Serve and Volley - Singles Strategy / Thought Process

mnttlrg

Semi-Pro
I am guessing people can point me to some good videos / threads on this:

I have been practicing my serve and volley, and I am realizing that I don't really know what to be looking for when it comes to actual tactics / strategy / adjustments. I am comfortable with the technique part, but I don't always know what shots to go for and why.

One good example is that I was always taught to drive the ball deep on the volley as you approach the net. It turns out that hitting a low, shallow angle is usually a better option.

I really don't know what to try to set up, what shots my opponents can hit that I need to be aware of, or how to adapt to those shots. I honestly tend to just run up and hit the ball out of the air.

For those of you who are really into doing this, what is your mindset? What are you focusing on / really looking to do? What are some of the potential weak areas that you might try exploiting against a S&V opponent?

Thanks!
 

HBK4life

Rookie
I always take some time before my serve to think about what I will do if a certain return comes at me. For example. On deuce side I decide to serve our wide. If I hit my spot on serve pulling opponent out wide and a weak return comes my way I’m volleying to open court for winner. If my serve isn’t the best and he hits a good return low where I have to volley low or half volley my ball is going back (hopefully) deep right back where the ball came from so I can close a bit and cover the line.

You have to have a plan. And if you do S&V on a regular basis you have to be ok with getting passed on the return sometimes. It happens.
 

blablavla

Professional
I am guessing people can point me to some good videos / threads on this:

I have been practicing my serve and volley, and I am realizing that I don't really know what to be looking for when it comes to actual tactics / strategy / adjustments. I am comfortable with the technique part, but I don't always know what shots to go for and why.

One good example is that I was always taught to drive the ball deep on the volley as you approach the net. It turns out that hitting a low, shallow angle is usually a better option.

I really don't know what to try to set up, what shots my opponents can hit that I need to be aware of, or how to adapt to those shots. I honestly tend to just run up and hit the ball out of the air.

For those of you who are really into doing this, what is your mindset? What are you focusing on / really looking to do? What are some of the potential weak areas that you might try exploiting against a S&V opponent?

Thanks!
you need to consider that as you are approaching the net, you might very often have acceleration forward, which can easily be passed to the ball.
unless you can always stop, make a split step, which will bring your acceleration to zero, hitting a long volley will result in high risk of hitting long.

as for strategy.
it depends on you and your opponent.
in general, ideally you keep your opponent off balance, meaning you try to serve at various spots, so that your opponent doesn't prepare timely to your next serve.
next thing, based on your serve & volley skills, and opponent return skills, you can serve wide -> volley to the empty corner, but this means opening the angles when you serve to the FH.
alternatively, some say that its wise to serve DTL to ad side, as this typically goes to the FH, so your opponent won't have many angles, and you can choose where to volley next.
same, some say that DTL service to the deuce means that your opponent won't have angles to play form return, and often it goes to the weaker side, so with next volley might be a put-away volley.
 
I am guessing people can point me to some good videos / threads on this:

I have been practicing my serve and volley, and I am realizing that I don't really know what to be looking for when it comes to actual tactics / strategy / adjustments. I am comfortable with the technique part, but I don't always know what shots to go for and why.

One good example is that I was always taught to drive the ball deep on the volley as you approach the net. It turns out that hitting a low, shallow angle is usually a better option.

I really don't know what to try to set up, what shots my opponents can hit that I need to be aware of, or how to adapt to those shots. I honestly tend to just run up and hit the ball out of the air.

For those of you who are really into doing this, what is your mindset? What are you focusing on / really looking to do? What are some of the potential weak areas that you might try exploiting against a S&V opponent?

Thanks!
For singles, I like to serve wide (in either court) and pull the opponent off the court and then try to volley into the open court for a winner. The downside to this is that if you miss your serve spot and don't quite get the opponent stetched out on the serve, you are likely giving your opponent a ball they can rip or more angle to pass you on the return. I might use this strategy a handful of times in a set, as I don't serve and volley much in singles. If I were serving and volleying multiple times in every service game in singles, i would employ a variety of serves- different speeds, spots, and spins. If there's a certain serve speed, spin, or spot that the returner struggles against, then I may go to that shot more than the others. I do not focus on what type of volley I want to hit, as I simply try to react to what the returner gives me. If the returner gives me a ball dipping at my feet then my volley is going to be very different than if I have a floater 2 feet above the net. In general, though, I try to keep the volley deep and low (underspin), as that gives me the best chance to keep the opponent on the defensive- it makes it harder for them to lob (offensively) so I'm able to close the net more, and it forces him to hit up where i hopefully can put away the next volley. Hitting short and shallow angled volleys can be tough to execute in my opinion, as hitting a sharp angle volley is much easier to do the closer you are to the net (and your first volley in singles off a serve and volley may be around the service line). If you have the hands and feel to execute "touch" volleys versus drive volleys, then certainly utilize those shots. As with all things, though, if you rely on one specific type of volley or shot, then your opponent may adjust and start looking for thoset types of shots and reacting accordingly where that shot may lose its effectiveness. Thus, even if you are able to hit the softer, short angle volleys, you need to be able to hit the drive / deep ones as well.

