Originally Posted by Power Player
There was a really great post recently about tips on the serve and volley somewhere and I can not find it. Regardless, I loved it and there was a key part that stuck out - "attack the net, commit to getting to the net regardless if you get passed or not".
The more I play 4.0s to 5.0s, the more I see that standing back and baselining is why I lose some matches. And it is not because I get outhit, but more so because I choose to stay back and not attack the net as much as possible. As a result, the opportunity for UE's piles up and attackable balls extend the point for the opponent instead of ending it for me.
So I went out yesterday and played and practiced with a more advanced pusher type - a guy who hits deep loopers and gets everything back. His backhand is a weakness. I decided that I would attack the net as much as possible. It was a very simple strategy - hit i/o forehands to his backhand, deep and to the corner with a lot of pace and spin. I would run back a little when I saw the high, deep ball coming, and get off the ground and pound the ball into the corner.
As soon as I hit that shot I would come to net. My position was near the top of the service box on the deuce side to cover the line. What I noticed was this - just the mere act of me coming to the net caused multiple UE's. I barely had to do anything except come to net. Short balls came right to me, and I was able to put them away with a half volley to the open court. Or he would hit a DTL backhand winner. This was rare. Maybe he hit 2 of those the whole time.
Afterwards, he said that just seeing me come to net put a lot of pressure on him and he realized his next shot was going to have to be perfect or he would lose the point.
I think attacking the net is still the best way to win at rec tennis. This is not the ATP tour, and frankly you are not going to face many players who can bend the ball down to your feet and hit screaming winners part you. Add to the fact that I just watched Federer win an ATP 500 event utilizing S&V tactics, and I think it is safe to say that the net game will always have a place in tennis.
All that aside, the reality is that I am not very good at net yet. I have been a baseliner my while life and grew up watching Agassi play, and copying him. So I still struggle with a few things.
The main is aligning the racquet face properly, especially on the forehand side. For some reason I am able to volley rather well utilizing a conti grip on my backhand side, but on my forehand side it feels awkward and I tend to sky the ball into the fence at times. So I HAVE to fix that issue, and am open to any advice there.
As for this strategy summarized - think about how many people post about pushers here, and how many times you have lost to someone with lesser strokes who waited on you to give away the match and just got everything back. Why did you sit back and allow this to happen? They have lesser strokes - EXPOSE THAT. Get to the net and make them hit real shots that are past their ability. Don't sit back and baseline them all day when the reality is that they can and will get everything back until you dump one or hit long trying to get too aggressive.
I can't like your post any more than I do. I had brutal groundstrokes at 3.5. Hell, had you looked at my backhand alone, you would have thought I was a 3.0. But I went undefeated and lost one set the entire year precisely because of the ethos in your post.
Every match, I took the first two games to decide if my groundstrokes were better than the other guy's and if I could consistently get to his weaker side. If I wasn't better from the baseline or couldn't get to his weaker side, I exclusively served and volleyed, and on my return games, I did whatever I could to run around balls and hit them to his bad side, at which point in time I'd come in just as you described.
I still use this basic strategy, although much more judiciously now, as a 4.5. The moment I stretch a guy out during a rally, I'll come to the net. Want to block back my serve? I'm coming to the net. Want to take my serve deep behind the baseline? I'm coming to the net. Like to slice your backhand often? I'm coming to the net.
Frankly, my groundstrokes suck compared to my peers, and so I have to cover that by being more aggressive in my court position. I don't win nearly as much as I did with this strategy as a 3.5 and 4.0, but I've beat some guys with much better strokes simply by shifting the pressure to them.
Regarding the volley, and assuming you're in a true continental, I'd almost bet you're taking it late. If there's a clock on the ground with your feet in the middle and the 12 o'clock mark directly at your navel, you want to make contact somewhere in the 2 o'clock range. To go cross court or DTL, you just reorient the clock with your feet. But the contact should always be slightly out in front of your body.
My forehand volley occasionally goes off the tracks. When it does, the two issues for me are my grip (I tend to drift to an eastern backhand grip with the heel pad) and taking the ball late. And like you, while I don't hit the back fence, I do hit a bunch of volleys long.