Here, at CAtennis.com, we believe that in order to become a great tennis player one must practice every shot and every scenario. Tennis is more than just about serves, forehands, backhands and a handfull of volleys. As you progress through the levels of the game you will be faced with many scenarios and strokes that you will have to, pretty much, make up "on the fly". If you know that you have done your homework, you will be better prepared to handle these situations with confidence and without losing your head.
One situation that arises once in a while is when the opponent's shot hits the net chord and the ball barely bounces or dribbles over. How do you handle these shots? Do you freak out and either hit too strong or too soft? Do you under-run or over-run the shot? Or do you stay calm and composed and do exactly what's necessary to win the point? You see, running down net chords is tricky because handling the shot involves touch. And it's not just touch while you're static. It's usually touch while you're on a full sprint towards the net. Can one practice the touch that's necessary? Perhaps...Here are some suggestions.
1. Drill 1: Player is at baseline hitting side-to-side forehands and backhands. The coach is about 2-3 feet from the net feeding the balls with the racket. Every 10-12 shots or so, the coach, rather than feeding the ball, throws the ball directly at the net chord. The player has to race to get to the ball and either "counter-drop shot" the ball or lob the ball over the coach's head.
2. Drill 2: Player and coach are both stationed about 2-3 feet from the net. The coach rolls the ball side-to-side right on top of the net chord. The player has to move fast, lunge towards the ball and use touch to drop the ball over the other side of the net. As in the above drill, the key is for the player to do no more nor less than is necessary.
3. Drill 3: Sometimes, net chords come at strangest moments. Take, as an example, Boris Becker's net chord against Derrick Rostagno on match point in the R32 at the 1989 US Open (Note: Becker went on to win the tournament). Here, Rostagno was at the net ready to put away the volley (and the match). However, Becker's passing shot struck the net chord, changed direction and caught Rostagno completely by surprise. See video. How does one practice these types of situations? One way is to put the player 8-12 feet from the net and using a ball machine to rapid-fire (high frequency) feeds towards him/her (player hitting reflex volleys). The ball machine should be set at high speed and grazing the ball right over the net. Invariably, one of the balls will clip the top of the tape and the player will have to react and volley the ball back.