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CAtennis is a passionate discussion for serious tennis players, parents and coaches looking for something different. No talk about technique, no talk about useless theory, no gimmicks; just practical advice from first-hand experience on how to improve your tennis. Kick back, drink the content, bounce ideas, and pitch articles (or friend us on Facebook).

Unless otherwise noted, all articles are authored by the founders of CAtennis.  Enjoy!


Entries in Transition (8)


Steal This Drill: Aggressive Doubles

This drill comes to us from Mr. Frercks Hartwig who is currently associated as a tennis coach and player devepoler at TMS - Die mobile Tennisschule in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.

Thank you, Mr. Hartwig, for submitting this drill to CAtennis.com. We hope that all of you take the time to incorporate it into your tennis development process. The drill is as follows:

1. Draw a line about 1meter (3ft inside each baseline).

2. While the ball is in play, the doubles-players may not over-step this line.

3. The players are encouraged to take the ball early - either off a half-volley, regular volley or swinging volley.

4. The coach alternates feeds from A to B and points are played up 12. Feeds are to be mixed in terms of height, depth, pace and spin in order to put the receivers in the position to make a variety of adjustments [Editor's Note: there may or might not be "re-dos" for missed feeds; coach's choice depending on the level of the players]

5. Immediately after the feed, both teams proceed to move in and engage in a volley-volley exchange. By being forced to move in, the "volley-shy" players learn that it's more effective to win points at the net than at baseline.

6. This drill can also be performed by either (a) having the A-B team hit a groundstroke first; (b) having the teams sprint in from behind the baseline at the same time or (c) by moving the "artificial" baseline forwards or backwards to take into account the skills of the players.

For a similar singles drill, see here. If you would like to share any drill ideas or practical suggestions for improving the game, please email us at catenniseditor@gmail.com or contact us on Facebook. As always, if you like the information, please pass it along to anyone who may be interested.


Video: Running Through The Approach

In this example, Jarko Nieminem efficiently runs through the approach shot to venture into the net. There are many ways to get to the net and this is just another avenue to reach the net that is at your disposal.  Notice how the feet never stop moving as he takes a controlled swing which allows him to get closer to the net.  People who have a hard time hitting winners from the baseline should look to employ this strategy into their games as it: 

1)  Takes time away from the opponent

2)  Applies lots of pressure on the passer

3)  Provides you with the opportunity to get closer to the net to hit volley winners

Have fun knocking off volleys and enjoy!


Serve and Volley Play

ANTONY: "These many then shall die, their names are prick'd" (Modern Translation: These many men then shall die; their names are checked on the list). Julius Caesar (ACT IV; Scene 1) by William Shakespeare. In this scene, Antony, Octavius and Lepidus have banded together in a counter-conspiracy to destroy the men who killed Caesar. The men pick certain people who must die, including the brother of Lepidus. They are sacrificing even their loved ones in order to achieve their desired goals.  

Great! What does this have to do with tennis and, specifically, the Serve and Volley Play?! When embarking on a serve and volley gamestyle you have to completely change your attitude towards tennis. For example, where winners and "forced" erros are rare in a baseline-to-baseline exchange, they are far more prevalent when one of the players is at the net. In other words, you don't get many second chances to scramble when you're at the net. As a serve-and-volleyer (or attacking player) you are simply going to have to become accustomed to seeing balls go by you, having the opponent force some errors from you and, perhaps, even hitting you. However, you have to believe that simply by being at the net, the percentages will slip in your favor thereby putting you in a better position to win the match. Even if you're 51%-49%, that's still sufficient room for you to win the match. Serve-and-volleying is about taking time away from your opponent and elciting more errors from the opponent than passing shots or shots that force errors on your behalf. Therefore, keep coming in for as long as you are winning more points than you're losing. The missed volleyes and half-volleyes as well as your opponent's passing shots should "slide off" you as water on teflon. Don't let lost points get to you. Unfortunately, a lot of juniors see balls going by them once or twice and, thereafter, refrain from coming in altogether because they're thinking that they are doing something wrong. Initially, that may be the case but with more practice you will be much better at "reading" the opponent's shots. For example, you will notice how certain grips, footwork, balance and preparation results in certain shots. Then, next time you see these movements, you will be in a better position to anticipate. You will also be better at placing your serves, mixing them up as well as navigating the mid-court transition area. These are things that will help you with the rest of your game even if you remain, for the most part, a baseliner. 

The only real way to become good at attacking is by doing it repeatedely. No, one workout a month is simply not good enough. If you want to improve this dimension of your game you (as a 14+ year old player) are going to have to set aside 6-8 weeks of serious serve-and-volley development. Work on volleys, swinging volleys, pick-up shots, stab volleys, reflex volleys, volley-overhead combination, chip-and-charge plays, etc. all with the mindset of being aggressive. If you're "in season", try to use the S-and-V strategy in earlier rounds against weaker opponents. Alternatively, seek to play smaller tournaments so that you get to use this play in more matches. The goal is not to become a serve-and-volley player (although there's nothing wrong with that if it's in your heart) but to simply become an expert at this play. Then, you can still play your "game" but you can use the attacking play once or twice a game (more/less) to mix things up.

In this regard, I recommend playing a lot of practice points where all you do is serve and volley. Divide the receiver's service box into two halves and practice playing points (up to 11, 15 and 21) where you serve only in one of these halves. Then, change it up and serve in the other half. When you become good at picking up on the opponent's returns, leave the court-dividers but serve anywhere. The goal is to start seeing HOW your opponent RESPONDS based on the placement/spin/pace of your serve. Remember, humans are pattern-creatures. We tend to do what's comfortable when faced with a situation that's even slightly out of the ordinary. By repeating these points, you will become more adept at discerning the opponent's return patterns and movement. Again, it's practice so don't get discouraged at seeing returns go by you. Go forward like "the Russians to Berlin" (i.e., forget about the sigh-seeing). Break some eggs and sacrifice some "loved ones" so that you can achieve greatness down the road. 





