How to quickly improve your net game, guaranteed!

TeamOB

Professional
This is one of the most amazing drills for net play I've ever tried! The results are amazing and very quick! I am sure that if every elite junior included this in their daily training regimen, we would see a comeback of net play within the next few years. It goes like this:

1. Get a pro teaching cart full of balls. You want at least 200 balls in the cart for this.

2. Get a partner or coach who is reasonably capable of feeding.

3. Stand at net. Have your partner/coach stand in no-mans-land and feed you a mix of volleys, overheads and approach shots as fast you can keep up. Have them really push you back with tough lobs. Have them stretch you with tough, wide volley feeds. Focus on keeping your footwork explosive and your volleys rock solid. Try not to miss a single ball.

4. Keep going, non-stop until the basket is empty. Yup, hit 200 shots at net at breakneck speed. If they are feeding fast enough, it should not take over 5-6 minutes.

5. If you are feeling up to it, repeat. If not, switch with your partner.

6. Enjoy a vastly improved net game in just a few days.

Warning: This is a very physically demanding drill. Not for the weak or faint of heart. I threw up the first time I did the full 200 balls. If you are out of shape, start with a small hopper of 80 balls before moving up to the full 200 balls.
 
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TeamOB

Professional
It sounds like a great drill; I should give it a try and report back with the results. :) I like this one too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cThQIhFSZk
The Cara Black drill is amazing for reflexes and hands! But IMO it is only useful for pretty advanced volleyers. The drill I described is better for movement at net and more suitable for less capable net players.

BTW this drill was shown to me by my coach, a very capable serve and volley player who played #1 for the University of Buffalo. He says he used to finish every practice with this drill when he played in college. It really keeps your net game in tip-top shape.
 
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LeeD

Bionic Poster
No doubt, a drill like that will improve your volleying skills, overhead skills, and positioning skills more than you would have if you didn't practice any net play.
However, that drill is maybe 1/3 of the equation for playing net position tennis.
More important, and this might take years, is the mental desire to go for broke, to accept 40% losers (your opponent wins 40% outright), to brush that off your mind, to concentrate on hitting ONE ONE ONE ONE volley at a time the best of your ability to the most angled and deepest positions of the open court of your opponent.
Pure repetition teachs you to go thru the motions. Going thru the motions playing net is playing a losing game.
Just like serving, you can serve 200 balls in quick succession twice a week, but that does you almost NO good. You need to practice separate first and second serves, to each location, with the NEED to get them IN, and not fire them off in rapid succession.
 

TeamOB

Professional
No doubt, a drill like that will improve your volleying skills, overhead skills, and positioning skills more than you would have if you didn't practice any net play.
However, that drill is maybe 1/3 of the equation for playing net position tennis.
More important, and this might take years, is the mental desire to go for broke, to accept 40% losers (your opponent wins 40% outright), to brush that off your mind, to concentrate on hitting ONE ONE ONE ONE volley at a time the best of your ability to the most angled and deepest positions of the open court of your opponent.
Pure repetition teaches you to go thru the motions. Going thru the motions playing net is playing a losing game.
Just like serving, you can serve 200 balls in quick succession twice a week, but that does you almost NO good. You need to practice separate first and second serves, to each location, with the NEED to get them IN, and not fire them off in rapid succession.
Yeah, of course. This drill isn't gonna turn you into Pat Rafter overnight. But it will help your net game big time. Many juniors I know are totally lost in the forecourt. They are absolutely clueless except on sitter put-away volleys. This drill can help them develop confidence at net. Just being close to the net and hitting a lot of volleys and overheads can help them overcome their natural queasiness in that part of the court. Once they start feeling comfortable around the net, they start venturing there more often in matches and practice points. The mentality and finer details are then picked up naturally through experimentation and match practice. I've seen a girl go from deathly fear of the net (she would actually run back to the baseline after retrieving a drop-shot) to the point where her volleys were a strength (not a liability) in just 3-4 months. My coach made her do drills like this every time she came in to train.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Another drill you can do is serve at a volleying person. Obviously you might try spin serves instead of blasting them. But its pretty fun..
 

Mr.Lob

Legend
This is one of the most amazing drills for net play I've ever tried! The results are amazing and very quick! I am sure that if every elite junior included this in their daily training regimen, we would see a comeback of net play within the next few years. It goes like this:

1. Get a pro teaching cart full of balls. You want at least 200 balls in the cart for this.

2. Get a partner or coach who is reasonably capable of feeding.

3. Stand at net. Have your partner/coach stand in no-mans-land and feed you a mix of volleys, overheads and approach shots as fast you can keep up. Have them really push you back with tough lobs. Have them stretch you with tough, wide volley feeds. Focus on keeping your footwork explosive and your volleys rock solid. Try not to miss a single ball.

4. Keep going, non-stop until the basket is empty. Yup, hit 200 shots at net at breakneck speed. If they are feeding fast enough, it should not take over 5-6 minutes.

