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The Volley-Lob
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

The Volley Lob (which I will abbreviate as VL) is one of my favorite volleys to execute, because it allows you to throw your opponent off-stride. When used correctly, the VL can be the shot that shifts the advantage to you, since your opponents rarely expect it and, subsequently, they must be wary that you may use it again. On the other hand, be careful, because it can also be a very foolish shot, if used at the wrong time.

It is important to mention, upfront, that the VL is a shot rarely used in singles; rather, it is typically reserved for doubles' play. The VL in doubles can be perceived as the equivalent of the drop shot in singles to catch your opponent off guard.

When to Use the VL
If you are thinking of adding the VL to your array of shots, it is critical to remember that the VL should be used early in a doubles match. Doing this, when the opportunity first presents itself, will help you dictate to your opponents how you want the match to be played. There are a couple of positions that your opponents can be in that will make the VL an effective shot for you.

The most advantageous one for you is when you are playing aggressive net players who camp out close to the net. These players desire to keep moving forward after each volley, intending to be right on top of the net for their next volley. When they are moving forward and are close to the net, it will be tough for them to react to the VL since their weight is moving forward.

The VL is even more effective when your opponents are moving forward in tandem. I have discovered that the VL can freeze an opponent, so their only hope is for the partner to chase your VL down. In which case, you have just moved your opponents to the one up and one back formation, which is ideal for you.

Another great time to hit the VL is when your last volley has wrong-footed an opponent and while he is getting back into position to move to the net. Here, it makes little difference whether he is moving sideways or forward (better for you) toward the net, since he has been wrong-footed and is now on the move; it takes above-average agility for him to untangle himself, move forward, and then backpedal within a very short span.

When NOT to Use the VL
There are certain doubles players who are moderately aggressive. They prefer to approach the net, but they hang out several feet from the net. They establish their position from barely inside the service line. The VL should not be used against these types of players. Here, the VL will never work, because they are too far from the net to be surprised and there is not enough area for you to work with effectively. They will usually have plenty of time to see the VL and it will be an easy overhead for them.

How to Hit a VL
There are 4 keys to hitting a successful VL:

Key 1: Hit a VL only when you are able to hit it at your waist level or higher. If you try it off a low volley, it will give your opponent too much time to react and to adjust their position for an overhead.

Key 2: Hit the VL over the opponent closer to the net. This will cut down their reaction time and it will be easier to hit the ball out of their reach.

Key 3: Hit the VL at this opponent's backhand side. This way, if he is able to react in time and get to the ball, he may only have a chance to return with a defensive, high, backhand volley.

Key 4: Keep the VL low, because your opponents will have less time to run down a VL that does not go 15 feet or more in the air.

The VL is a shot that should be used selectively. As we all know, the drop shot in singles prevents your opponent from consistently assuming a comfortable position 4 feet behind the baseline; similarly, the VL in doubles keeps your opponents honest and doesn't allow them to be overly aggressive at the net. Show them that you can hit the VL as soon as possible in the match, so they will immediately know from the "start" that they can get burned for being overly aggressive. When necessary, simply remind them by repeating the shot. I typically hit the VL 2-3 times in a regular doubles match.

In my opinion when executed correctly, the VL will be a formidable additional to your arsenal.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker