Good doubles players realize the value of gaining control of the
net. Volleys are mechanically easier shots, you have better angle
opportunities, and hopefully you're putting pressure on your opponent.
How do you know that you're at a level with your game capable of
successfully serving and volleying? After all, you can serve and you
can volley right?
In my opinion, how well you serve should be the most important
factor. Many players, especially at lower level, improve their volley
without making the same improvement with their serve. So they get one
part of the equation correct, but the volley is going to be more
effective with a weak return from the receiver. And how do you get
that? You work on your serve so that you have a more consistent
first serve that you can place to your opponent's weakness throughout
On most shots, I recommend that my students learn, in order:
consistency (the ability to swing the same way each time); placement;
depth; spin; and pace. To be successful coming to the net, I think
consistency, placement, and depth should already be taken care of and
hopefully you will add spin and pace if you haven't already done so.
The idea is to force the receiver to hit a floating defensive return
and this will usually happen with a stronger serve. In most cases,
at least a moderate amount of power relative to your skill level is
needed to serve and volley. This also applies to second serves.
From my teaching, I see most students wanting to serve and volley
as they get to the 3.5 level. Of course you will see an amazing 3.0
serve and volleyer and a 4.0 that wouldn't dream of going to the net.
As your game improves and you are able to add aggressiveness while
cutting down on unforced errors, you will probably try to add the
serve and volley tactic.
The next time you see or play against a strong serve and volley
player take note. I'll bet they have one thing in common - a serve
that keeps you on the defensive.