The professional tennis players make it look it so easy, don't they? Covering the whole court in three or four strides, sometimes letting out a grunt as they smash the ball or really go for a shot. Sure, they make it look simple, but every shot you see is the result of hours and hours or practice. 

Speaking of making things look a lot more straightforward than they actually are, today we're going to take a closer look at volleying. Volleying is just about the toughest skill to master on the tennis court.

We've all at some stage barely known which end of the tennis racket to grab ahold of, so no matter what your level, you can still master your volleys and hit them consistently well. It all comes down to practice, but there are some general tips and techniques to help you improve.

The Volley Explained

In theory, a volley is any shot that you take when the ball is hit before it bounces. Often this is done when you are coming forward toward the net, as an aggressive stroke. But it can also happen when you are in the middle of the court, out of position, and don't have time to let the ball bounce.

Because they are hit from closer to the net, volleys are often hit close to the end of a point, or even as the final shot. They give you the chance to take advantage and dictate the point, because the closer to the net you get, the more acute the angles are that you can hit the ball. 

Volleys are vital to finishing off points in singles, but they are even more important in doubles matches, where one player from each side typically stands close to the net. 

Good players can do all sorts of things with a volley, adding slice or spin to make it even more difficult for the opponent to return. 

5 Elements of the Perfect Volley

The Grip

The grip can be different depending on if you’re hitting a forehand or a backhand volley. But the most popular grip for both is the Continental Grip.

Stance & Footwork

If you’re moving in off the baseline, you’ll need to be ready to switch to your volley grip of choice. As the ball begins to come back you’ll have to make a quick judgement in terms of how you’re going to shift your body to hit the volley.

A split-step will be your first movement, getting you ready to quickly move to your left or right. As it becomes clear which direction the return is coming, step toward the ball.

perfect volley tennis

Preparation & Rotation

After your split-step you’ll have a split second to prepare your shot. The length of the backswing is important here. You need a compact swing and to lean toward the ball as you strike it.

The key is to line up the racket face to meet the incoming ball.  If the ball is coming in low, you’ll have to bend at the legs to get the racket onto that lower plane.  

If you’re hitting a volley on the backhand side, use your non-dominant hand to hold the throat of the racket for extra control.

Hitting the Volley

The best tennis players use their legs to move forward into the ball as they hit a volley. Try and use your non-dominant foot to step diagonally across on the forehand volley and the dominant foot stepping diagonally across on the backhand side.

You don’t need a huge backswing. Instead, your swing should be compact with your elbow slightly bent. Extend out to meet the ball in front of you and try to strike the ball ay the same time as you step into the shot.

Follow Through & Recovery

So you’ve hit the ball. Now what? Don’t stand there and admire it! Get back into a central position quickly, bring your non-dominant hand back onto the throat of the racket and move the racket back in front of you. The ball might be coming back any second now.

Key things to take away

To be a good volleyer you'll need quick reflexes and good coordination. The ball will be coming at you fast and there probably won't be that much time to react. This means that footwork needs to be automatic and swings need to be short and compact.

It’s not so much about how hard you can hit your volleys. Instead it's all about placement. Work out the angles as much as possible and use them to your advantage.