Editors Notes: This is an article written by one of our expert contributing authors Jason Goldman-Petri. If you consider yourself an expert on the game and would like to write for Tennis Drills HQ, please get in contact with us.
~ Caleb Marshall
Does anyone else remember roughly 8 years ago when Maria Sharapova was belting swinging volleys like no other?
No more net game, just an extended version of the power baseline game.
Every player in the country worth a damn has been trying to implement swinging volley practice into their routines, and the traditionalist old-school players all collectively sigh as they watch their beautiful and smooth game of tennis be dismantled right before their eyes.
So now that tennis has moved into this modern era, I am going to teach you how to volley like a champ:
If you look closely the swinging volley has really not caught on at all. No one does it exclusively and even those who rely on it do it sparingly on very specific shots.
The reason the swinging volley never caught on is because it just does not make sense for coming to the net. Being at the net is a different game then playing the baseline.
At the net backspin reigns supreme over the power laden topspin groundstroke swing of a swinging volley.
Step 2 – Learn how to hit some backspin – here’s how…
Backspin is when you glide down the backside of a ball making it spin backwards (the top part of the ball moves towards you as the ball moves away from you toward your opponent).
Backspin is best done with a continental grip (while possible with other grips, the more you move away from continental the harder it becomes). And more is not always better in this case, so it is not like you are falling off a cliff with the downward motion, more like you are going down the bunny slope (all you woodchoppers can chuck wood somewhere else).
Step 3- The taller they are the harder they fall
Backspin has the potential to stay low or even skid, unlike a topspin ball that bounces up high. If your opponent hits flat they will be forced to slow down their shot because at knee height it is impossible to hit a ball in from baseline to baseline at 60 MPH.
Juxtapose that to waist high and a flat shot could go in at 100MPH! (my knees get shaky at 85 MPH, and if they start hitting 100 I’ve got no backbone left) Keep it low and watch them fail to create enough pace to hit a meaningful passing shot.
Step 4 – Think smarter, not harder
The true advantage of being at the net is angle, not power (I just imagined Maria Sharapova reading that and having a dumb look on her face). When you get closer to the net more angles are at your disposal.
Remember that it is 13 and 1/2 feet from the center of the court to the singles sideline along the baseline but 36 feet to the net. Make them run forward and to the side and you could have them on a 60 foot run. Backspin has the ability to take power away from a shot making it easier to create those kinds of angles.
I am very much a modern player and a modern coach. But there is one thing that has not changed and that is the traditional volley. Backspin is better for being at the net and at least for the foreseeable future it is going to stay that way.
A 10 MPH volley that barely even makes it to the service line before it bounces twice may seem weak and pathetic to you, but at the net that’s a winner, and I think that is AS GOOD AS AN ACE!