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Tennis Warrior
June 2005 Article

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Train your thinking for aggressive net play

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Tom Veneziano

Here is an excellent drill for singles or doubles to help you think aggressively at the net. I often use this drill in my doubles clinic. When you advance to the net, either from serve and volley or return serve and take the net, you or your partner are not allowed to let the ball bounce. If you let it bounce you lose the point! There are only three exceptions in which it is okay to let the ball bounce:

  1. The ball hits the net and drops over;
  2. The ball is lobbed over your head;
  3. Your opponent has an overhead and is about to smash it at you.

Other than these three situations, you cannot let the ball bounce once you and your partner advance to the net. The best way to practice this drill is under controlled conditions with 5 players. One team stays in a one-up, one-back formation while the other team takes the net (either by serve-and-volley or return serve). Play the first to reach 12 points wins, with the serving team switching servers when one team reaches 6 points. After that game is over, let the other team become the aggressive net team for a 12-point game. The fifth player watches to call any ball that bounces on the net team's side. You need a fifth person because I know from experience that most players do not know when they have hit a ball on a bounce up at the net. The observer on the sideline can help make the call. You can alternate the fifth person in after every 12 point game, letting one of the other players make the calls from the sideline.

How will this help your game?

  1. You will begin thinking in terms of going to the ball, instead of waiting for the ball to come to you. Good athletes learn to play the ball, instead of letting the ball play them.
  2. Since you will be hitting the ball sooner it will travel back to your opponents sooner, giving them less reaction time. If you rush them they will not lob as well.
  3. You will begin to move closer to the net (about halfway between the net and service line). If you do not move closer and you stay too far away from the net like most players do, you will be vulnerable to the ball bouncing in front of you and losing the point.
  4. When you are closer to the net you can hit more dynamic angles.
  5. You and your partner will be up at the net side by side, instead of one up close and the other back on the service line. Side by side you both will gain confidence from each other. You're a team!

Try this drill many times in your practices and you will be surprised how fast your thinking changes and your volleys improve. You must replace the old habit of letting the ball come to you with the new habit of your moving to the ball.

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This column is copyrighted by Tom Veneziano, all rights reserved.

Tom is a tennis pro teaching at the Piney Point Racquet Club in Houston, Texas. Tom has taught thousands of players to think like a pro with his Tennis Warrior System.


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