At the highest levels of the game on the ATP Tour and WTA Tour, the all-out tennis serve and volley game is no longer as effective because of the tremendous power, accuracy, spin, and conditioning of the baseline players to be able to hitting passing shots very effectively. However, as a surprise tactic when the scoreboard is in your favour, or against an opponent who likes to reset the ball on his return of serve, or retriever who just pushes the ball in play on every point, or at every Junior and Club level, the serve and volley is still a very potent tennis tactic. In this article, TAG International Tennis Academy’s Coach Ray Evan Paler, a net play specialist, shares his 6 best tennis tips to an effective serve and volley play:
- Hit your first serve with a clear target in mind: Out wide, Into the Body, Down the Middle;
- Serve with sufficient power and spin to either stretch your opponent, or push your opponent back, or cause him to float the ball;
- Move in to try reach just behind the service line by the line of the ball to your target to bisect the court for your first volley;
- Decide beforehand the play: whether you are going to hit your first volley into the open court, or back behind your opponent;
- Split step just before your opponent strikes the ball and land on his contact so that you can move in any direction of the return
- If the return is low, play it back deep to set yourself up to put away the ball on a second volley. If the return is high, look to punch the ball away for a winner.
Hit your first serve with a clear target in mind: Out wide, Into the Body, Down the Middle
In order to have an effective first volley that you can put your opponent into a lot of trouble or to put away the ball immediately, Coach Ray Evan emphasises that it is important to hit your first serve with sufficient power, accuracy, and spin to a clear target you have in mind. This can be to stretch your opponent out wide with a slice serve, to push him back with a flat serve into his body, or both push him back and stretch him on a fast topspin serve up the middle. When your opponent cannot effectively get behind the ball put his bodyweight and have a good swing into contact with the ball to keep it low, your chances of hitting an easier first volley is significantly improved. The slice serve keeps the ball skidding outwards and low while the kick serve forces the opponent to hit it on the stretch above his shoulder which may both result in floating shots for an easier volley. The body serve is actually very ideal because it is safe, high-percentage serve. You will not hit an ace, but you are likely to get a floating ball from the jam that your opponent cannot strike that you have several options on the first volley.
Move in to try reach just behind the service line by the line of the ball to your target to bisect the likely returns for your first volley
To serve and volley, it is imperative that you run forward “following the ball” or “following the line of your serve. Once your landing foot lands into the court after striking the serve, you should use the momentum to carry on into the court towards the service line. Your footwork and being light is very important, so that you can get very close to the service line to hit your first volley. Staying low will help greatly, to get to the net quicker and staying more balanced.
Decide before you Serve and Volley the play you are going to make: whether you are going to hit your first volley into the open court, or back behind your opponent
There are essentially 4 options for you on the first volley. As it is a very quick process between the serve and the first volley and there are many things to be concerned about, it is very useful in most cases to determine prior to hitting your serve where you are going to stick the first volley
- Into the Open Court from a wide serve – The most obvious first volley is into the open court where your opponent is furthest away from. It may actually be the furthest but it probably is not as many opponents may actually have a head start towards this direction after they hit a return if they know you are coming in.
- Back behind the opponent to wrong-foot them off a middle serve. This is a good play.
- Back out wide at opponent location off a wide serve. This is very ideal against faster players who may already be charging towards the open court. The drawback is if an opponent anticipates this, they are already there and you will be very vulnerable to the passing shot as your court is very open.
- The drop shot. This is a very good option if you got soft hands as the opponent is usually choosing between charging to cover the open court or to hold position to cover the first volley back behind. A drop shot even if not hit very well and not with very good direction may result in a clean winner even if not very well hit. Also, even if your opponent manages to get to it to hit it upwards, you are very well positioned for the next shot to hit an easy winner. Coach Ray Evan surprises his opponent with this play often.
Split step just before your opponent strikes the ball and land on his contact so that you can move in any direction of the return
A split step occurs when you come to a stop with both feet directly under you. As your opponent goes into their backswing, hop off one leg jump into a split step. This hop allows you to cover more distance and come forward out of the split step easier. From this “de-gravitation” off the split step, you can then push of towards any direction towards the ball while maintaining your balance which is essential for stability and transferring good bodyweight and spin into the volley.
If the return is low, play it back deep to set yourself up to put away the ball on a second volley. If the return is high, look to punch the ball away for a winner.
We should be aiming to hit an unreturnable first volley to avoid the risk of a running passing shot or lob from the opponent when the ball is floating. However such a mindset may lead to many unforced errors by trying to do too much with the ball from a distance further from the net. If the ball is high and slow, by all means go for the finish. However, if the return is decent such that it is not slow and high enough, it is adivsable to hit the first volley deep as a set-up shot, then continue to close the net for a easy put away on the second volley with an easy knock-off for an opponent that has already covered a lot of court by then.
For the second volley, while you should continue to close the net after the first volley, it is very important not to close too hard so that you are very vulnerable to even an average lob.
If the point is still not over by then, the opponent is likely to have neutralised your advantage and so you will need to get back to ready position and be alert. You will need to watch your opponent’s movement and set up shape very closely with a keen eye to try anticipate the direction of the pass, or lob.
Tennis Serve and Volley Tennis Tactics – Wrap Up
The serve and volley tennis tactic is less common these days in the professional game for as player conditioning improves, and racquet and string technology have advanced, tennis professionals can get so much dip on the ball at such a high pace. If the pro tennis player is not on stretch, the ball is coming back at your feet, and they can hit passing shots so hard because they can generate so much spin. However, just because it is less common in the professional game does as a main overall tennis tactic does not mean it is not common as a surprise tennis tactic, as Roger Federer and TAG Coach Ray Evan has used to great effect.
Most importantly, at all other levels of the game from national level to club level to junior tennis level, this tennis tactic is invaluable and puts a lot of pressure on the returner, resulting in many errors from him or her just trying to avoid giving you a floating ball to a safe section of the court to avoid your first volley.
The serve and volley tennis tactic is a high risk high reward tactic that requires a lot of instruction, repetition and practice. Master this skill with the best private tennis coaches such as Coach Ray Evan from the best tennis academy in Singapore, TAG International Tennis Academy by taking private tennis lessons. We can be contacted at +6598395232, or contact us HERE.
This article is part of the TAG Definitive Guide Series which encompasses the best tennis tips available online. If you enjoyed this article, some other interesting articles you may like include:
- Best tips to a reliable Double Backhand by TAG Coach Israel Abarquez
- Best tips to a powerful serve by TAG Coach Michael Mantua
- Best tips to a single backhand return of serve by TAG Coach Peter Egos
- Best left-hander tips by TAG Coach Parekh Pratim
- Best tips to a devastating one handed backhand by TAG Coach Bo Alburo
- Best tips to a knee buckling drop shot by TAG Coach Ten Rapeepat
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