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View Full Version : Serve and Volley Strategy -- First Volley


rafafan20
01-31-2012, 08:58 PM
I wanted to know where is the ideal place to take that first volley after the serve when serving and volleying. I'm pretty quick and usually can get on top of the net after a good serve but a player told me its better to take a nice controlled first volley from the service line, and then attack from there. I do tend to rush sometimes when I sprint in because of my head bobbling and footwork. What is the best place to take that first volley?

scotus
01-31-2012, 09:29 PM
As long as you split-step, you should come in as close to the net as you can.

It's not easy to hit a "nice controlled first volley from the service line" if your opponent is hitting dipping returns at your feet or hitting nice angles.

stormholloway
01-31-2012, 10:05 PM
I've never been a huge fan of the 'as close as you can' strategy. Maybe it's just me. If you're right up at the net, how do you step into volleys? Plus you have very little time to react. That works for gods like Edberg but for me I like a little time and space.

scotus
01-31-2012, 11:28 PM
I've never been a huge fan of the 'as close as you can' strategy. Maybe it's just me. If you're right up at the net, how do you step into volleys? Plus you have very little time to react. That works for gods like Edberg but for me I like a little time and space.

Even Edberg wasn't quick enough to be right up at the net for the first volley. Very quick players would split-step around the service line (often a few feet behind) and then move a few feet inside the service line for the first volley.

Also, if you are Usain Bolt-quick and happens to be right up at the net, you don't need to step into volleys at all. All you need to do is angle it sharp for a winner. I don't think OP is that quick. I was under the impression that he was just using a hyperbole.

The point is that if you want to be a successful S&Ver, you don't want to be hitting half-volleys or low volleys for your first volley. You want an effective serve that lets you hit a higher volley and you want to move in closer so you can take it at waist height or above.

Of course, it's easier said than done, especially against a solid returner.

Maui19
02-01-2012, 03:14 AM
Doubles or singles?

Ballinbob
02-01-2012, 05:23 AM
Well definitely get in close as possible. Something that has helped me with first volleys is to calm myself. Clear your head and mentally prepare yourself that you might get a hard ball. Be ready for anything when up at the net.

When your opponent makes contact with the ball (or before if you wish) split step and be ready to intercept the volley. The first volley isnt the "killer" volley. More often than not if I hit my first volley away from my opponent and make them run I usually end up winning the point. Just keep it very simple and guide it to a corner.

Once you get good at that, you can start hitting behind your opponent, which is fun as heck to watch haha:)

rkelley
02-01-2012, 06:37 AM
I wanted to know where is the ideal place to take that first volley after the serve when serving and volleying. I'm pretty quick and usually can get on top of the net after a good serve but a player told me its better to take a nice controlled first volley from the service line, and then attack from there. I do tend to rush sometimes when I sprint in because of my head bobbling and footwork. What is the best place to take that first volley?

As others have said the general idea is to split step when your opponent hits the ball. The thing I've seen by watching videos of pros and my own experience is that this is usually a rhythm of serve, two steps, split step. If your serve is slow you might be able to get three steps, but that's it. So you're serve has some reasonable velocity you're going to be split stepping a bit behind the service line.

Depending on the return you have anywhere from a diving stab to about three steps to move to the ball at the extremes, generally one to two steps. One to two steps from behind the service line puts you on, maybe in front of the service line.

The only way you can be "on top of the net" for the first volley is if you sprint in as fast as you can without split stepping. You will be hard pressed to make anything but the most sitter volleys, and even then you'll be giving up control on angle and placement, which is really the whole point to coming in the first place. Your friend is right on, be balanced and controlled when you take the first volley. This is going to happen somewhere around the service line.

Always sacrifice the extra step for more control.

Here's something you can practice even without a hitting partner: Just serve the ball, count one, two (for two steps), then split step with your racquet in front of you ready for the return. Think of it as a dance. Do it slowly enough so that you're balanced and in control when you split step. That doesn't mean stationary - your momentum should naturally carry you toward the net - but you shouldn't be stumbling as you split step and you should be able to move to either side.

rafafan20
02-01-2012, 06:57 AM
thanks rkelley great tip. I found myself to be off balance pretty often when sprinting forward. Seems it would be easier to hit a nice balanced volley even if the return would be tougher to deal with.

rkelley
02-01-2012, 07:08 AM
thanks rkelley great tip. I found myself to be off balance pretty often when sprinting forward. Seems it would be easier to hit a nice balanced volley even if the return would be tougher to deal with.

You're welcome.

That's the thing, the return will be easier to deal with if you're balanced. You'll be more consistent and be able to do more with it.

goran_ace
02-01-2012, 07:08 AM
I'm pretty quick and usually can get on top of the net ... I do tend to rush sometimes when I sprint in because of my head bobbling and footwork.

Sounds like you are sprinting as fast as you can solely for the sake of getting close. You can't just sprint forward as fast as you can to the net and then pop into a ready position and react from there (sadly, I see this done a lot at my club).

Generally, yes, you do want to be as close to the net as possible, but more importantly you want to get as close to the net as possible while under control and ready to make a play. That means you split step when the receiver makes contact, that means you are reading the returner's position and angles and know where you should be, that means you are in balance, your racket head is up, and your hands are in front of you ready to volley.

As a general guideline, if you are split stepping on/inside the service line and take that first volley a step or two inside you are in good shape. Obviously if you've got a big, heavy serve that produces a lot of short popped up replies you can go for the kill right away. Otherwise, the first volley is what sets up the point and you will probably see a lot of low volleys that you need to bend those knees and get down to dig them out or you'll be hitting a high mid-court volley, neither of which is that easy to put away. That's where you need to be comfortable having to hit 2-3 volleys to win that point and think about combos - e.g. get him to move sideways with one volley and then punch it into the opening with the next.

