| By Ed Wolfarth

Much has been written on the proper techniques of volleying. Let me share with you some of my favorite teaching cues for the volley:

1. Volleying in doubles—proper court positioning
Stand in the middle of your service box when your partner is serving. Stand around halfway between the doubles sideline and the net, and halfway between the net and service line (about 21 ft. or so, around 10-11 ft. from the net). Remember, this is simply your starting point. Depending on where the serve is hit, you move in that direction. You may have seen the pros stand much closer, but this won't work for a 3.5 player! Unless you can leap 20 ft. in the air and cover lobs over your head, standing too close is counter-productive. Basically explained, the better the player and the more athletic the player, the closer you can stand. Another point … play tall! Most of the shots you see passing you by at the net will be hit above eye level. The opponent's ground strokes (especially at the 3.0-4.0 Levels) are not hit with a great deal of topspin and you, more than likely, will find them way above your head when you try to intercept.

2. The ready position
Most club players in doubles stand with the racket in the middle of their body. This assumes 50 percent of the balls are going right and 50 percent to the left, correct? But if you think of it logically, this is entirely false. Ninety percent of the balls hit in doubles are hit across the court in an attempt to avoid you! You need to “cheat to the middle.” When your partner is serving from the deuce side and you're at the net, favor the forehand volley and hold your racket to the right (assuming everyone is right-handed). The opposite is true in the ad court. Remember to play tall.

3. Volley swing
You may have been told to punch a volley, but in reality, the length of the volley swing is directly related to the speed with which the ball is approaching. Obviously, the faster it comes, the shorter the swing is. If the ball is coming really slowly, you can almost take a full swing. If you stop the follow-through, as in a punching action, much like a car that stops abruptly, your back side lifts and your front dips, and the result is volleys into the net. I tell my students to hit “The Equator,” but go to South America … simply a description of putting a bit of backspin on the ball for depth and control. Volleying is a reactionary activity. You are at the mercy of the speeding ball heading in your direction. The first step is to get your racket behind the incoming object. If time allows, turn your shoulders and finally, if more time exists, step into the shot. The greatest volleyer in modern times was probably John McEnroe. McEnroe had great hands, economy of motion and no discernible footwork. If you're concerned with footwork when volleying, you're in deep trouble!

4. Volley grips
Again, you need to “cheat toward the middle.” Favor your forehand grip if you are in the ad box and backhand grip if on the deuce side. We're talking doubles, here. Ever wonder why most good players have more trouble with their forehand volleys than with their backhand volley? It’s their grip! They stand in a continental grip which is nothing more than a weak version of the backhand grip.

5. Volley placement
Hit your volleys where your opponent isn't! Duh! While this is most obvious, you need to find these gaps. The middle is a good place to start. So is at the nearest opponent's feet. This placement gives them less time to react. When both opponents are back, shallow or drop, volleys may be called for. Angled volleys also work as well. When serving and volleying in doubles tennis, try to hit your first volley deep to the returner, or shallow and low down the middle, depending on the height it reaches you. Volleys hit below net level are defensive in nature, while volleys hit at more convenient heights can be hit more aggressively and for winners.

And finally, if you play doubles, and you're at the net, your job is to make mistakes! Winners and losers are the norm. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is a good motto. All too often, I see my students standing at the net, watching balls go back and forth, some of which, are in their reach. They ask, “Could I have hit that one?” Many times, they're just “protecting the alley,” while in reality, the number of balls that successfully pass them down the alley can be counted on one hand. The problem is that for every ball that does pass you down the alley, it registers as three! I often watch matches and ask the question, “How many times did you get beat down the alley?” Six or seven times in a set is the usual response, when in effect, it was twice! It just seems more.
Go out there and get to the net. If you are playing the baseline in doubles, you are missing out on all the fun. You need to jump into the deep end of the pool in order to learn to swim. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, and it is just one step closer to getting it right … enjoy!

Ed Wolfarth

<p>Ed Wolfarth is the director of tennis at the Meadowbrook Pointe Club in Westbury, N.Y. Besides being an active member of the USPTA Eastern Division, he is also on the regional board of the USTA Eastern Section. He holds national senior rankings in both singles and doubles, and has been USPTA High School Coach of the Year, as well as USTA Senior Player of the Year. When he&#39;s not on the tennis court, Wolfarth is a professor of physical education and sport sciences at both Hofstra University and Queens College. He may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:wolfarthe@msn.com">wolfarthe@msn.com</a>.</p>