If I'm serving in doubles, I focus mostly on serving down the middle to reduce angles. But just like in singles, I'm going to use a variety of serve speeds, spins, and placements to keep returners off balance. I will adjust accordingly based on the opponent. In doubles, I also employ body serves more than I might in singles, as I feel like it is more effective in doubles since you have a person already at net that can pounce on any type of weak return.

I think your mindset when serving and volleying should be "attack". This doesn't mean you are trying to hit winners off every volley, but you are trying to dictate the play. You are forcing the opponent to react to you and your shots. You as the attacking player are dictating the points and trying to put repeated pressure on the opponent. You will get passed some, and you will miss some volleys, but you want that opponent feeling that pressure of you attacking and dictating play.
 

jhick

Professional
When I was younger I used to serve and volley about 95% of the time in singles with good success. With my current age (46) and declining fitness level, these days I mostly play doubles, but when I do play singles, I'd say I probably S&V about 30%-40% of the time, and a lot of it depends on the strength of my opponents return. With a strong returner, I do it even less often and generally go for my serve placement even more. Having your serve as a weapon gives you a huge advantage (I'm a lefty and depend on my serve quite a bit). Out wide can opener on the ad side to the backhand is generally a great tactic. As far as volleying it is situational, but out wide and volley to the open court is generally my best play on the ad side. Similarly down the middle to the BH on the deuce side, with the expectation of not putting away the first volley, but either keeping it deep down the middle if given an offensive volley, or angled drop shot for a defensive volley. I'll occasionally mix it up on the serve to keep my opponent honest.
 

Dan R

Semi-Pro
The big revelation that I learned from serve and volley is that you can (for the most part) control where the return will be with your serve. You are trying to force your opponent to return it where you want it. For example (assume righty v. righty, and you hit your spot with the serve). If you slice it out wide from the deuce court the return is most likely going to be short to the backhand side. That should set up a backhand volley deep cross court. If you serve out wide from the add court the return will usually be short to the forehand side - then the best play is a deep cross court forehand volley. If you serve down the T, the return will usually be short and inside out, but where you go from there is not quite as clear. If I can pull my opponent across the center line I'll try and go behind him. If not I'll go down the line or right at him.

That's my general plan, and of course you have to vary it. The sideline T is a good target if you can get close to the net, but I tend to avoid going inside out to the sideline T that's a very hard shot. I hit those cross court. You can also hit right back at them as long as you get it deep. You want to avoid the volley/half-volley that lands in the center of the court (not short and not deep) that sits up. You're in trouble if that happens. Also, if you miss the serve or are playing a really good returner you have to adjust as well. If I play a guy that has a good return and is getting the ball at my feet, then I will use a fake serve and volley. I'll serve come in two steps and stop in no man's land and then wait for the short return and take it as an approach shot.

I love serve and volley because of the tactical situations, but you generally need to have a plan for the first two shots on every point before the point starts. It happens fast.
 
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jhick

Professional
Interestingly enough, I used to naively believe I could S&V all the time against almost anyone and be successful. When I started regularly playing singles with my brother-in-law (teaching pro and former D1 player a few years older than me), I quickly realized S&V all the time was not a good strategy against him. Typically I'd hit my normal out wide serve to his backhand and his slice return would either come back to me right at my feet, or I'd get passed DTL more often than not. So that was about the time (late 30's ) when I started becoming more selective about my serve and volley, instead focusing on looking for short balls to come in on. Needless to say, he didn't give me many short balls either.
 
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andreh

Professional
I have a simple though process before each serve. I don't want to over complicate things and be too elaborate. There is such a thing as thinking too much.

1) How am I going to serve? Which side - Forhand, Backhand or body jammer? What spin? Flat(ish) slice or kick?
2) Am I going to hit the the first volley in front or behind the opponent (I go behind more on clay as it is tougher to change direction)

The rest is just go with what's happening in the point. Instinct, mostly. But, generally, deep 1st volley, if it comes back, short angled 2nd volley. I rarely use drop volleys as a principle even though I know it's used more by pros today. Too low percentage for me and just another variable to worry about.
 
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golden chicken

Professional
Pure S&V strategy is kind of basic. Serve...and volley whatever comes back. As others have hinted at, that works pretty well up to a point, and that point is basically when your serve stops being a weapon against your opponents.

As far as chipping and charging goes, Vic Braden's rule of thumb was to put your approach shot into a 4'x4' square in the opponent's corner by the side line and base line (preferably in your opponent's backhand corner) and then position yourself at least 3' inside the service line and 3' to that side of the center line by the time the ball is struck. I've found that to be a reasonable starting point you can tweak as the opponent dictates.

Again, your approach shot should be a weapon your opponent can't tee off on, or you're going to have a long day.
 
Here's what I think of:

- What weaknesses does my opponent have on the return? Try to target them.
- Don't view the first volley as a putaway attempt unless it's a sitter. Be content to put the ball in a difficult position and let my opponent try to figure it out. Sometimes the ball just won't come back.
- Be ready for the lob.