Own The No-Man's-Land

There are a few pieces of advice that get passed down from generation to generation and one of them happens to "don't play in no-man's land" or "don't get stuck in no man's land". Although I agree with the theory behind these concepts - after all, the closer to the court you are, the faster you need to be and the better your balance (in addition to the risk of being struck "in the shoe-laces) - I completely disagree with the concept that one should not know how to play from inside the baseline entirely. 

No man's land is a transition area and if you're no comfortable in that part of the court, the chance that you will be comfortable coming in (to the net) is very small. One of my pet peeves is seeing players practice from 2, 3, 5 or 10 feet behind the baseline where they look like world-class tennis players. Then, they move in and practice volleys from 6 feet from the net....completely ignoring the 400 square feet of court in between. Let me dispel one myth right off the bat: the chance that you are going to hit a shot (bet it serve or groundstroke) from behind the baseline and then be able to make contact with the volley 6 feet from the net is extremely small...either the opponent isn't very good or you hit a very fortunate shot.

The vast majority of first volleys are really encountered around the service line (maybe a bit behind it). But if you're not confident that you can handle this no man's land zone, the likelihood that you will be confident in making the journey to the net is very small. That's primarily because if opponents don't hit outright winners, they can usually dip the ball with heavy spin or hit a slice that grazes the net (forcing you to make contact from further back than you're used to).

As a baseline player (which most players happen to be), it is important to become comfortable in this transition area (from 1 foot inside the baseline to 1 foot behind the service line) because you never know when the play calls for coming in and you don't want to hesitate or second guess yourself. It is sometimes amusing to see coaches yelling at players (with proverbial steam coming out of their ears) for not following the ball in. They never bother asking the question why the player did not do so. Often times the answer is "because I'm not confident in the mid-court", You can practice volleys until you're blue in the face, but if you don't know how to handle the transition area, you will simply not come in at all the right times...and God forbid that the opponent happens to pass you the first time out. That's when junior say "check please" and keep on staying back, pounding groundies.

Listen, if you want to improve your net game, you have to start it one step at a time. In a previous tip, we mentioned how you should see the court as a chess-board with 3x3ft squares. In reality, try seeing it as a Rubiks cube that is made up of smaller 3x3x3ft cubes. These "cubes": are on your side of the court as well as your opponents. You should strive to master hitting any "cube" on your opponent's side of the court FROM any cube on your side of the court where the ball happens to be...and a lot of these "cubes" happen to be in the mid court. Therefore, swinging volleys, regular volleys, pick-up/half-volleys, abbreviated swing groundstrokes, bunts, high backhand "overheads", skyhooks, etc. all have to be practiced. Any player who is comfortable hitting these shots from mid-court will have more confidence in going in "all the way". It's really the fear of missing or getting passed (something that doesn't happen a lot from the baseline) that holds the players back.

Therefore, do drills where you are mixing baseline shots, with swinging volleys, with pick-ups and regular volleys so that you know what you have to do if you don't happen to hit your first volley from on top of the net. In other words, get comfortable coming in in stages, and then try to have fewer and fewer stages. In your mind, you should have the belief in yourself that if the ball bounces a foot from the baseline you can handle it ("I got this") and know exactly where and how your shot should be hit.



An oft-forgotten strategy is the chip-and charge play. Currently, when players do decide to come in on the opponent's serve, they tend to do so by thumping the return and sprinting in (and even these plays are few and far between). The chip-and-charge way is one of the cleverest ways to put pressure on the opponent when she is already serving under pressure. Unlike a "belt-and-bolt" (i.e., where you crush the return and then sprint in), the chip and charge, if executed correctly takes time away from your opponent since you are executing the stroke WHILE moving in. In addition, instead of risking that the opponent sticks her racket out to block your massive forehand return, against a chip she actually has to (1) move, (2) get down low, and (3) generate her own pace in order to pass you. All the while, you're rushing in and closing down the angles where she can go. 

To execute a good chip and charge play, it helps to be proficient at the slice. In this regard, it is important to understand that the chip (or the slice) is NOT A SWINGING stroke. That is, you don't try to swing at the ball as if you're cutting down a bamboo tree. You want to split forward, generate only a little pace with your shoulders (utilizing mostly the pace coming from the opponent), make contact out in front by leaning against the ball, and continue to follow the ball in a natural fashion. Practice this while your playing partner is working on her serves. Or, if you're working with a coach, practice this by having the coach serve to you and then feed a dipping volley. Remember, this is a shot that will pay huge dividends in pressure situation and you don't have to be a classic serve-and-volleyer to execute it correctly. It's the element of surprise that will win you the point. As long as you hit the ball deep (2-3 feet from the baseline) you will be in a great position to win - whether by putting the next volley away or by drawing outright errors from the opponent. Even if the opponent gets lucky and squeezes a passing shot by you, in her mind, she will always think that you're going to repeat the play and, as a result, put more pressure on herself next time around (and maybe you'll get a double fault). 

Initially, try to work on this play against weaker opponents in order to get the feel for how the ball should be struck and how you should follow the ball in. Then, against a better opponent, find a pressure situation where you can take advantage of her second serve and charge in "like the Russians to Berlin" (i.e.  FULLY COMMITTED to the cause; "d**n the torpedoes").