Volley - Always sliced or natural motion?

mj49

New User
Beginner-intermediate here wanting to improve volleys. I've searched the YouTube world and even though there are tons of volley instructional videos, none of the really go into the technique of the forward swing motion. When watching ATP/WTA players, it looks like they always have a bit of a slicing motion to the volley i.e. racket facing slightly opening as it goes through the ball. Now, I can' tell if this motion is deliberate, or it's just a matter of a loose racket absorbing energy and tilting to be slightly open. I've tried both while messing around in practice, and manage to have some success using b
 

socallefty

Legend
The type of volley you can hit depends on the pace, height, and positioning of the ball coming at you. For a list of different volleys you can try out on the tennis court, check out the list below. The basic volley shot is the punch volley and it should have some underspin slice to control it while hitting it with some pace.

  1. Punch volley. The punch volley is the standard volley for netplay. For a punch volley, the player at the net punches their racket forward and slightly down, adding underspin to the ball. Punch volleys require no backswing and are best for medium-paced balls that have enough height over the net.
  2. Drop volley. A drop volley is a low volley that requires a light touch. The volleyer must try to softly place the ball on the other side of the net, as close to it as possible, to increase the distance your opponent must cover to reach it. When executed successfully, the ball bounces twice before your opponent can return it. A drop volley is like a drop shot, but performed at the net.
  3. Block volley. A block volley requires even less movement than a punch volley. For a block volley, the player simply holds their racket up to block the ball—no punch or swing necessary.
  4. Lob volley. Sometimes two players approach the net simultaneously, and it becomes difficult to execute a passing shot. Rather than get into an intense rally of volleys, you can perform a lob volley, which involves opening up the racket face and giving the ball a high arc over your opponent’s head (far enough to pass them, but not too far that it lands past the baseline).
  5. Swinging volley. A swinging volley breaks the rules of the standard volley technique. A swinging volley is when the player uses a full groundstroke swing to smack the incoming ball out of the air. Players typically perform a swinging volley when caught in no man’s land (the space between the service line and baseline). The swinging volley is for more advanced players, as it requires a perfect balance of pace, power, and swing to keep it from sailing over the opponent’s baseline.
  6. Half volley. A half volley is when a player hits the ball off the ground right as it bounces on the ground. The half volley is also known as an “on the rise shot” because the ball is rising as the player hits it. For the half volley, timing is even more difficult than a regular volley because you’re hitting the ball after the bounce, not before. While the half volley isn’t a true volley, it still requires a similar compact movement and quick footwork.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
Just get a firm punch on the ball, the natural biomechanics of the shot will impart a bit of slice

The volley is a thing you really don’t want to overcomplicate
 

Slicerman

Professional
Volleys aren't my strong suit, but here are some ideas that I consider when volleying:

-generally, the lower the incoming ball, the more open the racquet face needs to be
-high volleys tend to not need slice, you basically hit down on them and flat
-if timing is difficult (eg. fast balls) then 'block volley' should be your go to shot
-a simple block volley can offer a good amount of control simply by adjusting the racquet angle and grip tension
-you can add slice to some volleys to absorb the ball's energy while also winning the collision of the ball, which will allow you to actively direct the ball in a controlled manner
-when adding slice to a volley, do not take a big backswing, keep it compact or else you risk mishitting the ball
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Beginner-intermediate here wanting to improve volleys. I've searched the YouTube world and even though there are tons of volley instructional videos, none of the really go into the technique of the forward swing motion. When watching ATP/WTA players, it looks like they always have a bit of a slicing motion to the volley i.e. racket facing slightly opening as it goes through the ball. Now, I can' tell if this motion is deliberate, or it's just a matter of a loose racket absorbing energy and tilting to be slightly open. I've tried both while messing around in practice, and manage to have some success using b
Standard volleys (not talkin swinging volleys here) will have mild to moderate backspin and will be hit with a slightly open racket face. Racket is laid back slightly= racket head is a bit behind the hand. Relatively short movement forward with a slight (to moderate) downward action to produce backspin.

Standard grip is continental for both sides. This is ideal for medium and low volleys. (Some players prefer the Aussie [semi -continental] grip for medium to high volleys). Basic instructions for novice volleyers:


Note: altho a vast majority of volleys (perhaps 2/3 or more) will be hit with the 45° angle suggested here, very low volleys (below knee level?) will be hit with a lower racket head. Very high high volleys might be hit closer to a 60° racket orientation
 

HuusHould

Hall of Fame
95% of anything below net height will require backspin. Rafter/Sampras and some doubles specialists, past and present added a topspin volley (not of the drive variety, but a modification of a traditional, generally low, volley) that allowed them to get the ball up over the net and back down and then run away from their opponent after the bounce (into the open court usually). This was particularly useful when they needed to hit a volley with a bit of stick, but weren't in position to get their weight into the shot. It's done by leading with the tip of the racquet and hitting the ball fairly cleanly (minimal spin) and has a similar effect to hooking the ball in golf (only you have more options as far as the plane in which you do this as far as the orientation of your racquet goes in tennis). Usually, but not always, this is done from the fh wing.

Backspin can assist the volley in shooting through (skidding) after the bounce as well, esp on grass/syn grass (fast surfaces).
High volleys often don't need any spin at all as you can hit them down toward the court, so you don't need to take any pace off the shot via spin to enable it to land in. You can also hit topspin high volleys (e.g. to assist with obtaining a sharper angle on your shot, or to bring the ball down if you're not in a position to do this with the angle of you're racquet - e.g. the balls floated over your head)

The spin put on your volley should be a function of both the incoming ball and where in it's flight path you make contact with it, and what you're trying to do with your shot.
Is disguise a priority? (At times sidespin shots can assist with this as you can swing/transfer your weight in one direction and deflect the ball in another or give the impression your going to do this in order to deceive).
Taking the ball as early as possible might be key on another ball, (E.g. your opponent has floated the ball back from out of court), In which case you may make no attempt to disguise the direction of your volley, just take it as far up in the court as possible and place it to a part of the court they don't have time to cover. In which case for a high volley, you'd hit as flat as possible if it ends up being a low volley, you'd hit with slight backspin.

You need to have sound bread and butter on the volley, but there's also room for creativity, improvisation and innovation.
(So a given situation might require a response with spin on an infinite number of planes/axes of rotation) My rule of thumb is if I can win with the point stock standard volley technique I'll always do that, if not I'll try to invent something. So if the balls coming slowly I'll try to accelerate as quickly as possible toward the net with little Federer like steps, in order to use the exact same technique I do on the faster balls. It's the pace differential that's important, between the volleyer and the incoming ball.
 
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Nellie

Hall of Fame
I would suggest that you start by holding the racquet so that the head is higher than and laid back behind your wrist. The racquet face is almost vertical for high balls, and open for low balls. Use forward volley motion (I think if it as a stabbing motion). The biggest problem I see in novice players is trying to chop down on the volley with a high-low swing to try to carve under the volley. The racquet face is open in the volley because the ball is dropping when on your side of the net (or the ball will travel out), and you need to angle the racquet face up to at least partially match the downward path of the ball and to get the ball over the net. Also, the slice naturally comes from the downward travelling ball hitting the open strings even if the volley motion is mostly forward.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
Hire a coach to do volleys for an hour straight. You will be able to explore and experiment and start finding the right feel.
Volley rally is one of the most artful aspects of tennis
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
Beginner-intermediate here wanting to improve volleys. I've searched the YouTube world and even though there are tons of volley instructional videos, none of the really go into the technique of the forward swing motion. When watching ATP/WTA players, it looks like they always have a bit of a slicing motion to the volley i.e. racket facing slightly opening as it goes through the ball. Now, I can' tell if this motion is deliberate, or it's just a matter of a loose racket absorbing energy and tilting to be slightly open. I've tried both while messing around in practice, and manage to have some success using b
Agree with post #12 above in terms of learning the nuts 'n bolts of decent volley technique through some instruction on the court. Even looking at some decent video lessons can be tough to translate into proper actions when hitting your shots - decent volley technique can be rather counterintuitive.

