Swinging Volleys

Q. "What are the things to keep in mind to be able to hit swinging volleys well and consistently? Usually when I try to hit them, they wind up going either long or down into the net."

From Tarik K., Evanston:

Don't swing so hard. The most important thing when hitting a volley is to be able to hit the sweet spot. The ball is already moving at a high pace because you're at the net (or should be), so you don't need to add as much yourself. If they're going long, you need to be earlier; if they're going into the net, you're too late. So work on timing, as well as aim. Don't worry so much about power. The ball will go where your strings make it.

From Don R., Durham, NC:

In order to execute the swinging forehand volley effectively, achieving a high degree of consistency and gaining the advantage in the point or even winning it outright, you must focus on these four areas (it is assumed you are a right-handed player):

1. You must get in good position as early as possible so that you can take the ball between waist and shoulder height. If you are swinging from above your ear or from your knees, there’s a very good chance you will send the ball long or into the net.

2. You must be prepared with your left, non-hitting hand, pointing to your right, so that your left shoulder is under your chin, your racquet hand pointing to your side, and the butt of your racquet pointing toward the incoming ball (or your opponent’s fence), with the racquet face “closed” so that the hitting side of the strings is facing the court surface. Ideally, you should be using a semi-western or western grip on this shot, but you can get away with an eastern or continental grip, provided you can maintain a closed racquet face and have a strong enough wrist.

3. You must lock your elbow and wrist in place and swing from your shoulder, with most of your power coming from the legs (which must remain flexed) and the rotation of your hips, trunk and shoulders. A common mistake is to do too much with the wrist and elbow, which dramatically cuts down on consistency. Concentrate on using the large muscle groups.

4. You must follow through completely, with your elbow and shoulder coming fully around and your racquet hand ending by your left shoulder or ear. Too many players “bury” the shot by pulling their racquet hand around and down so that it ends by their left hip or lower, sending the ball into the net. Some others follow through too high, their racquet hand ending up over their heads, which will inevitably send the ball long. If you have an image of James Blake or Roger Federer’s forehand groundstroke in your mind’s eye, you have an example of the ideal follow through on the swinging forehand volley.

Have fun with it and swing away with confidence!

From Richard C.:

Regarding how to hit more consistent swinging volleys: DON'T! You'll have much more consistent results by concentrating on hitting traditional volleys. Leave the swinging volleys to the pros.

From David S.:

If your swinging volley is going long or landing in the net, chances are you are rolling your racquet face through the course of the swing, making a consistent swing plane nearly impossible. Thus, you are sometimes hitting the ball before the "roll" when the racquet is open, sending the ball long, or you catch the ball when the racquet has closed more or less after the roll, resulting in the ball landing short and in the net.

To correct this problem, keep this phrase in mind: "Keep the plane the same." That is, hit up and over the ball without rolling the racquet face. If you look at the pros, their racquet face stays in the same plane from well before contact to long after. When you do this, you, too, will gain consistency and better aim as you work this shot.

From Eric R.:

The No. 1 factor needed to make the riskier swinging volley more reliable is SPIN. You say that your big swing attempts routinely go long or in the net. You have two spin choices to raise that percentage.

A hard slice is my top suggestion if you have a slice backhand and hopefully a slice forehand in your punch-volley repertoire already. To get more velocity on it, use your shoulder and turn more in preparation and swing through harder on the finish. An inside-out swing plane is what I use when I slice to redirect at high velocity.

Heavy topspin, of course, is what you see many young pros use on floaters in mid-court. Do not hit flat. There is too much risk, and even the big-swinging pros like Agassi and Sharapova were not great doubles players as a matter of factual record. They hit phenomenally well with topspin from their youngest junior days. Do you? If not, then slice has stood the test of time at net.

In short, there is a bigger risk in using a bigger swing on your volley except for floaters. Even then, you must use a heavier topspin or slice to allow for the shorter court targets that you are aiming for when at net.

From Kenny S., Highland Park, IL:

This is a good one because I was at a men’s open drill at CPAC, and we did about 15 minutes of the trying to take the other side’s place by winning three net points.

You could use a regular volley, even though it is tough on this kind of ball position. A good, deep, regular volley might be best, even for 4.5 and above players.

I would say really practice this shot. Keep your head still and don't overswing; swing through, not low to high or down. Like taking a deep ball and hitting it as an overhead, they are really hard shots but really effective if they work.

Watch Sharapova, Federer, the Williams sisters. They all hit this shot the correct way. Don't over-use this shot. Tennis is a very mental game, also; you need to choose correctly and not try to win a point on one big shot all the time. Too many unforced errors will hurt you big time.

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