How to Hit a Volley in Tennis – Technique & Drills
A volley is one of the most underrated strokes in tennis. It is the stroke which is more often used in doubles than in singles. Volleys are crucial when it comes to finishing off points and also keeping the rallies short. Often many recreational and young players hit their volleys like it is a forehand and backhand, however, this technique is wrong as volleys are more about using the pace of the ball from the opponent, as well as using the touch and feel.
One of the most important things in respect to volleying is that all volleys must be played with a continental grip, which is the same grip that is used for serving. The technique behind a volley is going to be broken down into three simple steps to make for easy understanding.
Three important factors when hitting a volley:
- Volley Footwork
- Racquet Positioning
- Forward Momentum
1. Volley Footwork
The first and arguably most important step, is using the right footwork to get into a good position for the volleys. The best thing to do prior to hitting the volley is a split step – most players run from the baseline to hit a volley and it is important to perform a split step in order to be well balanced. This is crucial for players that are charging in from the baseline, however if a player is already positioned at the net while playing doubles then a split step may not be necessary.
While hitting the volley you should ideally turn your hip sideways at about a 45-degree angle from the net, with your hips in a slightly closed position. For right-handed players, you will have your left foot forward for forehand volleys and right foot forward for backhand volleys and for left-handed players it is vice versa.
2. Racquet Positioning
More often than not, players make the mistake of taking their racquet too high or too far back while volleying. To hit clean volleys, your racquet needs to be behind the place where you will make contact with the ball, without bringing the racquet behind your body. Your hand should be slightly under the racquet head and strings tilted slightly up depending on how low the volley is. The lower volleys will require the strings to be pointed higher to get the ball over the net, and your racquet head will drop.
You can think of the volley as a punch, you don’t swing as you do with groundstrokes because you’re already close to the net. You’re also hitting the ball before it bounces, so you use the momentum of the ball to get your power. You usually need to have a firm grip and wrist as well.
In simple terms, you are not generating your own pace while volleying, you utilise the pace provided by the opponent to perform the volley. For drop volleys a player needs to use their wrist a lot more and requires immense control of the racquet head. This shot can often only be played correctly by a player with years of experience and near perfect volleying technique.
3. Forward Momentum
While hitting a volley, your body and feet should be leaning and moving forward into the shot. As you hit the volley you should transition your weight from your back to front foot while opening your hips from the closed position to let your arms release the energy through the racquet into the ball. A lot of people are scared to close into the net and keep their momentum forward because they might get hit. Actually, if you are on your heels, then you are much more likely to get hit.
Volley on a wall
Start slow, with short touch volleys to get your technique correct before hitting harder volleys deeper in the court. Try 10 forehand volleys then 10 backhand volleys. If you are a more advanced player, you can try 20, 50 or even 100 in a row. This one is easy because you can use a tennis wall at your local courts, or a brick wall on the side of your house. You also do not require another person for this drill!
Two up two back volley drill
A fun four-person drill is two up two back. In this drill, two people start at the service line and the other team at the baseline. The people from the service line feed, alternating to the two baseline players. On their first shot, the baseline team must hit it in the singles court (no lobs), after that the whole court is open and lobs are allowed. The net players must hit their first volley from the service line, or within a few feet (no charging the net to put the first volley away). Play first to 11 or 21 depending on how much time you have!
One up one back volley drill
In one up one back, you play with similar rules to two up two back from above. The difference is only half the court is used. One player starts at the service line and feeds to the other player at the baseline. The players should be down the line from each other. The baseline player must hit it in the first shot in the singles (half) court (no lobs), after that the entire half of the court (including the doubles alley on that half) is open and lobs are okay. The net players must hit their first volley from the service line or within a step of it. Play to 11 or 21 and switch.
Volleys may seem easy when you watch them, however it is a difficult stroke to master and requires immense practice like any other stroke in tennis such as the serve, backhand or forehand. These technical tips and drills are more than enough to get you volleying the right way and perfecting volleys before you know it!