#24 1st Volley Behind

 Wrong Foot Your Opponent 

You are a short ball hunter. Here’s how you handle your first volley. 

Your deep ground stroke has delivered a weak ball and it’s time to move forward to finish at the net. You typically approach to the backhand and make contact with your first volley around the service line – but now what do you do?

This is exactly the right time to play percentage tennis as the first volley is a confusing blend of an offensive shot hit from a defensive court position.

The reality of a first volley is that you have a far greater chance of losing the point than winning it because it’ actually quite difficult to put a volley away when you are standing around the service line.

The key to success with the first volley is simple – hit behind your opponent unless you can hit it for a winner.

It’s one of the golden rules of our sport that works at all levels of the game because of three universal factors.

  • Time and Distance – wrong footing your opponent takes time away from them. They have to slow down and stop and then restart back in the direction they just came from. It’s easier to run further in a straight line across the baseline than stop and restart just a step or two from where you just came from.
  • Organization – It’s also easier for an opponent to get their hands and feel organized for a passing shot moving in one direction on the run than having the added problems of stopping and starting and then getting the lower and upper body in the correct position to attempt a passing shot.
  • Spin – Take it for granted that every opponent has a good heavy spin cross court forehand passing shot. It’s a lot easier to generate heavy spin on a pass when running to a ball than stopping and coming back to a ball (especially with a backhand).

Here’s how it works.

 2012 Cincinnatti Final: Roger Federer def. Novak Djokovic 6-0, 7-6 (7) 

Federer is amazing at this golden rule.

In the second set Djokovic held set point with Federer serving at 6-7 in the tiebreaker.

Federer approached to Djokovic’s backhand and stood exactly on the center T to hit a forehand volley. The natural angle and the open court were both cross through the deuce court, but Djokovic would then have the opportunity to hit a forehand pass on the run.

Federer did not fall the illusion on such a big point and volleyed back behind Djokovic to his backhand. Djokovic did not have to move far but was robbed of time to get organized and threw up a lob which Federer dispatched for a winner with an overhead. Crisis averted.

Earlier in the second set at 4-4, 15-0, Djokovic served and immediately approached with a backhand cross court and also found himself in the middle of the court just inside the service line with a forehand volley. He took the bait and volleyed to the open deuce court. Federer took two big steps and whipped a forehand roll pass cross for a winner.

Go Do This

Your opponent will most likely lob after you hit a quality first volley behind.

The service line is a tough position to hit a volley winner from.

The open court is an illusion. Your opponent can run down a lot of balls when you volley from too far back.

Make your opponent have to hit the spectacular shot to end the point. 

Your second volley, from closer to the net, is the one you will go open court with a lot more – for a winner.