot that is on the opposite side of the ball. Your brain will tell you to step with the foot closest to the ball, which is a common mistake. A correct across step will mean more power from your body, better balance, a wider wingspan at the net, earlier contact and correct body alignment at contact.
Tennis coach Warren Urquhart is the owner of Cayman Sports Limited, which provides a variety of tennis classes at the Camana Bay Sports Complex and elsewhere on Grand Cayman.