In tennis, developing good hands on the volley is the key to being able to handle all situations at the net.
There are many situations at the net where the traditional punch volley technique is not appropriate and will in fact cause you to make errors instead of giving you the advantage in the point.
For these situations, you’ll need feel and touch. You’ll need to be able to take speed away from the ball, be able to redirect the ball with control, or be able to play a drop volley.
I’ve shared some examples in the previous article on tennis volley technique and here I want to show you more drills on how to develop that feel.
The following volley drills are helpful for developing these often-overlooked skills in tennis.
Note: Some of the drills you’ll see have been around for a while, so I don’t claim to be the person who came up with them. However, they have proven to be very useful, so I am happy to recommend them to you.
The usual punch volley is useful only in situations where you are receiving a relatively slow and high ball while you are close to the net.
That’s when you would execute a punch volley with good success.
But most situations either in singles or in doubles are different – you may be:
– approaching the net and hitting the volley around the service line
– receiving a very fast ball
– receiving a low ball
– receiving a high ball that you want to angle away
In all these situations, you’ll need to absorb the energy from the incoming ball and slow the ball down.
Forward to around 2:20 to see how Federer handles the first volley and absorbs the speed of the incoming ball.
The classic punch volley is a way of accelerating the ball – your volley will go faster than the speed of the incoming ball.
But many times you are faced with a fast incoming ball, and you need to angle the ball away from your opponent; therefore, you need to take the speed away from the ball.
The tennis volley drills on this page will help you develop drop volley technique and in general improve your feel and control of the volleys.
1. Stop and Volley
The first volley drill of stopping the ball first and then volleying it back has been around for a while, and I think it deserves to be shown more times as it is very useful for developing touch, and for teaching the player to keep the head at the contact and not rush turning his head toward the target – which is a common cause for missed volleys.
It also forces the player to quickly adjust with his feet after the first volley – although young players often need to be encouraged to do that rather than just twist their arm and trunk and try to hit the second volley. 😉
The variation where you stop the ball on one side and hit with the other side is also a great drill to develop quick hands at the net.
2. Absorb the Speed
Taking away the speed is another great drill for quick reflexes and good hands at the net.
One player is volleying the ball while the other is hitting a groundstroke from the service line.
The groundstroke player’s goal is to challenge the volleyer by playing faster and giving the net player less time to react but also more difficulty in controlling the ball and taking the speed away so that it still lands in the service box.
I first did this drill with coach Bayo from Croatia, and he challenged me pretty hard with his groundstrokes while asking me to keep the ball in the service box. It was very intense and difficult to do, but the benefits were quickly obvious as I gained much better control of fast incoming shots.
The key volley technique in this situation is to keep the elbows in front of the body, keeping a low position and moving forward toward the ball while absorbing the energy from the ball mostly with the forearm and hand.
A good way to learn to keep the elbows in front is to keep the non-dominant hand across the body and under the upper arm so that it cannot move back.
Try it on both the forehand and the backhand side.
3. Short and Long with Feel
Short and long with feel is a drill I came up with at some point while working with players who would thought that there must be a lot more effort or “work” involved if you want to play a deep volley.
The problem with a lot of effort is that it creates tension, which makes it almost impossible to control a fast incoming ball.
So the goal of this last drill is to volley one ball short and one ball long and try to make both volleys or both movements very similar.
The key is to find that extra energy that will send the ball deeper inside of you and not focus so much on extra external movement.
The energy comes more from the center of gravity, from the core, and also from the hand that adds just that little extra force to the ball.
This is a key skill in my opinion if you want to handle fast incoming balls when playing at the net.
Scroll back up and check Federer’s first volley and how he absorbs the speed and yet plays such an effective volley that his next shot is an easy putaway.