The Doubles Volley

You come in behind your serve in doubles and hit your first volley cross court toward the returner; but instead of being on offense, your team finds itself on DEFENSE, trying to figure out what your opponent will do. How come?

If you feel at a disadvantage because the returner now has the option of: driving a hard one down the middle, going down your partner’s line, rolling it cross court, or lobbing over your heads … you probably hit your first volley into “no volley-land”!

If your serve was strong and the return was weak, you or your partner should be attacking the ball as it floats over the net. And if not putting the ball away on that shot, you should at least setting it up for a put-away on the next one.

But if your serve was attackable and you were not in a real strong volleying position as you came to net, think about where that volley goes cross court. If you “just get it back in play” and your volley lands around the serve line, you are then at the mercy of the returner – who has all those options listed above.

But, as my New Hampshire tennis friend and regular doubles partner B. Manning coaches me, if you volley DEEP into the corner, the ball will land at the returner’s feet and HE will be in the defensive position – and you and your partner maintain the offense.

Or, hit a soft, drop volley that lands short in the service box; so the returner now has to run in and “volley up.” And again, you should maintain the offense.

So, stay out of No-man’s-land and don’t volley into “no volley-land” and give your opponent all the options.

2 thoughts on “The Doubles Volley

  1. Slightly different situation-at SS 60 nationals in Surprise in April. Match point for me and my partner. I’m serving at 5-4, 40-30(didn’t know it at the time, but that next point would have been our second team point(nat’l championship). I hit an average serve for me(not very hard as many of you know) and the returner hit a good, hard forehand back to me which landed right at the service line. I was trying to come in but couldn’t handle the return at my feet. We never had another match point and our third team lost a tiebreaker a few minutes later. Second isn’t too bad, but it certainly felt that way then and still haunts me. I wish I could have hit a deep volley back to the returner!

    george – still pretty darn good to get that far! see you soon, george

  2. This is a somewhat dangerous play and not a very “friendly” shot, so I would not recommend it all the time but it is to be used as an occasional “keep ’em honest play” or, as noted below, an experimental play early in a match. the play is to try punching your volley — HARD — straight at the net player as you volley off the return following a strong serve. In other words, do not go cross court at all but aim it right at the net player. The element of surprise sometimes causes a flubbed shot from the net player or you may even get a clean winner if your volley is crisp and well placed enough. But you must be able to hit the volley straight at the net player (or even more ideally straight at his right hip if he is right handed), who then would need to hit a difficult reflex volley to get it back. Also, the volley should be struck low at the body. Any volley hit at shoulder height or above to the net player is sheer suicide and you will wind up eating a yellow fuzz sandwich yourself if you hit such a shot. A ball struck right at the solar plexus or, as noted above, at the right hip would be ideal. Even if I don’t plan to use this play a lot in a match, I will sometimes use it tactically early in a match against a team that I am not familiar with, for two principal reasons: First, if I pull it off well, it tends to scare the crap out of any net player who is a tad unsure of himself at the net for the rest of the match, who will be forever thinking to himself, “Is he going to hit it right at me again? I hope the next volley is going to be a bit lower and aimed right for my groin.” I call that the “fear of God” syndrome, which will prey on the mind of the net man and pay dividends well into the match even if I never hit the same shot again. One dividend is it can sometimes case a net player who likes to crowd the net to stand a lot farther back than he is used to when you are serving, which itself pays dividends in a match because you have put him out of his comfort zone (and also opened the door to hitting more shots down at his feet). But this is also why I don’t use this tactic a lot against players that I regard as friends because it is, well, a bit nasty. Second, and this is an important reason in its own right, I want to be able to figure out just how good the net player’s hands really are at the net. Against a really good volleyer, this tactic will probably not faze him or her at all, who may be able to reflex back a good volley, including possibly a lob volley winner, from a shot hit straight at that person in close range. Thus I have learned something very valuable to know early in the match — be careful of the net person’s hands. He/ she is probably going to be able to dominate from the net during the match and, therefore, my partner and I are going to have to come up with different tactics against this team throughout the match if we want to win. I will save for another post the kinds of different tactics that I like to try to use against players who are superior volleyers in doubles.

    Marty – there is nothing at all wrong with going hard at the net man! Part of the game. george

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