You're not wrong in terms of what you're seeing with ATP & WTA players - volleys are generally backspin shots hit while using a continental grip and the contact point can often be in a similar spot as with a slice. And in general, both a slice and a volley work well when the wrist stays firm so that the racquet and forearm move as a single unit. There are a couple of substantial differences between these shots though.

Even though the racquet doesn't release where the head passes the gripping hand as with a topspin stroke, the arm swings to hit a slice (one exception where the racquet head does release is with the forehand "squash shot"). Instead of thinking high-to-low, I prefer the image of setting above the ball and swinging through it to finish up near a similar elevation as where it started, especially with the backhand slice. Shape the swing path sort of like a smile.

Hitting good volleys usually requires minimal arm "swing" - it's movement is much more compact. If you go out to work on your volleys, I definitely recommend not hitting ground strokes first. That way you might be less inclined to be overactive with your arm.

Footwork: Hitting a good slice usually includes planting the front foot, transferring your weight forward, and then swinging through contact. Volleys get a lot of their drive from moving our weight forward as we hit the ball, not before making contact. In other words, the weight shift occurs during the swing when hitting a volley.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Footwork: Hitting a good slice usually includes planting the front foot, transferring your weight forward, and then swinging through contact. Volleys get a lot of their drive from moving our weight forward as we hit the ball, not before making contact. In other words, the weight shift occurs during the swing when hitting a volley.
Perhaps for 2/3 of volleys (volleys in the Goldilocks zone), the weight shift & step with the front foot will, pretty much, coincide with contact. But this is not the case for very low volleys or very high volleys. On a very low "crouching" volley, the weight shift and step happened a prior to the forward swing to contact. On a very high volleys, the weight shift & step happens after contact

 

socallefty

Legend
I try to turn sideways and make contact on most volleys well in front of me - I try to bend enough so that my head is somewhat close to the contact point. I also agree with one of the posters above who pointed out the the elbow should be below the ball on most volleys where contact is at a height above the net as it allows you to get more pace on your volley. If I don’t contact the ball in front, it is tough to put enough slice spin/pace on the ball and mostly I have to block-volley or put minimal slice spin if contact is late.

The footwork and timing of steps depends on the ball height at contact along with how much time I have to split step and set up for the shot - whether I’m already at the net, moving forward/laterally or reflexing the ball. I’ve also found that a key for me during the ready stance at the net is to have my racquet pointing upwards vertically rather than holding it more horizontally in front of me. When it is vertical, it automatically moves to my takeback side with a lower elbow when I turn my back hip to turn sideways.
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
As for turning sideways for the volley, I do not believe that it is ever a full 90 degree turn of the torso as it would be for a ground stroke or an overhead smash. It is more of a partial turn of the upper torso of 30° to 60°. Probably, most often, in the range of 45° to 60° for Fh volleys (and up to 75° or so for Bh volleys).
 
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Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
As for turning sideways for the volley, I do not believe that it is ever a full 90 degree turn of the torso as it would be for a ground stroke or an overhead smash. It is more of a partial turn of the upper torso of 30° to 60°. Probably, most often, in the range of 45° to 60°.
Probably 45 degrees for FH volleys and 60 degrees for BH volleys.

