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Volleying in the Zone!

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John Mills, USPTA

When coming to the net to volley try to anticipate at which zone you are going to make contact with the ball. I divide the zones in the following categories:

  1. Low - balls hit between the ground and your knees.

  2. Middle - balls hit between your knees and shoulders.

  3. High - balls hit above your shoulder, but not quite overheads.

  4. Overheads - balls hit above your head that give you time to drop the racket down your back.

  5. Center Zone - all balls hit at you.

  • Low Zone - The tip I give my students for low balls, which can either be a low volley or a half-volley, is to SHOVEL the racket.. On these volleys, dropping the racket head is necessary and in the long run will save wear and tear on your knees and lower back.

  • Middle Zone - In the middle zone you will hit a majority of volleys with the common "V" - type volley. This "V" - shape mimics the standard ready position (racket head up and butt of the racket facing down). This is also known as the "Classic Volley." In this zone, you would keep your upper arms close to your ribs. Imagine you are holding a "soft" ball under your upper arm.

  • High Zone - Balls hit in this zone are similar to those in the middle zone except you need more height. Remembering the "soft" ball under your upper arm in the middle zone, imagine now you have beach balls under both upper arms. This concept will give you more depth and power on your high volleys.

  • Overheads - Balls with enough hang-time (2-3 seconds) gives you ample time to hit an overhead. This overhead will differ from the high volley in that you will drop your racket down your back before reaching up to snap your wrist.

  • Center Zone - Balls hit at your body should be hit on the backhand side of the racket. Whether the ball comes at your face, chest, stomach, knees or ankles the backhand is the best choice. Taking these shots with your backhand saves time and extra footwork and allows you to recover almost immediately for the next shot.

Once you anticipate which zone you are going to be in, try to remember to be flexible. A low volley might become a half volley, for example. An overhead, because of the wind, might become a high volley. By becoming familiar with these five zones, you will find you are no longer afraid to come to the net. Volleys are fun to hit and even more fun to watch. Have fun at the net.

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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