What is the tennis volley and how is it executed? Let’s find out

What is the tennis volley and how is it executed? Mastering the tennis volley is a crucial skill that can elevate the proficiency of a tennis player, offering control, finesse, and strategic advantage on the court.

what is the tennis volley and how is it executed
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What is the tennis volley and how is it executed?

The tennis volley, a pivotal shot in the game, involves striking the ball before it bounces and demands precision, quick reflexes, and strategic positioning.

Definition and purpose of the tennis volley

In a tennis game, a volley refers to a shot that is struck before the tennis ball bounces on the court.

The primary purpose of executing a tennis volley is to intercept the ball mid-flight, allowing players to take control of the point by hitting it back over the net swiftly.

Unlike groundstrokes, which involve hitting the tennis ball after it bounces, a volley in tennis is often executed near the net and requires quick reflexes and precise technique.

Different types of volleys

Forehand volley: forehand volleys involve hitting the ball with the racket on the dominant hand’s side before letting the ball bounce off the ground. The forehand volley allows for quick and aggressive plays at the net. Forehand volleys often require directing the ball with power and accuracy.

Backhand volley: similar to the forehand volley, the backhand volley is executed using the non-dominant hand’s side.

In backhand volley, a tennis player uses their backhand grip to control the tennis ball and maintain consistency in their net game. Backhand volleys demand footwork, proper positioning, and a short, compact swing.

Drive volley: a drive volley in tennis involves a forceful and aggressive tennis shot, making a lob or a passing shot while moving forward toward the net. The drive volley is commonly used to put pressure on opponents and take control of the point.

Half-volley: a half-volley in tennis occurs when a player hits immediately after it has bounced off the ground. The half-volley is challenging as it requires precise timing and control.

The half-volley is often executed by players who are close to the net. The half-volley aims to return the ball just after it bounces to prevent it from rising too high.

Drop volley: a drop volley is a delicate drop shot executed close to the net. The drop volley involves softly tapping the tennis ball with finesse and precise control, letting the ball bounce quickly and close to the net on the opponent’s side.

The drop volley aims to disguise the shot and catch the opponent off-guard. The drop volley makes it challenging for them to reach the ball before it lands softly and low, often forcing them to cover more distance to return the shot effectively.

Proper technique for executing a tennis volley

Mastering the proper technique for making a good shot into the opponent’s court is fundamental for precision, control, and strategic advantage on the court.

Footwork and positioning

Ready stance: a tennis player must begin in a ready position between the net and the service line, staying on the balls of their feet with knees slightly bent and weight forward. This stance facilitates quick movement in any direction.

Split step: a crucial element, the split step, involves a small hop where the player’s feet come slightly apart with the right foot ahead of the left foot just before the opponent hits the ball.

This split-second pause helps anticipate the ball’s trajectory and allows for rapid reactions.

Movement to the ball: after the split step, players move towards the ball using short, quick steps. Proper movement ensures getting into an optimal position to execute the volley effectively.

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Grip and racquet position

Continental grip: the continental grip is the standard grip used for executing volleys effectively. It involves placing the base knuckle of the index finger on the top bevel of the racket handle.

This grip allows for versatility in managing both forehand and backhand volleys seamlessly, providing a solid base for control and maneuverability.

The angle of the racquet head: the angle of the racquet head plays a pivotal role in dictating the direction and control of the volley.

When preparing for a volley, players adjust the racket face angle to be slightly open, creating a surface that angles slightly upward. This positioning aids in lifting the ball over the net while maintaining control and precision.

Wrist position: a crucial aspect of the volley’s success is the stable position of the wrist. The wrist stays firm and neutral, ensuring stability and control over the racket face during contact with the tennis ball. Maintaining a stable wrist position allows for consistency in the volley’s direction and accuracy.

Racquet position: before the opponent’s shot, the racket is held in a ready position, slightly in front of the body and above the level of the net.

This stance facilitates a quicker reaction time, allowing players to make minute adjustments to the racket angle and position as necessary to execute the volley effectively.

Stroke mechanics

Proper swing: for volleys, a shorter, compact swing is essential. It involves bringing the racket forward with controlled power, emphasizing timing and precision over excessive force.

Short backswing: unlike groundstrokes, volleys require minimal backswing. Keeping the backswing short helps maintain control and quickens the reaction time.

Follow-through: a concise follow-through is necessary, guiding the ball’s direction into the opponent’s court and ensuring the racket face remains steady after contact with the tennis ball.

Body positioning

Balance: players need to stay balanced while executing volleys. This involves keeping the body slightly forward to the front foot and maintaining a stable base between the service line and the net.

Stability: keeping the head level and eyes on the ball, along with a firm wrist and stable body position, ensures stability and control during the volley.

Training and drills 

Enhancing your tennis volley proficiency involves targeted training drills, aimed at refining technique, adaptability, and on-court effectiveness.

Solo drills 

Wall volleys: stand close to a wall and practice volleys by hitting the ball against it. This drill helps in improving consistency, control, and precision as the ball rebounds at different angles and speeds.