5. If you are feeling up to it, repeat. If not, switch with your partner.

6. Enjoy a vastly improved net game in just a few days.

Warning: This is a very physically demanding drill. Not for the weak or faint of heart. I threw up the first time I did the full 200 balls. If you are out of shape, start with a small hopper of 80 balls before moving up to the full 200 balls.
Had a pro do this with me just the other day, except he fed to me at the baseline and I was to hit at net man. He said it was 6 minutes, to forehand and backhand sides on one side of the court. Tough. Probably not as much running as your drill.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Waste of time and energy.
Plenty of top volleyers cannot do this, and don't care to even try.
Why do you volley? TO PUT THE BALL AWAY !!!!
Not to hit it a million times in a row.
Blind hitting gives you blind losing.
 

magnut

Hall of Fame
pretty simple drill. i would make sure your fundamentals are good and the player understands the footwork and balance that goes with volleying. otherwise its just a mess and your giving yourself bad habits. frantic volleying is not something you want to practice a lot. Volleying is a very precise skill. Steady hands, proper footwork, and balance are what count. Volleying is also very mental as well. You have to be proactive at the net.

something to remember is that playing net is not just about being at the net....its synchronizing your game to get you there and understand where you position yourself.

for a serve and volleyer its very much about learning the spins and developing accurate placement. hard flat serves are used more as a change up. If you dont have full control over slice, kick,and sometimes flat serves along with excellent placement its going to be difficult to serve and volley successfully.

for the baseliner the transition is going to be key as your using the groundstrokes to set up your net game. Power is not the most important here. well placed shots and understanding where to cover are key. dont blast...remember your looking to end the point on a volley.

For the all courter it get really interesting. One has to find a way to stay close to the baseline and use his or her skill set to give them an opportunity to take position at the net. this will be different for everyone so one has to develop a good understanding of their own game. i will add that the farther you retreat from the baseline the more difficult you make it on yourself. Heavy and excessive topspin is not always your friend either.

Now for what I do. I serve and volley....I go out and hit serves a lot. I work on spins, placement, and rhythm. you would never see practicing my serve without targets. In order to develop in this sport you must always have a purpose on court. Just hitting balls can be fun and stress relieving but without purpose its not a good use of your time for improvement. The #1 most important shot in this game is the serve and you can practice it alone. There is no excuse for not having a good serve. a weak serve shows a lack of discipline and lazyness.

There are lots of other ways to practice volleys and even serve and volleys on your own but it might not be of interest for people here.

for the return game i first make the return then play standard directionals and patiently wait for an unforced error or a short ball in which i can take position at the net. you will never see me hit a baseline winner unless its a passing shot or the player basically bails out of the point. I hit 3/4 pace groundstrokes and always mix up the pace and spin of shots to not give an opponent rythem.

If your fit and can move well simply hitting deep up the center of the court is often enough to produce the short ball. It takes away angles, neutralizes speed demons, and jams up the monster baseliners.

Chipping and charging is also a good tactic but its highly advanced and if you dont have the skills your just playing kamikaze tennis. still its a good tactic to throw in once in a while as it puts pressure on the server not to just soft serve to get the points started. Its very effective on important points.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
It's just as important to bounce the ball off the edge of your racket as many time as you can as it is to volley against the wall multiple times.
Totally not important, but fun.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Waste of time and energy.
Plenty of top volleyers cannot do this, and don't care to even try.
Why do you volley? TO PUT THE BALL AWAY !!!!
Not to hit it a million times in a row.
Blind hitting gives you blind losing.
^ Are you referring to the OP's drill or the Cara Black feat? If the latter, I do not believe that it is a waste of time/energy at all. It is a great exercise for reflexes/hand-eye and concentration. Not that many players can pull this off at the level that Cara does.
 

magnut

Hall of Fame
It's just as important to bounce the ball off the edge of your racket as many time as you can as it is to volley against the wall multiple times.
Totally not important, but fun.
volleying against a wall is useful for developing feel, racquet head control, as well strength and stability of the arm muscles needed for volleying. I wouldnt disregard it to much.

set volleying practice is very useful as well and probably does the most for feel, touch, and balance at the net as well. It works better if you have a partner but sometimes its difficult to find good volleyers willing to work on skill at the net.
 

Greg G

Professional
I do enjoy a few baskets of volley drills. You know you're done when your legs are toasted and won't even fire anymore :)
 

TennisCJC

Legend
Makes you appreciate what an amazing talent Cara Black was. I recall watching her crack overhead smashes in an early morning practice session at Stanford. Never heard an overhead hit that crisply so many times in a row. Here is a more impressive version of Cara's wall volley drill (when she was 16):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_fDp3DkBGk
I have seen this video before and it is impressive from an athletic and concentration perspective but in my view it is worthless as a volley drill. The motion and the angle of the shot is not like a volley. Basically, it is a good drill if you want to practice reflexes and focus.

