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How to Volley in Tennis: 6 Types of Volleys

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 4 min read

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To be an efficient and effective tennis player, you must learn a specific set of shots, and the best time is to use them. During a match, every player must make split-second decisions on which tennis shot will be the most beneficial for winning the point—a decision that often comes down to positioning and timing.

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What Is a Volley?

A volley is a shot in tennis where a player returns the ball before it bounces. Players typically perform volleys at the service line or closer to the net. Volleys are usually aggressive because their primary function is to run your opponent ragged or interrupt the timing of the rally, giving you a chance to catch them off guard or instantly win the point. Players typically use their dominant hand and arm for forehand volleys, while a backhand volley requires the use of the non-dominant hand (making it a more difficult shot). Most players use a Continental grip for volleys, though some advanced players may use an Eastern forehand grip.

6 Types of Volleys

The type of volley you can hit depends on the pace, height, and positioning of the ball coming at you. For a list of different volleys you can try out on the tennis court, check out the following list:

  1. Punch volley. The punch volley is the standard volley for netplay. For a punch volley, the player at the net punches their racket forward and slightly down, adding underspin to the ball. Punch volleys require no backswing and are best for medium-paced balls that have enough height over the net.
  2. Drop volley. A drop volley is a low volley that requires a light touch. The volleyer must try to softly place the ball on the other side of the net, as close to it as possible, to increase the distance your opponent must cover to reach it. When executed successfully, the ball bounces twice before your opponent can return it. A drop volley is like a drop shot, but performed at the net.
  3. Block volley. A block volley requires even less movement than a punch volley. For a block volley, the player simply holds their racket up to block the ball—no punch or swing necessary.
  4. Lob volley. Sometimes two players approach the net simultaneously, and it becomes difficult to execute a passing shot. Rather than get into an intense rally of volleys, you can perform a lob volley, which involves opening up the racket face and giving the ball a high arc over your opponent’s head (far enough to pass them, but not too far that it lands past the baseline).
  5. Swinging volley. A swinging volley breaks the rules of the standard volley technique. A swinging volley is when the player uses a full groundstroke swing to smack the incoming ball out of the air. Players typically perform a swinging volley when caught in no man’s land (the space between the service line and baseline). The swinging volley is for more advanced players, as it requires a perfect balance of pace, power, and swing to keep it from sailing over the opponent’s baseline.
  6. Half volley. A half volley is when a player hits the ball off the ground right as it bounces on the ground. The half volley is also known as an “on the rise shot” because the ball is rising as the player hits it. For the half volley, timing is even more difficult than a regular volley because you’re hitting the ball after the bounce, not before. While the half volley isn’t a true volley, it still requires a similar compact movement and quick footwork.
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How to Volley in 3 Steps

When performing a volley, the player must keep their racket up and block the ball in front of their body as quickly as possible, which means there is no time for wind-up or backswing. However, coming up to the net leaves the net player vulnerable to passing shots or deep lobs, the latter of which can ruin their advantage by sending them scrambling back to the baseline to regain control of the point again. Volleys require impeccable timing because you are positioned much closer to the net. Check out this step-by-step guide to performing a good volley:

  1. Get the right grip. Volleying works best with a Continental grip, as it is most efficient for hitting both forehand and backhand volleys without changing your hand-positioning. When you’re at the net, every second counts, and having to reposition your hand can determine whether you hit a winner, or sink the tennis ball right into the net.
  2. Get the right stance. When you approach the net, you need enough time to split step. A split step is a simple jump in the air, landing on a balanced point with your legs out. A split-step helps you to regain your balance if you’re doing a lot of movement, and in addition to securing your stance, sets up your positioning to hit a volley.
  3. Get the right motion. A standard volley needs a slightly open racquet face and a downward cut in the volley motion, resulting in backspin that makes the volley bounce low in your opponent’s court. Move your hand in the direction that you want the ball to go and to keep your head down and eye on the ball.

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