Shadow volleying: mimic volley movements without a ball, focusing on footwork, racket preparation, and swing technique. This drill aids in refining form and muscle memory.

Target practice: set up targets on the court and practice aiming volleys at specific spots. This drill helps to improve the accuracy and placement of volleys.

Partner drills 

Feed and volley: have a partner feed balls from different positions and heights, allowing you to volley from various spots on the court. This drill simulates real-game situations, improving adaptability and responsiveness.

Net-to-net rally: engage in volleys with a partner at the net, maintaining a rally solely using volleys. This drill enhances consistency, reflexes, and control in high-pressure situations at the net.

Overhead smash practice: alternate hitting high lobs to each other, practicing overhead volleys. This drill improves the ability to generate power and control while executing overhead volleys.

Incorporating volleys into practice sessions

Point-based games: devote a segment of practice sessions or matches specifically to volleys. Use games like mini-tennis or tie-breakers focusing on net exchanges to enhance volley skills under pressure.

Serve and volley practice: practice serving and immediately following it up with a volley to approach the net.

This drill helps in mastering the transition from serving to aggressive play.

Competitive drills: create competitive scenarios during practice where you and your hitting partner engage in point-oriented drills, emphasizing volleys. This practice sharpens decision-making and execution in competitive settings.

Common mistakes to avoid in the tennis volley technique

Enhancing your tennis volley technique involves steering clear of common pitfalls that hinder technique, preparation, and shot execution.

Gripping the racket incorrectly

Wrong grip for volleys: using an incorrect grip, such as a grip suited for groundstrokes rather than the continental grip, hampers control and maneuverability while executing volleys. It limits the ability to adjust the racket face for accuracy and direction.

Tight grip pressure: gripping the racket too tightly during volleys reduces flexibility and control over the shot. This incorrect grip pressure inhibits smooth stroke execution and diminishes the feel of the ball.

Late preparation and reaction time

Delayed split step: failing to perform the split step at the right moment results in delayed reactions to the opponent’s shot. This delay reduces the time available to position properly for the volley, leading to potential errors or missed opportunities.

Slow movement to the ball: inadequate footwork or slow movement toward the incoming ball diminishes the player’s ability to reach an optimal position for executing the volley effectively. This leads to rushed strokes and compromises shot accuracy.

Overhitting or underhitting the volley

Overhitting: applying excessive force to the volley often results in the ball sailing out of bounds or losing control. Overhitting the volley reduces accuracy and increases the likelihood of errors, especially in fast-paced exchanges at the net.

Underhitting: insufficient power or control while executing volleys leads to weak shots that are easily intercepted or attacked by opponents. Underhitting the volley often results in losing points or giving the opponent opportunities to take control of the rally.

Poor body positioning and stability

Lack of balance: failing to maintain a balanced stance and stable body position while executing volleys affects control and precision. Poor balance compromises the player’s ability to direct the ball accurately.

Inadequate preparation: not returning to the ready position after executing the volley leaves players vulnerable to subsequent shots. This lack of preparedness limits quick responses and can result in being out of position for the next shot.

Tips to improve tennis volley skills

To elevate your tennis volley skills, incorporating these tips can significantly enhance your on-court performance.

Practice volley drills

Multi-ball drill: use multiple balls during practice to continuously hit volleys one after another. This drill improves consistency and rhythm in executing volleys.

Moving volleys: incorporate movement while practicing volleys. Move forward, backward, and sideways to simulate different on-court scenarios, thereby improving footwork and tennis shot execution while on the move.

Hand-eye coordination and reflexes

Focus on tracking the ball: develop strong hand-eye coordination by closely tracking the ball from your opponent’s racket to yours. This skill enables quicker reaction times and better anticipation of the ball’s trajectory.

Reaction training: engage in specific drills or exercises designed to improve reaction times, such as using reaction balls or visual drills that challenge your reflexes.

Volleys in different game situations

Approach shots: use volleys as an effective response to approach shots. Mastering this technique allows for aggressive play and puts pressure on opponents by finishing points swiftly.

Net play strategies: practice using volleys to close points at the net.

Work on volleying techniques to maintain control and precision, forcing opponents into difficult positions during rallies.

Transitioning to the net: incorporate volleys as part of a strategy to transition from the baseline to the net. Effective play often involves using volleys to finish points after approaching the net following a well-placed shot.

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By diligently practicing proper techniques and incorporating diverse drills, mastering the tennis volley becomes a key asset for players, elevating their control, agility, and competitive edge on the court.


How do you play tennis volleyball?

For hitting the volley, positioning should be between the service line and the net. Hit the ball before it bounces using a short, controlled swing near the net, focusing on accuracy and placement.

What is volley drill in tennis?

A volley drill in a tennis game involves practicing hitting the ball before it bounces using a short swing, focusing on improving control, accuracy, and reflexes at the net.

How to do a swinging volley in tennis?

A swinging volley in tennis involves stepping into the shot, timing the ball’s rise after the bounce, and executing a controlled but forceful swing while moving forward, imparting pace and direction to the ball.

Orson Carte

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