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Want to Serve and Volley?
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

Not too long ago I received an e-mail from someone who wanted to learn to serve and volley.  They asked me what they thought they should know before they go out and try it in a match.  That is a great question.  This article is going to be a short outline of some things that you should be able to do to be a successful serve and volley player.  You do not have to master each aspect, but the more of the list you have in your game, the better serve and volley player you will be.

1. Placement of Serve:  One of the biggest parts of any player's serve and volley game is being able to place the serve anywhere in the service box.  If you cannot aim your serve, I do not recommend trying to serve and volley just yet.  Being able to aim your serve allows you to mix up the placement of your serve, keeping your opponent guessing, and more importantly, it allows you to serve to your opponent's weaker side.  When you serve to one side or another it allows you to make certain assumptions, like which way they might return the ball, or which side of the court you need to protect more.  If you do not know where your serve is going, you will have much less of an idea where the return of serve is going.

2. Different Types of Serves:  This one is not a "must", but I find it extremely helpful.  Hitting different types of serves forces your opponent to adjust to the different spins (or lack of).  Being able to hit your serves with different pace will also not allow your opponent to get into a rhythm returning just one type of serve.  If you can mix up the different types of serves as well as aim each serve your opponent will have a much harder time returning your serve successfully.

3. Volleys:  Obviously any serve and volley player needs to have good volleys.  A good volley does not have to be a winner.  Usually the first volley sets up the point for the next shot to be a winner.  Being able to hit volleys that are low, high, fast and slow are all big advantages, you never know what will come back when people are returning your serve.

4. Overheads:  Having a good overhead is a huge advantage if you wish to play serve and volley style tennis.  If you are easy to lob because you are slow or just have a weak overhead your presence at the net can be very weak and easily exploited.  Many players like to lob when people come to the net unless they are afraid that their opponent's overheads are too good.  If you are easy to lob, you will see many players lobbing you when you come to the net.  Opponents pick up on that that weakness quickly.

5. Touch:  Coming to the net does not always mean you get to hit overheads or smash volleys all over the court.  Sometimes the best volley to hit is a short angled volley.  Drop volleys can also be very effective if given the right opportunity.  But use sparingly, overuse can be dangerous!  Good touch allows you to mix up your volleys from the net which gives you a nice advantage by keeping your opponent guessing.

6. Identifying Weaknesses & Tendencies:  Always study your opponent to find their weaknesses and their tendencies.  For instance, some players like to hit only cross court when someone hits a slice shot to them.  So if you approach the net with a slice shot, be prepared to cover the cross court return.  Picking on a player's weaknesses when serve and volleying puts a lot of pressure on the opponent.  They do not have the luxury of just blocking balls back and staying in baseline rallies.  By serve and volleying you force them to try to hit better shots which can force a lot of errors from your opponent.

7. Quickness:  I feel speed and quickness can really make the difference between a serve and volley player and a great serve and volley player.  This does not necessarily mean foot speed, although it is an advantage, rather the quickness of your reactions.  Playing at the net gives everyone less time to react to each shot.  You rob your opponent of time, but you also rob yourself of time.  Being able to react to the shots of your opponent(s) quickly will give you more options to get to the ball and finish the point.  Closing into the net quickly will also give you better angles and better percentages to hit your volleys.  Being quick around the court also allows you to back peddle fast to hit overheads.

8. Anticipation: Anticipation is always a hard one to describe and teach. Usually it just comes to you as a player the more you play. Some players are better at this than others. This is the ability to analyze the entire situation and your opponent's options and tendencies to hit certain shots in a split second. The better you get at this the sooner you will be able to pick up on your opponent's next shot. If you come to the net and you are completely clueless where your opponent is going to hit the ball you will get passed a lot.

I serve and volley and I love the style of play.  Even if you are a baseliner I think that being able to serve and volley is a good weapon to have in your arsenal.  Andre Agassi is a pure baseliner, however, if you ever watched any of his matches you will see he will sneak in a serve and volley once in a while and he almost always won the point.  It is a great message to send to your opponent if they start to get lazy on the return of serve to sneak inbehind a serve and hit an easy volley for a winner.  Remember, you do not have to be able to do all of the above to serve and volley, but the more you can do and the better you are at doing each of them, the better serve and volley player you will be.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker