The Shot NOT Practiced

Rick Leach
Rick Leach
You are serving in doubles. You hit a decent serve and charge towards the net, split-stepping about at the service line to hit the incoming return of serve at your waist or below. This is a very important and frequently played shot… but almost nobody practices it!

Where Do You Stand?

Think about it. If you are one of the minority of tennis players who actually DO practice tennis at all, when you are practicing your volleys, where are you standing? Most people practice their volleys standing midway in the service box – or even closer to the net.

And when you warm up before a match and are taking volleys, where do you stand? Again, most everyone is midway or closer to the net. That close-in volley is so much easier to hit and is mostly just a block-back shot. But the service line volley is a totally different stroke.

In fact, at Newk’s camp last year, American doubles specialist Rick Leach told the group that one of their standard practice drills is what they used to call “Emmo’s” (after the Legend, Roy Emerson); where practice partners stood on the opposing service lines and hit waist high volleys back and forth.

So, if the shot is so important, why doesn’t any practice it??

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8 thoughts on “The Shot NOT Practiced

  1. Good stuff, George. I practice my volleys from the T. Though I suspect in the course of hitting them I probably take a couple of steps forward. But not too many. People who hit volleys close to the net are building bad skills, akin to practicing free throws from ten feet.

    Joel – But sadly, you are in the minority when it comes to “smart tennis practice and play.” thanks, george

  2. George, this is a good topic. I always try to practice the service line volley, both in practice sessions and in warm up before a match. I have been doing this well before I ever heard any of the Legends mention it during Newk’s tennis camp — probably as long as I have played tennis, I think. However, I agree with you that not a lot of players do this, or even have any understanding of its value.

    I think I first practiced volleys from the service line doing this because my original tennis coach instructed that not only does the volley from a deeper position more closely mimic a first volley when approaching the net after a serve, or on a chip and charge return, but you can also use this as an opportunity to practice reflexive half volleys from mid court — which are, if anything, even more rarely practiced by most tennis players and are a very valuable shot to have in your arsenal, especially for doubles. Also, the ability to hit a low volley or half volley near the service line is a MUST HAVE shot if you ever play on grass or a very fast hard court, like a wooden basketball court that has been converted to a tennis court. When playing on those types of surfaces, the key is to never let the ball touch the ground if you can help it, and to be prepared to hit low volleys or half volleys if the ball does bounce before you can get to it with a normal ground stroke.

    However, one thing I have noticed is that, quite frequently, opposing players in warm up are clueless as to what you are asking for when you stand on the service line to hit practice volleys.

    Marty – One of my regular drills during practice sessions is doing reflex volleys, with both of us starting on the T. Incredibly valuable! thanks, george

  3. George, I think this is a great point. I’ll bet I spend 7-10 hours a week hitting on my ball machine. Many of the folks at our club are amazed that so much time is spent doing such a mundane thing as “practicing”. But what a difference it makes. It is true that practice sets are invaluable for any player, but just as important is KNOWING that you cannot only hit these important shot but also knowing that you can “feel” these shots is needed. Lob volleys and approach volleys and normal first volleys are the butter we all need to possess so that we actually do have those bread and butter patterns competitive matches provide.

    Rick is one of those Pros we all need to listen to, and you are providing a great service to all of old geezers. Remember practice does NOT make perfect. Limited practice makes limited play – undisciplined practice makes undisciplined play – and complete practice makes, well, a complete player.

    Thanks George, you are a voice I listen to always!

    Patrick – thanks! george

  4. Coincidentally, I just came from the ball machine court where I practiced particular volleys (high floaters) – from near the service line. I also often practice from beyond the service line, as my weenie little serve makes me have to hit *lots* of half volleys. 🙂

    I *also*, as I often do, set up the camera to record the session. If you think folks think yer weird because yer out there practicing, imagine how weird they think you are carting a tripod out to the courts. 🙂 But, the value is *huge* to me, as I never look like what i thought I look like. It’s *always* much worse. 🙂 But, if you can get past the embarrassment. . .

    I also post a fair number of my videos on YouTube, as I think the laughs should be shared. 🙂

    Kevin – you and i (and a few others) are in the fraternity of committed tennis practicers. Stay weird! george

  5. George has actually practiced on this very court and with that same ball machine here in Savannah. Staying weird should be absolutely no problem. 🙂

  6. George…agree 100 %

    One drill we run came from the Bryan Brothers…the romanian davis cup volley drill.

    Start at opposite corners at base of service box. Players volley across at each other while moving to left. Reverse direction when you hi the sideline.

    Good for practicing deep volleys and for moving and hitting vs static drill.

    Kirk – yes, i have done that drill and it is challenging! thanks, george

  7. I also practice/warm up volleys from the service line ….have done so for years

    also video taped my self for years….

    I’m always amazed at guys who practice volleys 2 feet from the net….
    sometimes I ask them …how many times are you that close in a match?

    Sal – And those same guys practice their overheads from deep in the court, without having to back up — as they would in a match. thanks, george

  8. Hi George. Ironic. I did a bonus video bonus for Pete Freeman’s recent “Legends” course (that featured Emmo and other Aussie greats).

    My video was how I practice that doubles transitional shot smack dab in the middle of No Man’s Land.

    Exactly as Coach Leach describes, I put myself in either the deuce / ad side NML’s area (1/2 way between the service line & baseline) and have a practice partner cross court in their respective deuce / ad side NML’s area and fire away.

    You get low & high volleys, 1/2 volleys, and even little approach shot sitters that help desensitize yourself to those shots and build real confidence for matches. Do this once a week for awhile, and wow 😉

    Thanks George for all you’re doing out there for senior tennis. Brent

    Brent – It is amazing the shots we do NOT practice. thanks, george

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