Creating More Effective Shots: The Angle Volley
When discussing higher levels of skilled play among tennis players, I use a very simple phrase to condense the complexities of progressive improvement:
"Hit more effective shots more consistently."
So, what constitutes more "effective" shots?
Effective shots can include shots hit with more pace, spin, depth, touch, disguise, or simply ‘hitting the ball where your opponents aren't!"
When players first learn the game and begin to control the ball, most play within a one or two-dimensional stratagem. That is, they usually hit the ball back deep, or, as they get a little better, start placing it in the corners.
And for many, that describes their playing strategy for the rest of their life!
Many 3.0 or 3.5 doubles teams, when faced with opponents who are camped out on the baseline, end up usually volleying deep…right to their opponents who either hit a lob or hit a tougher groundstroke. While this limiting volley strategy can be associated with poor volley technique, their inability to simply angle the ball off short for an easy winner is usually due to unfamiliarity with this option.
The angle volley is not only an excellent weapon that is mechanically simple to hit, it is also an excellent way to learn to volley more skillfully. Instead of reaching for the ball with your hand and arm (instead of moving your feet to the ball), the angle volley can teach you to wait with your hands enabling you to do more with the ball than simply hitting it straight ahead!
The key to an effective angle volley is the grip. Using anything other than the continental grip will severely limit both the effectiveness of the angle volley as well as the ability to hit more difficult volleys from better opponents. (Especially low volleys or quick exchanges at the net.)
James Blake executes the angle volley.
When at the net, holding the continental grip sets the racquet plane parallel with the forearm. A subtle turn away from a target will set the racquet face at the necessary angle. There is no need to take the racquet back with the arm or turn the wrist or swing at the ball.
Most players who use eastern grips must swing the racquet to gain the proper angle. This swinging action usually causes a loss in finesse and decreases the amount of angle needed for the shot to be effective. In fact, most players who use an eastern forehand or backhand grip tend to have great difficulty hitting any significant angle. (Which is why they tend to go deep with the volley!)
The other ingredient to developing the angle volley is to practice it! We don't get a lot of opportunities in matches to try the angle volley, (compared to more commonplace shots such as groundstrokes, deeper volleys, lobs and overheads.) However, when a player learns to create angles, they often feel as if a whole new world has opened up to them! As well they should! The angle volley can make the difference in a player's ability to move up in the rating because it actually helps the player understand many other aspects of the net game.
And there are few shots more satisfying than hitting a nice, angle volley winner…and watch the opponents jaw drop open!
As always, we would love to hear your views on the subjects raised in this newsletter. Please click here to send your email directly to me.
Dave Smith, TennisOne Associate Editor
(Click link to purchase Dave Smith's book, Tennis Mastery, at tenniswarehouse.com.
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