  1. Punch volley. The punch volley is the standard volley for netplay. For a punch volley, the player at the net punches their racket forward and slightly down, adding underspin to the ball. Punch volleys require no backswing and are best for medium-paced balls that have enough height over the net.
  2. Drop volley. A drop volley is a low volley that requires a light touch. The volleyer must try to softly place the ball on the other side of the net, as close to it as possible, to increase the distance your opponent must cover to reach it. When executed successfully, the ball bounces twice before your opponent can return it. A drop volley is like a drop shot, but performed at the net.
  3. Block volley. A block volley requires even less movement than a punch volley. For a block volley, the player simply holds their racket up to block the ball—no punch or swing necessary.
  4. Lob volley. Sometimes two players approach the net simultaneously, and it becomes difficult to execute a passing shot. Rather than get into an intense rally of volleys, you can perform a lob volley, which involves opening up the racket face and giving the ball a high arc over your opponent’s head (far enough to pass them, but not too far that it lands past the baseline).
  5. Swinging volley. A swinging volley breaks the rules of the standard volley technique. A swinging volley is when the player uses a full groundstroke swing to smack the incoming ball out of the air. Players typically perform a swinging volley when caught in no man’s land (the space between the service line and baseline). The swinging volley is for more advanced players, as it requires a perfect balance of pace, power, and swing to keep it from sailing over the opponent’s baseline.
  6. Half volley. A half volley is when a player hits the ball off the ground right as it bounces on the ground. The half volley is also known as an “on the rise shot” because the ball is rising as the player hits it. For the half volley, timing is even more difficult than a regular volley because you’re hitting the ball after the bounce, not before. While the half volley isn’t a true volley, it still requires a similar compact movement and quick footwork.
you missed:

1) Stretch volleys. This is the volley when you realize the opponent has anticipated your poach and is hitting a passing shot DTL. Given you are a rec player that didn't signal to your server you were going to poach, it's on you to rapidly turn and reach as far as you can to get a racket on the ball. There is no swing. There is no spin. There is only hope.

Note this volley can also be frequently seen performed by the net players that play the position like trees rooted to the ground. Especially on balls hit down the middle to their BH side. Instead of letting such balls go to the server's waiting forehand, they stretch out for a low BH volley that clanks off the frame to dribble harmlessly to the net.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Probably 45 degrees for FH volleys and 60 degrees for BH volleys.
On average (or for standard volleys) this is, more or less true. In looking at Federer, the Bryan brothers, Leander Paes and others we see a fair amount of a variety. On some Bh volleys, the torso might even turn 75° or so. Do not use a see those on Fh volleys tho.

But do you see quite a range on the Fh side. From a 30° to 60° as I had mentioned previously. On some reflex volleys or on a Fh volley where the Bryans & others step almost straight in, the turn might only be 30°.

But on a large percentage of short stroke and medium stroke Fh volleys, the turn is often about 45°. However, on long stroke (drive volleys), it is not uncommon to see players start at 60° and then uncoil, as they stroke, and finish around 45°.
 
The type of volley you can hit depends on the pace, height, and positioning of the ball coming at you. For a list of different volleys you can try out on the tennis court, check out the list below. The basic volley shot is the punch volley and it should have some underspin slice to control it while hitting it with some pace.

  1. Punch volley. The punch volley is the standard volley for netplay. For a punch volley, the player at the net punches their racket forward and slightly down, adding underspin to the ball. Punch volleys require no backswing and are best for medium-paced balls that have enough height over the net.
  2. Drop volley. A drop volley is a low volley that requires a light touch. The volleyer must try to softly place the ball on the other side of the net, as close to it as possible, to increase the distance your opponent must cover to reach it. When executed successfully, the ball bounces twice before your opponent can return it. A drop volley is like a drop shot, but performed at the net.
  3. Block volley. A block volley requires even less movement than a punch volley. For a block volley, the player simply holds their racket up to block the ball—no punch or swing necessary.
  4. Lob volley. Sometimes two players approach the net simultaneously, and it becomes difficult to execute a passing shot. Rather than get into an intense rally of volleys, you can perform a lob volley, which involves opening up the racket face and giving the ball a high arc over your opponent’s head (far enough to pass them, but not too far that it lands past the baseline).
  5. Swinging volley. A swinging volley breaks the rules of the standard volley technique. A swinging volley is when the player uses a full groundstroke swing to smack the incoming ball out of the air. Players typically perform a swinging volley when caught in no man’s land (the space between the service line and baseline). The swinging volley is for more advanced players, as it requires a perfect balance of pace, power, and swing to keep it from sailing over the opponent’s baseline.
  6. Half volley. A half volley is when a player hits the ball off the ground right as it bounces on the ground. The half volley is also known as an “on the rise shot” because the ball is rising as the player hits it. For the half volley, timing is even more difficult than a regular volley because you’re hitting the ball after the bounce, not before. While the half volley isn’t a true volley, it still requires a similar compact movement and quick footwork.
Which category does this one fall into? I've been looking for a volley shot for relatively fast low incoming ball just passing the net. I think this video may be what I'm looking for but haven't test it yet.
 
