Hitting a low, off-balance volley at your feet means trouble on the next shot. When the ball is hit at your feet, don’t hit a desperate shot. Put on the breaks and set your feet and hands for a half volley.
A lot of people see the half volley as a defensive shot—to them it’s a last option in a tough situation. But why hit a weak pop-up volley when you can hit a neutralizing, semi-aggressive half volley? As soon as you identify the ball height relative to your court position, react accordingly and hit a half volley. It’s a better way to stay ahead in the point.
1. Turn sideways with your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the net and use a Continental or strong Eastern grip. Step forward with your front foot. Your toe should point towards the net, which slightly opens the hips. This is essential, as it frees up your hands to deal with a short, quick bounce and respond with feel and finesse.
2. A deep knee bend is essential for a great half volley—the lower the better (your eyes should be level with the ball if possible). This will brace you against the incoming shot and allow you to redirect the ball’s energy with a very short swing. You want to make contact out in front and somewhere between the ankle and the knee.
3. Remain low even after contact with your head still. All your weight should be on your front foot as you extend the racquet out toward your target.
4. A half volley is a half swing shot, so it deserves a shorter follow through. Here we show a slightly longer follow through than normal, because this shot is traveling crosscourt. That’s the high percentage shot, and it requires a little brushing action to create topspin. That will naturally result in a slightly longer follow through.
The Director of High Performance at the Evert Tennis Academy, John Evert has worked with many tour professionals and international juniors. The U.S. Olympic Committee named him Development Coach of the Year in 2009.