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Steal This Drill: One Person Serve and Volleying

It is said that serve and volleying is dead. If you listen to the experts - be it tennis commentators, former players or your local pro - it seems that the only thing more irrelevant in today's game than serve and volleying are wooden rackets and cat-gut strings :)

We'll be the first to concede that with the advent of more modern equipment - lighter, more powerful rackets; polyester strings; springier balls - the server's advantage might be somewhat more diminished or neutralized. However, there's no better way to throw a monkey wrench into your opponent's plans than by serve-and-volleying every few points if only to keep her honest. A well executed play will force your opponent to aim lower over the net than if you are staying back after the serve. Sometimes, you might draw a mistake (easy point) just by "looking the part" of someone who knows what he's doing. Other times, the return my come right on your string bed. Of course, chances are that a good returner may dip the ball on you so it's good to work on pick-ups as well. 

However, we believe that it's not the serve-and-volley strategy that is dead; but the art of practicing for it. For example, nowadays, every junior has his/her own private coach who may get a bit antsy having to return the player's serve and forcing him to serve and volley. In addition, since juniors try to protect their emotions, very seldom do they play practice matches against other kids their age. Therefore, they hardly ever have the opportunity to work on new things such as serve and volleys. So how are they expected to implement it in a match?! 

If you're self-motivated and interested in learning this dimension, don't despair; there IS a way. Next time you practice your serves, rather than putting the bucket of balls behind you, set it at the service line. Pick up ONE ball, serve and SPRINT in for the bucket. When reaching the bucket (or ball pyramid), bend your knees and pick up another ball (just one). Careful that you don't overrun the bucket. Move in fast but with controlled steps. Rinse and repeat.

A major element of the serve and volley play is the movement from 1 foot inside the baseline to the service line. A lot of players practice their serves (let's say that they are dedicated enough to do that) and practice their volleys but fail to tie the two concepts together. So when they try the serve-and-volley play for the first time in a match they look like a fish out of water because the movement is not natural. By doing this drill - whether on your own or with multiple players on court - you will learn how to follow the ball in and measure your steps before reaching the basket. Furthermore, this is a wonderful way for breaking out of the usual serving routine and throwing some light sprints into the mix thereby keeping your leg muscles engaged and working. In addition, by moving forward, you will become more adept at using your body's momentum for hitting the ball (as opposed to hitting static serves). 

Serve and volley is not dead but the artistry of the game may use some resuscitation. 

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