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Nick’s Notes: How Bollettieri turned students’ volleys into an intimidating shot
Is feel the only key to being a good volleyer?
Published Dec 26, 2022
WATCH: Remember the life and legacy of Nick Bollettieri, one of the sport's greatest coaches and pioneer of tennis academies, after opening Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1978.
In memory of Nick Bollettieri, TENNIS.com proudly presents “Nick’s Notes,” an exclusive look at tips, tricks, and takes written by one of the greatest coaches of the modern era.
Today’s take: a love letter to the volley, and how to make it into an intimidating shot.
Over the years, I have found its very difficult to teach net instincts, BUT everyone can make improvements. This is what I told Tommy Haas when he was 15 years old and asked me when he should come to the net:
“Go in all the time and by doing this over and over you will develop a better feeling of when and how to go to the net.”
Is feel the only key to being a good volleyer? Yes, having good feel for the ball is very beneficial especially for touch volleys and drop volleys however, you can become an excellent volleyer if you have a balanced foundation. Move to the ball with your feet instead of stretching. Use a short firm forward action to hit your volley. Use your opponent’s power and only direct your volley to strategic areas of the court depending upon where you are hitting your volley from and the position and movement of your opponent. Most of the time focus only on where you will volley the ball too, and do not concern yourself with the position of your opponent. It will just be a distraction. Lower and upper body strength are big assets when you have to lung quickly for wide volleys.
On low volleys bend from your knees, not your back, and get down level with the ball in a balanced position. Max Mirnyi, a student of mine for 25 years and former No. 1-ranked ATP doubles player and top 22 singles player, said you get down to the level of the ball by bending your knees. Especially on low volleys, this is a position of strength and control. If you are too upright and have to drop your racquet head to the ball, you will lose control and you will be forced to apply more wrist action which causes a loss in accuracy.
Remember, do not bend down from your waist. Get down to the level of the ball with your legs. To do this, it might mean that you have to get into the gym and build up your lower body strength.
Volley and keep moving in. Force your opponent to go for broke in order to pass you. The odds of winning the point go up significantly if you move in after your first volley, swinging volley or serve and volley because it will cause your opponent to have to hit their best shot to be able to pass you through a smaller space.
Attack high volleys. Back in the 80s I told Agassi, Courier, and Seles to swing at the high volley. Today it is a major weapon and mainstay on the pro tours. It’s used regularly by Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and many others. How do you hit a swinging volley?
1. Adjust your grip to a weak or even a strong semi western position with the hand behind the handle of the racquet.
2. Prepare early.
3. Extend your non-hitting hand and arm away from your body about shoulder height and towards the ball.
4. Keep your shoulders level and keep your head still.
5. Take a complete but level swing through the ball and towards your non hitting hand.
6. If you haven’t hit an outright winner, move into the net and put away the defensive reply.
Is it better to hit a swinging volley or an overhead? On a windy day, or when looking into a bright sun, against heavy topspin lobs, or if you have shoulder problems, it is usually better to go with the swinging volley rather than an overhead.