I win by putting pressure on my opponent to pass me, not necessarily by hitting volley winners.

I lose when my opponent rises to the challenge and can pass me enough so that I have to take more risk on my first volley and I may not be up to the task.
 

andreh

Professional
I win by putting pressure on my opponent to pass me, not necessarily by hitting volley winners.
A very good point. In the amateur ranks just going to the net without having to hit anything can sometimes win you the point. I had a hitting partner many years ago who got so stressed as soon as I went to the net that I could've just run up there without a racket and still win most points.
 

Dou

Semi-Pro
basically just 2 patterns:

- serve wide then volley to open court;
- serve down the middle then volley behind him;

throw in some body jammers as well.

simple stuff, not much to think about.. it's all about the execution...
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
One good example is that I was always taught to drive the ball deep on the volley as you approach the net. It turns out that hitting a low, shallow angle is usually a better option.
I actually love that style of approach shot for singles and doubles. A semi-short ball that skids and stays low is ideal for forcing an opponent to lunge forward and shovel the ball up. Unless that opponent can place a good lob behind me (or my partner), that shovel ball is usually an easy opportunity to pop through the court. I can't hit this sort of approach shot with my serve, but I also don't use S&V for several consecutive points when I'm playing singles. Some opponents might just start hitting lob returns to the baseline if they know I'm charging forward behind every serve I land.

If I mix my S&V attack with staying back, I think I can do a better job of keeping a returner more out of sorts. That's for singles - I try to get to the net immediately when serving in a doubs setting.

The only "template" I use for S&V points in a singles match is the wide serve followed up by a volley to the open court. Pretty straightforward.

But if I S&V without using that specific plan, I like to hit a body serve to hopefully force a weak return. Then I can probably look to isolate that opponent in one corner or the other with my first volley or half-volley that I might hit from around my service line. Then my next shot from closer in might be one of three things: a volley behind my opponent if he/she is recovering back toward the middle, a volley toward the opposite sideline to force a scramble, or a drop volley. The drop volley is nice because it works like that short low approach shot we mentioned above. Even if an opponent can get to it, they're usually forced to hit up and give me a sitter.
 

2ndServe

Hall of Fame
IMO the most important shots for amateur serve and volley is a good spin serve and a good overhead. No one practices the overhead except for like 10 overheads in warmup but if you want to SnV you need a top notch overhead, you are going to see a lot of those lobs.
 

jm1980

G.O.A.T.
I am guessing people can point me to some good videos / threads on this:

I have been practicing my serve and volley, and I am realizing that I don't really know what to be looking for when it comes to actual tactics / strategy / adjustments. I am comfortable with the technique part, but I don't always know what shots to go for and why.

One good example is that I was always taught to drive the ball deep on the volley as you approach the net. It turns out that hitting a low, shallow angle is usually a better option.

I really don't know what to try to set up, what shots my opponents can hit that I need to be aware of, or how to adapt to those shots. I honestly tend to just run up and hit the ball out of the air.

For those of you who are really into doing this, what is your mindset? What are you focusing on / really looking to do? What are some of the potential weak areas that you might try exploiting against a S&V opponent?

Thanks!
If you are going to S&V, specially in singles, your top priority with the first volley is to hit it deep and to the open court. Attempting to hit a short angle for a winner, specially on the first volley, is not a winning recipe
 

Morch Us

Semi-Pro
First, not assuming the guy has to be good at volley, just because he is doing serve and volley. :) Make him hit some damn volleys instead of making errors, even if it is easy volleys... haha.

But once that basic thing is out of the table, first thing always looking for is, how he handles the "transition phase". Essentially how he digs out the balls driven to his feet and maintains balance, without giving me better openings to pass at next shot.

Next is how he handles the balls directly at his body (assuming we already know by this time that he is good at volleys when he can extend the racquet).

Then how he handles lobs.

If you pass all these 4 tests, then I give up, and try to get to net before you do... haha (because I am convinced I cannot beat you from baseline).

What are some of the potential weak areas that you might try exploiting against a S&V opponent?
 

tonylg

Professional
Mix it up early. Determine what works. Make sure you are forcing your opponent to pass you rather than making errors.
 
When I play S&V:

1. Usually against players that just return the ball back, that just put it in play. It's a feast for the volleys, always try to keep it without patterns, so the other player can't become comfortable, if I ever have a pattern against this type of players, I would hit it parallel when the player is trying to run to the other side, players without 'weight' in their balls usually run back extremely fast to the middle, making this hit more effective.

2. If the player actually returns the ball fast, I hit the serve down the middle, because if I hit it out wide there's so much room to get 'passed' down the line because you have to cover the court in a diagonal line.

3. I think the most important, I don't use the strategy against all types of players, but against players that just rally and rally from the baseline, just as a way to make it different and make it uncomfortable for them, if a player returns fast and makes a lot of mistakes in the return, I see no point in risking going to the net.

This is the way I see it, if someone can point out even better strategies, it would be awesome.
 
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