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The approach shot doesn’t end after the ball leaves your racquet. Tying a bow on an effective net rush means following the stroke with proper positioning. Even if you hit the ball with the planned execution, poor subsequent court coverage can spoil the final product.
Taking the appropriate space at net is a twin killing—it yields the best volley options and limits your opponent’s passing angles. Done correctly, it can be enough to elicit an error without even having to hit another ball. It may not draw the same satisfaction as punching a winning volley into the open court, but it counts just the same.

Take A Stand

A cardinal sin on the approach shot is not following the ball. Players often straddle the center service line, which affords their opponent favorable passing options. For instance, if your approach is heading deep near the singles sideline in your opponent’s ad side, you should take a position in the middle your deuce-side service box. “You’re playing the percentages,” says coach Mark Kovacs. “You want to take away at least two-thirds of the court—most of the line and some of the crosscourt.” This way you’re daring your opponent to either paint the line or create a risky angle. Either scenario puts you in the driver’s seat.


Fear Of Heights

If the approach is deep and well-directed, and you’ve taken a commanding position at net, the largest hitting window available to your opponent will be over your head. While there’s a temptation to take a few steps back in anticipation of a lob, resist the urge to give up ground. You’re better off maintaining a more offensive position closer to the net—a first volley struck near the service line is more of a neutral shot—and tightening the passing lanes. Unless the ball is perfectly placed, you’ll still have time to retreat to hit an overhead. Wait until your opponent can prove he or she can really lob before taking any precautions.

Target Practice

Having the blueprint for a successful approach shot is one thing; executing it when it counts is a different animal. That takes confidence, and the best place to build it is on the practice court. Stand inside the baseline and have a partner or coach on the opposite baseline feed a short ball. Hit an approach shot and play the point out. Alternate the feeds to the deuce, middle and ad sides of the court. Play to 11 and switch roles. Another drill is to play tiebreakers against an opponent in which the server is required to follow the serve to net. Then reverse it—the returner must come in behind the return, only the server is permitted just one serve. Once these plays become second nature in practice, turn them loose in matches.