How To Handle Volleys Best
The heavy artillery in tennis that is capable of crushing all defenses is the net attack, whether it is fired in the form of a volley or a smash.
When you are at the net, get your racquet to come squarely down on the ball when playing from that point. All laws applicable to footwork with regard to the drive can be applied equally well on the volley too, theoretically; although in actual practice, it is very seldom that you will get the time to place your feet in all that intricate detail. If there is no time to worry about the footwork, the least you can do is to shift the weight to your foot that is closest to the ball right at the moment you hit it.
There are two types of volleys that can be described as (a) the low volley that is made from a horizontal plane below the waistline and the (b) high volley, hit from a plane between the waist and the head. However, ironically, the names by which they are called, viz (a) deep volley and (b) stop volley are actually contradistinctions when considered from a point of view of their actual characteristics.
All low volleys should generally be blocked whereas high volleys may have to be blocked or hit depending on their merits. However, the important factor to remember is never to “stroke” all types of volleys. You may follow through slightly on high volleys while there should be no follow through with low volleys.
You might hear much about chop volleys too. In a chop stroke, the racquet proceeds from a plane higher than the flight path of the ball, and then down and finally through it. At this point, the angle made by the racquet from its behind would always be something higher than 45 degrees that may even approach 90 degrees at times. Since chopping on volleys has a tendency to pop it upward in the air, it would be a wise policy never to chop volleys. There is not so much harm done even if you slice a volley or hit it flat, since in both these cases, the shots are executed with the racquet proceeding almost along the flight path of the ball making only a very slight angle (if at all) with the ball’s flight path.
There should be no wrist play at all on all volleys, irrespective of whether they are high or low. Await the ball bracing for its impact on the racquet by gripping the racquet handle stiffly so that your wrist is under the racquet head. When playing back the ball, just add your weight on to the momentum of the incoming ball without exerting any additional wrist power whatsoever on it; since the ball will get whatever required additional deflection from the slant of the racquet face as the ball is glanced off its strings.
Due to the obstruction paused by the net, it is very seldom that a low volley could be hit very hard, since the shot may have to be deflected sharply too to get the required rise to clear the net. Any ball coming on a higher plane above the net should be meted out more punishing treatment. Make your stroke as crisp, decisive and snappy as possible; but halt immediately after the ball has been met by giving it only the slightest of a follow through movement, and no more.
The “stop volley” could be aptly described as a shot stopped short of going its normal length. No significant force is used in stopping the ball except to just block it gently and let it fall under its weight after rebound off the racquet. Slackening the hold on the racquet at the moment the ball hits the racquet could minimize whatever little rebound off the racquet by allowing it to absorb what little force still left in the ball. This action helps impart a slight backspin on the ball.
The volley is associated with the name of Johnston, who made his straight volleys famous as a very effective weapon for the net man to send the opposition reeling. His tactic was to punch in his hard volleys straight at the opening in the other party’s court. The volley is based on the popular axiom in geometry that the least distance between any two points is a straight line. From that axiom flows the science that a person volleying should cover that passing straight shot as it represents the shortest possible shot that could pass him. Further, he should volley it straight at his opening, as the slightest delay on his part in trying to volley at some freakish angle would put the side liner at an advantage by giving him some well needed breathing space for him to recover enough to be ready for the coming onslaught.
Being a net player does not exclude you from the necessity to be thorough with your ground strokes. When you are pitted against top class tennis players you will realize that you cannot go very far with them with just the service and the volley without a good command over your ground strokes.
Volleys need to be killed at once; but if the shot does not get you the desired result, follow the ball all along covering the straight shot once more. If your opponent is trying to pass to make you put the ball to play, attack him by forcing him to play the type of shots that are most difficult for him.
Go on the attack with volleys. The question of defense should not arise when you are at the net except in the case of the exceptional volley that drops at the feet as you approach it. When volleying, the emphasis should be on placement rather than on speed except in the case of a high volley that could do better with more speed.