Were you first taught to hit a ball standing at the baseline? Are you so fearful of hitting a volley to the point where you run up for a short ball and frantically backpedal to the baseline for your next shot? To prevent tennis beginners from fear of approaching the net, they should learn how to volley, before learning anything else in tennis.
As junior players, we learned to master the mini court, which is the service line to the net. We are taught soft hands, relaxed grip, and no white knuckles. If you squeeze with just your fingers, you will notice more mobility of the racquet head and less tension in your swinging arm. You will be able to feel the ball on your strings and be able to react quicker with a freer flowing stroke from anywhere on the court.
Volleys are the easiest stroke to hit while playing tennis and can even be the most fun. No backswing is required, all you do is point the strings in the direction of where you want the ball to go. Pickleball has seen a rise in popularity, mainly because the majority of the game is volleying with your opponent. Let’s put “FUN” back into the fundamentals of tennis and learn to volley first.
How to volley
The easiest way to learn the art of volleying is to start close to the net. This will build hand-eye coordination and let you get a feel for your tennis racket. Then, you want to angle your racket at a 45-degree angle and lightly contact the ball. If you swing your racket, the ball will likely go out of bounds
To master the volley, squeeze the grip of your racket with only your fingers when contacting the ball in front of you. Keep a wide stance, with your weight on the balls of your feet, shoulder width apart, and have one foot in front of the other to stay balanced. Net play is fast, and you do not have time to step into every volley. Having a stance with the above characteristics will enable you to hit either a forehand or backhand shot without needing to adjust your feet drastically for each shot
If you notice that you are constantly hitting the ball into the bottom of the net then you want to make some adjustments. Don’t wait for the ball to come to you or stand in one place and reach for the ball.
Remember when running to hit a short lofty volley, timing is everything. Get to the ball right before you make contact. If you get there too soon you might misjudge the distance and overrun the ball.
Practice this with a partner, and after consistently hitting 10 balls over the net, switch to your backhand and repeat these steps. After more volleys of 10 or more balls, take a large step back. You’ll will want to repeat this for both front and backhands until you reach the service line. Once you have accomplished that, you’ll be a master of the volley and will notice a major improvement in your game.
Tennis Professional Lori Burdell contributed to this article.