In the game of tennis, when we say “volley”, we’re talking about hitting the ball back without letting it bounce first. You’ll usually see players doing this when they’re up near the net.
The reason behind using a volley is to catch the opponent off guard by rapidly returning the ball, leaving them little time to react. It’s a clever strategy that can end a point quickly or simply shake things up a bit.
Now, you’ll find two types of volleys:
#1 Forehand Volley: This is when the player smacks the ball on the same side as their racket-holding hand. Let’s say if you’re right-handed, you’d make a forehand volley on your right side.
#2 Backhand Volley: This is the exact opposite. The player hits the ball on the side that’s not their racket-holding hand. So, if you’re right-handed, your backhand volley comes from your left side.
Volleying is a crucial part of the game and you’ll see it in action in both singles and doubles. It might be a bit challenging for those just starting out because it requires quick thinking and perfect timing. But with enough practice, anyone can add it to their repertoire and use it to keep their opponents guessing.
A forehand volley, as mentioned earlier, is a shot where you hit the ball on the same side as the hand you use to hold the racket, and you do this before the ball bounces on the court. It’s usually executed when you’re near the net, aiming to quickly return the ball to your opponent’s side, limiting their time to respond.
How to Perform a Forehand Volley:
Body Posture: Position yourself with your feet spread apart at the same width as your shoulders, and gently bend your knees. Ensure your body is at ease, with your weight primarily resting on the front part of your feet, preparing you to swiftly shift in any direction as needed.
Grip: The most common grip used for a forehand volley is the continental grip. It’s like shaking hands with the racket, where the base knuckle of the index finger is on the second bevel of the racket handle.
Movement: As the ball comes towards you, pivot on your back foot and step forward with your front foot towards the ball. Your body weight should move forward into the shot. This step is crucial for generating power in the shot as volleys use minimal backswing.
Contact: The racket should be out in front of you, and the contact point should be in front of your body, ideally around waist height. Punch the ball with the center of the racket strings, with a short and controlled swing. The angle of the racket face at contact will determine the direction of the volley.
When & Why to Perform a Forehand Volley:
Forehand volleys are typically performed when you’re close to the net or when you see an opportunity to end the point quickly. It’s a strategic move that can throw off an opponent’s rhythm and catch them off guard. The idea is to reduce their reaction time, forcing them to either make an error or give you an easy ball to hit.
Pros & Cons:
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- It requires quick reflexes and good footwork, which can be challenging for beginners.
- If not executed well, it can leave your baseline open for your opponent to exploit.
3 Tips to Improve Your Forehand Volley:
- Practice Footwork: Good footwork is essential for a solid volley. Practice moving laterally and forward to reach the ball effectively.
- Minimize Backswing: Unlike groundstrokes, volleys require very little backswing. Focus on ‘punching’ the ball with a short, controlled swing.
- Volley Drills: Regular practice is key to improving your volley. Try out different drills, like catch and volley or the basket drill, to enhance your reflexes, control, and precision.
Remember, the key to a good forehand volley, like any other shot in tennis, lies in consistent practice and understanding the mechanics of the shot.
A backhand volley, as previously stated, is a shot where you hit the ball on the side opposite to the hand you use to hold the racket. Just like the forehand volley, it is performed before the ball bounces on the court and is typically executed near the net to swiftly return the ball to the opponent’s side, thereby reducing their time to react.
How to Perform a Backhand Volley:
Body Posture: The initial stance is similar to a forehand volley, with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. You should be poised on the balls of your feet, ready to move quickly in any direction.
Grip: The continental grip is typically used for a backhand volley as well. This grip allows for a seamless transition between forehand and backhand volleys.
Movement: When the ball approaches, pivot on your front foot and step in with your back foot, transferring your body weight into the shot. Remember, the power for the volley comes from this forward movement, not from a big swing.
Contact: Your racket should be out in front of you, with the contact point being ideally around waist height and in front of your body. The shot is more of a “block” or “punch” rather than a full swing. The angle of the racket face at contact will control the direction of the shot.
When & Why to Perform a Backhand Volley:
Backhand volleys are usually performed when you’re close to the net or when an incoming ball is directed to your backhand side. Similar to a forehand volley, it’s a tactical move to surprise your opponent and reduce their reaction time. The goal is to force them into a mistake or provide you with an easy ball to hit.
Pros & Cons:
- It allows you to cover the entire court by being able to volley on both sides.
- It can help quickly finish points.
- It brings unpredictability to your game, keeping your opponent on their toes.
- It requires swift reflexes and solid footwork, which can be difficult for beginners.
- A poorly executed volley can leave you vulnerable to counter-attacks, especially to the open baseline.
3 Tips to Improve Your Backhand Volley:
- Strengthen your Non-Dominant Hand: For a backhand volley, your non-dominant hand (the left hand for right-handed players) plays a crucial role in stabilizing the racket. Strengthening this hand can help improve your volley.
- Maintain Firm Wrist: Unlike the forehand volley, the backhand volley requires a firm wrist to effectively ‘punch’ or ‘block’ the ball. Practice keeping your wrist firm and not letting it ‘break’ or flop downwards.
- Drill Practice: Regular practice with specific drills, like wall practice or coach-fed drills, can improve your reflexes, control, and accuracy. Remember, practice makes perfect!
Mastering the backhand volley, like any tennis shot, requires understanding its mechanics, consistent practice, and patience. It may take time, but the effort will undoubtedly pay off.
In closing, becoming proficient at volleying in tennis, including both the forehand and backhand varieties, can significantly enhance your gameplay. These shots provide a tactical edge by limiting your opponent’s response time, introducing an element of unpredictability, and helping you conclude points more rapidly. By adopting the correct body posture, grip, and footwork, you can perform powerful volleys that will take your game to the next level.
It’s crucial to remember that volleying in tennis comes with its unique obstacles. Rapid reflexes, a stable wrist, and precise timing are vital—abilities that might be challenging for novices to master at first. Nonetheless, through consistent practice, appropriate exercises, and a comprehensive understanding of the methods, you can progressively refine your volleying prowess.
Regardless of whether you’re performing a forehand or backhand volley, the primary objective is to keep your adversary on edge and assert control over the game. So, step onto the court, focus on perfecting those volleys, and observe as your skills ascend to unparalleled heights. After all, in both tennis and life, the key lies in always remaining a step ahead!