Is there a hundred different tennis drills, a thousand? Who knows? There are sure a lot so you might be wondering what is the best use of your time to get the most improvement quickly. It’s not what you think; you could hit hundreds of serves a day and still not win your matches. That will help but if your opponent has a good return of serve in nullifies your big serve quickly. Groundstrokes comprise the biggest percentage of shots you will hit but if your opponent has an equally good forehand and backhand then again you’ll be pretty much even.
The big difference, the one that puts you on the offensive and results in the most outright winners and games won is.... the volley.
Yes, controlling the net means you will have your opponent scrambling, you will be hitting down into the court and it gives you the most options for angles. Watch a Federer, Djokovic or McEnroe in his day and you will see masters of the volley.
The technique itself is probably less important because the margin for error is less. That is what hitting down into the court gives you, less margin of error. But you still have to apply some basics here.
So that said, here is how to hit a winning volley. It will depend on the height of the ball and where your opponent is. For a high incoming ball and when your opponent is deep in the court you can punch the ball angled to either side. This needs a firm grip and a step forward onto your front foot for a backhand or forehand. This punch volley will account for about 50% of your volleys and result in a lot of winning points.
The rest of your volley selections will depend on whether the ball has already dropped below the level of the net and where your opponent is. In most cases you will be absorbing some of the pace on the ball and placing the volley so it’s difficult for your opponent to reach or it forces them to hit up on the ball. When they hit up that again sets you up to pounce on the ball with your punch volley.
Most of your volleys however you will need to hit with feel, control and accuracy. Think of catching the ball on the strings of your racquet without swinging at it. Your racquet head may actually move backward slightly as it absorbs the pace already on the ball.
As you perfect this technique you will naturally start to take a bit more of a swing and step into the ball.
Okay enough theory, get out your ball machine and set it up on the far baseline. Adjust the speed to fire out balls at 50mph to start and when you get the timing down increase the speed to 70 mph. Just hit all forehands initially to get your timing ad muscle memory going. Hit 50 balls then switch to your backhand. Use the remote for the Lobster machine to keep it simple. Once you’ve done 50 backhands then set the ball machine to alternate from your forehand to your backhand. Again once you start to feel comfortable with your timing and footwork now you can increase the feed rate. This will simulate game like conditions where you have to react quickly on volleys to alternating sides of your body.
There you have it; practice this drill as part of each training session and before you know it you will be controlling the net with confidence and winning a lot more points.