A better wall drill for the volley is to draw a line or mark a spot about 36 inches high on the wall. Stand about 12-15 feet back from the wall and feed yourself balls that you can take on the fly and try to hit them 12-24 inches about the line. See if you can feed and hit 2 or 3 volleys like this. This teaches the proper feel to get the right height for your volleys. You likely will only be able to hit a few shots (2-6) but that's fine. Better to practice 2 good volleys with good mechanics than to whack a bunch of balls into the wall with a stroke that doesn't resemble a volley.
 

TennisCJC

Legend
Yes, your drill would be great.

Another variation:

1. have student stand with heels on service line.
2. pro or partner feeds 1st ball to student in the air and student hits an "approach volley". The object is to hit the volley deep preferably DTL or DTMid to setup the net volley.
3. Student moves into volley alley which is 1/2 way between service line and net.
4. pro hits next ball and student tries to end the point with the volley - angle short wide, firm/deep, or drop volley are all options.
5. pro hits 3rd ball which is a lob and student hits overhead smash.

Another deviation of the drill above is to play it out with a partner instead of using feeds. Partner hits first ball to player with heels on baseline who hits approach volley deep. Then play the point out with the net player trying to end the point and the baseline partner trying to pass the net player. This will teach the net player to stick the approach volley so the baseliner doesn't have an easy pass.

Another drill is to do the drill above but have the student start at the baseline and the pro will feed them a short ball which they must hit DTL and approach behind.

All of these are good ways to improve net game.
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
^^^ If nothing else, what she is doing takes concentration, quick hands/shoulder turn, and eye-hand coordination, which all sound like valuable traits at the net to me.
 

GoudX

Professional
She clearly still thinks of it as a worthwhile drill if she did it as a kid and an adult, and I'd bet she volleys a lot better than anyone on this forum. 6 doubles grand slams and and 5 mixed doubles grand slams doesn't come unless you can volley well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=UrhshoPErTU#t=168

The drill improves reactions, forces a compact stroke, helps pace control, and aids finding the sweetspot. Sure it doesn't mean you'll be winning every point at the net if you have these skills, but they certainly help.
 

Greg G

Professional
I like to end practice sessions with volley drills. I have my partner stand way in the service box and instruct him to do a rapid feed trying to get it low. He'll also thrown in a random sitter or dink. I should tell him to add a random lob, but I fear I wouldn't survive more than a few rounds. I'll work up to that.

The rapid feed helps kill my tendency to have a bigger backswing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1KE1Kqdl8s

Another thing I like to practice is the transition volley. Starting from no man's land I move forward till I get to net, where the last volley is hopefully a putaway. Targets are laid out on the court.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNG1IB8zv-8

I'll try the drills suggested here, though I fear I wouldn't last very long :D
 

ultradr

Legend
More important, and this might take years, is the mental desire to go for broke, to accept 40% losers (your opponent wins 40% outright), to brush that off your mind, to concentrate on hitting ONE ONE ONE ONE volley at a time the best of your ability to the most angled and deepest positions of the open court of your opponent.
Is it really 6 to 4 ? Guys like Nadal (or Laver) has so high success rate at winning
with volley that they win even before getting to the net, so to speak....
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
If it's 8-2, you are playing some rummy you would have beaten from the baseline.
If it's 10-0, you have no business playing that low.....
If it's truly 5-5, you will lose the match.
Where does that leave us?
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
I have seen this video before and it is impressive from an athletic and concentration perspective but in my view it is worthless as a volley drill. The motion and the angle of the shot is not like a volley. .
I have to disagree and say I see many elements of a good modern volley in her motion. I'm running it by the MTM folks to see how they view it.

Clearly a high to low motion to find the ball, then slice down and across, pulling to the body midline.
 

TennisCJC

Legend
I have to disagree and say I see many elements of a good modern volley in her motion. I'm running it by the MTM folks to see how they view it.

Clearly a high to low motion to find the ball, then slice down and across, pulling to the body midline.
OK to disagree but I think the wall practice stroke she uses has a lot of underspin, a lot of pace, a high trajectory and a big swing. I have watched Cara volley in matches at USO and even she does not volley like this in a real match on a court. To me her swing in the drill is primarily focused on keeping the drill going. It is not representative of a volley in a match where she would use a compact abbreviated swing, less pace, and lower trajectory. Of course, there are some elements in the practice drill that are in a real volley such as underspin and down and across action. But, I think practice drills should closely simulate real match strokes and this drill doesn't.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
OK to disagree but I think the wall practice stroke she uses has a lot of underspin, a lot of pace, a high trajectory and a big swing. I have watched Cara volley in matches at USO and even she does not volley like this in a real match on a court. To me her swing in the drill is primarily focused on keeping the drill going. It is not representative of a volley in a match where she would use a compact abbreviated swing, less pace, and lower trajectory. Of course, there are some elements in the practice drill that are in a real volley such as underspin and down and across action. But, I think practice drills should closely simulate real match strokes and this drill doesn't.
That's fair enough :)
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
How about, .... if you hit 200 volleys each day, your volleying skills become better.
If you DON'T hit any volleys ever, your volleying skills stay the way they are.
 
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