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Steal This Drill: The Deep Volley Game

Here is a great drill for practicing both reflex volleys and first volleys. Often times when juniors work on their volleys, they get right on top of the net - maybe a foot or two away - and start smashing volleys aimlessly away from their practice partners. First of all, this is pointless because if you are a half-way decent junior and feel that you need to actually work on volleys that are on top of the net, well I have bad news for you... Second, unless you're Pat Cash (huh? Look him up), Patrick Rafter (who? Look him up), Stefan Edberg (who? Look him up too), Taylor Dent (you may have actually heard of him) or John Isner (ding-ding-ding) there are very few occasions when you will have the opportunity to hit a volley from 2 feet away from the net. Fewer still are the opportunities to make contact from there on a first volley.

The reality is that most first volleys are struck from the service line (or around there - give or take a foot or two). As a player, you should become familiar with volleys (or half-volley "pick-ups") being hit from there. Familiarity breeds comfort and comfort breeds confidence. If you know that you are pretty good at digging volleys from mid-court you will be a lot more confident at venturing to the net in the first place. Converseley, if you are only comfortable hitting volleys from on top of the net, you will not venture forward regardless of how many volleys you've hit from there in practice.

Here is a good way to become comfortable hitting volleys from mid-court and, at the same time, work on your reflexes, movement, balance as well as "punching through" the volleys (as opposed to hitting down on them). Two players line up behind their respective service lines on one half of the court. Players play points up to 11, 15, 21, etc. The rules are as follows: if the ball bounces in the doubles alley, deep, outside of the particular half (i.e., outside of the imaginary white line) or INSIDE of the service line, it's out (yes, the ball CAN bounce, as long as it bounces behind the service line and inside of the relevant half). In addition, the players cannot themselves step inside of the service line (i.e., they must stay behind) OR, alternatively, can only take one step inside and recover. This way, they are forced to work on their volleys and quick hands and not just bat balls from on top of the net. This drill can be done with 2 sets of players on court and there's also a possibility to do this drill cross-court. Again, work on your deep volleys; become comfortable in the mid-court and all the awkward shots and movements that go along with it. Your confidence in the rest of your game will grow exponentially when you know that you can do everything with a tennis racket. 


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