Volleys: Cut With Four-Up
You're bold enough to follow your return to net. But wait a second! Also coming in is the server, cheeky girl, and in a split second you're looking at a four-up fire fight. It doesn't get more aggressive than this, but if you think you're going to win these exchanges solely with power, think again. If the server were daunted by the power of your return, she wouldn't have shown up at midcourt and exposed herself. Same deal with the pace of your volleys. She wouldn't risk a four-up exchange if she didn't believe in her quick hands. What's going to hurt the opposing team? Downward control. Get your volleys low over the net or to their feet or and make them volley up to you. Then you get to hit hard at them, but still down to their feet.
The first volleys we learn are flat, putting the racquet directly behind or slightly below the ball. And that's proper, because our first tactical objective is coming to net against an opposing baseliner, usually the server, and we want our first volley to go deep and keep the server pinned at the baseline. Flat technique is good for that even at the most advanced levels; however, flat technique won't help you win when you're trying to attack the front of your opponent's court, either to angle a volley for a winner or to keep the ball low to a volleyer just across the net. To have good downward control, you need to cut the volley, particularly if the ball coming at you has some pace.
Volleys hit with underspin are easy to learn. All that changes is that you elevate the racquet head slightly above the contact point so that you make a chopping motion downward when you hit the ball. As with flat technique, the racquet stops at contact: what creates the underspin is the racquet positioned above the ball, not the racquet travelling below the contact point or out toward the net. In other words, the cut volley is not like a chip return, where there is follow through. If your volley stroke goes past contact, the extra length will usually promote deeper placement, exactly what you're trying to avoid. Done correctly, the cut volley will keep the ball low and short.
Think of the service line as the baseline of the court. Your volley placements are as good as out if you hit high past the service line. To get the idea of stopping at the hit, get a foot away from net. Toss the ball just over the net height and chop down at it. Don't hit the net or follow through past contact. That's it. You're slicing and dicing, keeping the volleys low.
c Keith Shein