One more thing to add about coming forward. Remember you are on the offensive. Don't worry about defending against the lob, a lob won't hurt you. A true offensive lob (e.g. topspin lob dipping for a winner) is an advanced shot and tough to do on a return of serve. A high deep lob will get you off the net, but the points not over, you'll have time to go back and get it. It just resets the point to neutral and you can work your way back into control the point from there.

goran_ace
02-01-2012, 07:10 AM
You're welcome.

That's the thing, the return will be easier to deal with if you're balanced. You'll be more consistent and be able to do more with it.

Great posts rkelley. Looks like we were thinking similar things and writing at the same time!

rafafan20
02-01-2012, 07:18 AM
great tips guys, very much appreciated. Gonna try to stay in control more in my match tonight. It was hard at first to split step earlier because my timing was a little off and I was leaning back on the volley but once I get the feel and timing I think it will really pay off.

LeeD
02-01-2012, 08:15 AM
Sprint forward as fast as you can, stop and get in balance/split step whereever you end up (hopefully inside the service line), the react to your opponent's shot based on how well you hit YOUR first volley.

5263
02-01-2012, 08:20 PM
You're welcome.

That's the thing, the return will be easier to deal with if you're balanced. You'll be more consistent and be able to do more with it.

Balance is a big key for all the strokes as well.
It is a big requirement to be able to put the ball where you want it on a consistent basis.

fuzz nation
02-02-2012, 06:24 AM
We could probably write a few dozen paragraphs about what to do with the first ball in the form of either a first volley or half-volley, depending on lots of things. Where are you in the court, is the return down-the-line, cross-court, high or low over the net, where did your serve put the returner (wide, toward the center, neither), what's the returner's weaker side... just the tip of the ol' iceberg of variables.

If you can put your opponent on the run, that can be a strong option, but if your first shot can simply go to that opponent's weaker side where he/she can't hurt you, that's great. You're going to find that as you develop S&V instincts, you're quite basically looking to keep your opponent defensive as you gain a better position.

Whenever your first shot can be placed deep in your opponent's end, that's just about always the best option. It keeps them out of the driver's seat when they're pushed back from their own baseline while you advance. That can mean that a deep shot to the weak backhand side might be better than making a player run to their forehand side if that player has a killer running forehand.

Can you swing your opponent off the court with a wide serve? If so, your second shot should usually go through (or at least into) that open space you've created for yourself with that wide serve. That's the serve and volleyer's "classic combo" I think.

If a tough returner knows how to put the ball down on your feet, that can kill a lot of your initiative as a S&V'er. Work on a strong half-volley so that you can counter this sort of return and retain control of the action more often.

BU-Tennis
02-02-2012, 07:26 AM
Great advice from the above posters, as usual but a few additional, maybe redundant tips that have helped me when applying S&V strats:

1) Initiate the split step right as your ball bounces, this means that when you are coming down and landing gently on the balls of your feet, with your legs a little wider than shoulders and knees bent, your opponent will be making contact and you can identifying the type of ball coming at you (drive or slice) and the direction its flying.

2) Remember, just like with a return of serve where you try and move diagonally to cut off the angle of the serve, the same goes when volleying. Just because you split step a few feet in, doesn't mean you sit and wait for the ball, you keep moving forward.

3)Lastly, I try and focus a little less about placement of my first volley, and try instead to just ensure that it stays nice and low, this will ensure your opponent has to hit up on it. Youtube some of Sampras's first volleys and you'll see he often hits them right back at the opponent but keeps it very low so they can not do anything offensively.

Hope it helps, and best of luck we need to see more people up there at net!

Nellie
02-02-2012, 07:51 AM
Further to comments above, don't think about getting as close to the net as possible. Also, don't think about hitting a winner on the first volley unless the opponent returns a sitter. Instead, think about being in control in for the first volley so you can force your opponent to hit a really hard shot passing shot. Serve and volley is less about hitting winners, than controlling the ball and forcing your opponent to be uncomfortable and to make hard shots. If you are missing a lot of volleys, than you are making it too easy for the opponent.

Being out of control (by rushing forward during the volley) means:
you will be hitting a tough shot if the ball is hit at you (since you are on the move);
you cannot reach easy shots hit to your sides; and
you cannot easily stop to get lobs.

That being said, it is easier to control the ball if you are closer to the net. You can spend a little bit of practice to get faster forward out of your service motion. Try doing some practice serves (without the ball) and see how you move forward toward the net. Then practice a couple of real serves with a friend to see if you can keep the motion. You can get a lot closer to the net by taking out pauses that may occur after the serve.

As a last thought for you, you should try different serves to see what works better for your serve and volley game. I hit a heavy kicking serve because (1) I want a high percentage first serve); and (2) the slower ball gives me a fraction of a second more time to get forward before my split step. With a big flat serve, the opponent may return the ball before I finish my service motion.

NLBwell
02-02-2012, 08:54 AM
I do tend to rush sometimes when I sprint in because of my head bobbling and footwork.

This has always been my problem with serve-and-volley, specifically the head moving. I lose track of the ball and where I am on the court. Best advice I got was from a baseball hitting coach who noticed as I split-step my feet would stop, but my body and head would keep moving forward (and therefore downward). He mentioned that in baseball they don't teach hitting with a big stride anymore because it causes the level of the eyes to drop during the swing. You need to move in controlled enough so that your head is level and steady as you split-step. Don't let your weight get in front of your feet.

LeeD
02-02-2012, 09:40 AM
"Sprint forwards like you're running JimmyConnor's style"....