I recently did some tennis drills. Not upper level drills. Just regular old drop-in drills at my club. Where anyone at any level is welcome to join in if they feel like they can keep up and want to pay the $7 fee. These are not instructional drills really. They're just an opportunity to hit a lot of balls and play some live ball games. So I don't expect everyone at these drills to be a great tennis player. Or even a good tennis player.
But at the drill session I'm thinking of, two women in my group were clearly beginners and watching them attempt to “hit” volleys. They were swinging wildly and, of course, ineffectively. Their form (or lack of form) reminded me how easy it can be to volley a tennis ball but how hard we often make it.
Here's what I wanted to tell these two ladies: Don't swing at the ball. Just block it back.
The vast majority of volleys are effective when they are simply a block shot where you put your racquet out and the ball bounces off of it. Why? Why is a block shot usually all that's necessary to hit an effective volley?
- Your opponent has less reaction time. Because you volley closer to the net, you're also closer to your opponent. You can often “get away” with simply blocking the ball back because your opponent has less time to react.
- You have less reaction time. When you hit a volley, you take it out of the air, before it can bounce on the court. When a tennis ball bounces on the court, it can lose 40 to 50% of its speed (or so I'm told). So the ball you take out of the air is coming at you faster, giving you less time to react. Meaning – you just don't have as much time to set up and swing at the ball when volleying as you do when hitting a ground stroke. So a block shot can be more effective than a poorly executed swinging shot (which often turns out to be a mis-hit).
- You can use the pace of the ball. Because you're taking the ball out of the air before it bounces, its not only coming at you faster but also harder. You can use this pace or drive to simply block the ball back and your volley will still have some of that drive on it. It won't all be absorbed by your strings and racquet. This is as opposed to the ball you take after the bounce where you have to hit harder just to get it back up and over the net.
Those are just a few of the reasons a volley that's a simple block shot can work so well. But I didn't say any of that to those two ladies. First, because I'm not a tennis pro and I'm sure they would have figured that out pretty quickly. And second, because, avid Tennis Fixation readers, I'm just thinking of you. Maybe one of you will come up against one of them, or someone just like them, and then YOU can be the effective volleyer!
© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved