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Hardscrabble Scramble
March 1997 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Mike Whittington

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 the match.

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.

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Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


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