Recently I had a lesson with a player that had just
lost a match due to a faulty volley -- or so she said. She
scheduled the lesson and was determined to turn her game
around with a few quick tips on improving her volley. After
a brief warm-up she came to the net and we started to
exchange volleys. Her racquet was out in front, she kept a
firm wrist, she had a short compact block that seemed to hit
the sweet spot making a crisp volley just about every time.
Everything she did at the net seemed to me to be a great
shot that she should be able to rely on in match play.
She had told me that a weak volley had just cost
her a big match and that she didn't know why she couldn't
carry these practice volleys into her match. I moved her
back to the baseline and brought her in with a short ball
that she could hit with an aggressive approach. VOILA!
The problem was immediately clear to me but I'm sure she
didn't pick up on it in match play. Her approach shot was
extremely weak and with very little control. In fact, she
really just kind of got the ball in play and felt good about
it even though the ball landed in the middle of the court
with no pace or directional intent.
What I believe happened to this player is that in
match play she hit a weak approach which set up her opponent
for an easy and probably powerful drive. This put her in a
much weaker position to hit an aggressive volley, as she was
doing in our lesson. But because she was missing the
volley, she automatically assumed that was the problem. I
think it is important to look at the shot before the shot
that ends the point. For instance, if you hit a nice
approach shot, isn't the purpose of the shot to set yourself
up for an easy volley? The key is to set yourself up and
put yourself in a position to make each shot easier. My
student didn't set herself up for an easy shot but instead
set her opponent up for an easy drive.
Do you really know how and why you are losing
points? Next time look at the shot before the shot that
ends the point. I think you'll learn a lot about how and
why you are winning or losing points, and you will also
develop a better understanding of what parts of your game
truly need work.