Probably 45 degrees for FH volleys and 60 degrees for BH volleys.



you missed:

1) Stretch volleys. This is the volley when you realize the opponent has anticipated your poach and is hitting a passing shot DTL. Given you are a rec player that didn't signal to your server you were going to poach, it's on you to rapidly turn and reach as far as you can to get a racket on the ball. There is no swing. There is no spin. There is only hope.

Note this volley can also be frequently seen performed by the net players that play the position like trees rooted to the ground. Especially on balls hit down the middle to their BH side. Instead of letting such balls go to the server's waiting forehand, they stretch out for a low BH volley that clanks off the frame to dribble harmlessly to the net.
at my (low) level matches, I successfully baited opponents to hit DTL by pretending a poach but move back quickly to hit a stretch volley. It already worked multiple times and was a lot of fun.
 

socallefty

Legend
Which category does this one fall into? I've been looking for a volley shot for relatively fast low incoming ball just passing the net. I think this video may be what I'm looking for but haven't test it yet.
Swinging volley.
 
95% of anything below net height will require backspin. Rafter/Sampras and some doubles specialists, past and present added a topspin volley (not of the drive variety, but a modification of a traditional, generally low, volley) that allowed them to get the ball up over the net and back down and then run away from their opponent after the bounce (into the open court usually). This was particularly useful when they needed to hit a volley with a bit of stick, but weren't in position to get their weight into the shot. It's done by leading with the tip of the racquet and hitting the ball fairly cleanly (minimal spin) and has a similar effect to hooking the ball in golf (only you have more options as far as the plane in which you do this as far as the orientation of your racquet goes in tennis). Usually, but not always, this is done from the fh wing.
Is there a video example for this shot? some pickle ball videos seem to fit your description. I'm really curious! Something like this?
 
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Watch the master

WOW this is so cool!!
question: for those low contacts closer to the ground, he swings up occasionally and chops down in most cases. I can't tell what conditions made him choose those different shot selections.
 
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J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Perhaps for 2/3 of volleys (volleys in the Goldilocks zone), the weight shift & step with the front foot will, pretty much, coincide with contact. But this is not the case for very low volleys or very high volleys. On a very low "crouching" volley, the weight shift and step happened a prior to the forward swing to contact. On a very high volleys, the weight shift & step happens after contact

Great post!

I know I have disagreed with you a bit the past few weeks but credit where it's due.

This is something very few people teach.

J
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
As for turning sideways for the volley, I do not believe that it is ever a full 90 degree turn of the torso as it would be for a ground stroke or an overhead smash. It is more of a partial turn of the upper torso of 30° to 60°. Probably, most often, in the range of 45° to 60°.
Mid court backhand volley DTL I turn 90° inside out backhand volley (especially doubles poach) I turn more than 90°.

Basically the line of my shoulders is the line of the shot, on the FH side it's half so I would turn 45° to hit a forehand volley DTL.

J
 

HuusHould

Hall of Fame
Is there a video example for this shot? some pickle ball videos seem to fit your description. I'm really curious! Something like this?
I haven't found a great example yet, but it's something like this volley (vid below) except leading more with the end of the racquet to create a higher sidespin component to the topspin. I've seen doubles specialists like John Peers use it. It's only subtly different to a normal low backspun volley, in that it only has mild topspin on it. It's just the topspin cousin of an angled low fh drop volley where you draw the shot by coming around the outside of it. I'll try to dig up a better example.

 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I haven't found a great example yet, but it's something like this volley (vid below) except leading more with the end of the racquet to create a higher sidespin component to the topspin. I've seen doubles specialists like John Peers use it. It's only subtly different to a normal low backspun volley, in that it only has mild topspin on it. It's just the topspin cousin of an angled low fh drop volley where you draw the shot by coming around the outside of it. I'll try to dig up a better example.

Looks like the cousin of the half volley.
 
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