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The Tennis Business Discussion Forum Archive

[tennisbiz] Re: Serve & Volley Drills

From: Jim Leupold <>
Date: Mon 22 Jul 2002 12:31:48 EDT

Dear Tnut,

Although it's sometimes controversial and thought blasphemous (as the open
stance was 20 years ago), I think the split-step is stressed way too much as
part of the serve and volley.

The old thought is "You have to split-step." The one I've been using for the
past 10 years or so and has been accepted whole-heartedly by players of all
levels is: "Split-step if you have to."

A split-step is really for big changes in direction. John McEnroe once told
a colleague of mine that he virtually never used the split-step in doubles.
Why was that? Because in doubles a step and a half in either direction and
you've got your whole side covered and you can keep going to the net.

The goal of serving and volleying is to get yourself to the Ideal Volley
Position (halfway between the service line and the net) as quickly as
possible to give yourself the best chance of finishing the point quickly.

Far too many players have been taught that they have to take a split-step
every time, often being told that they first take two or three steps and then
always split step. The reason this doesn't make any sense is that every
serve and every return is different.

If your juniors hit a slower spin serve and the return is floating slowly up
the middle of the court, what good is a split-step going to do them? None,
in my opinion. Thousands of our students have appreciated the idea of
"Throw, run and catch" as their new idea of serve and volley.

If it's a fast serve and a fast return, do you think they'll take a split
step or even come to a dead stop if need be? Of course.

Serve and volley is like being a good improvisational jazz player. Each time
is going to be a little bit different and will require the player to hit
his/her first volleys in vastly different places on the court. Once a player
begins to think about getting as far in as possible instead of serving and
having to think of stopping (because few people split-step....they
split-stop), they find the serve and volley much smoother and comfortable and

Claudia Kohde-Kilsch's younger sister was training at my resort about 10
years ago and her coach asked me to help her with serve and volley. I took
her down to the grass courts, had her serve and immediately drop her racquet
and race forward to catch my return with both hands...regardless of where the
return went. She became a comfortable serve and volleyer that day and for
the first time understood she could move forward with the same ease she was
always used to moving back and forth along the baseline.

Another good drill requires you to go to your nearby hardware store or
fishing store. Buy a small net and attach that net to your racquet, so you
now have a "catching racquet." Have them start with the catching racquet in
their non-dominant hand. They will throw a ball as though they were serving,
run forward immediately (too many players perform a Serve, Look, Run and
Catch and need to omit the "Look".), switch the catching racquet to their
dominant hand and catch the fed return. Ten or twelve times of doing this
will give them a good feel for a) being loose on the serve, b) having to run
and get as quickly to the ball as possible, and c) automatically have good
technique on the volley with the feeling of "catch."

For anticipation, they need to know that watching the ball once it leaves
their racquet gives them NO clues. As soon as they've hit the ball and are
running in, they need to focus on their opponent and their opponent's
racquet. Their opponent's position and degree of balance will tell a lot and
the tilt, amount of swing and direction of face of their racquet will tell
volumes as well. Any player can pick this up in a few hours once they learn
to focus there.

I could go on. Sorry, everyone, for the length. Thank you, Tnut, for
wanting to teach young ladies to serve and volley. The game has become so
one-dimensional with players just blasting from the baseline. Even if none
of them never become true serve-and-volleyers, it's still important for them
to be able to do it because especially on the women's side of the game, it
will win them many important point.


Jim Leupold
Director of Tennis
Marriott's Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Received on Mon Jul 22 2002 - 19:35:13 CDT

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