Melbourne, 13 June 2013 | Simon Youl | Australian Tennis Magazine

ATMWhy develop your net game?

By developing your net game you will build a stronger armoury of choice to do battle on all surfaces against a variety of opponents.  Improving this area provides more tactical options and your offensive game and weapons will reap the benefits – and yes, it’s more fun!


The four phases

In looking at your technical fundamentals within your shot, always look at the four phases:

  • Preparation phase (balance, ready position grip and initial turn),
  • Swing phase (backswing and forward swing)
  • Impact phase
  • Follow through recovery phase.


Get the right grip

The right grips will provide a solid foundation for your net game. The forehand volley should be played with a composite or continental grip and the backhand volley a continental. The composite is somewhere between the eastern forehand and continental. Your overhead should be a full continental grip.

Develop an overhead with an abbreviated backswing that allows you to hit to all areas of the court. And don’t forget to work on your jump smash. Obviously for drive volleys your ground stroke grips will be used.


Master the volley

Achieving wrist stability in your grip will provide a foundation to develop a stronger swing. The non-dominant hand should be supporting the racquet head at the throat in readiness for all volleys, including players with double-handed backhands.

Move to the ball with strong flexed legs and fast feet with small steps to control balance and reach wide floating balls. It’s important to push from your right foot to move to the backhand volley and push with your left foot to move to a forehand volley.

Keep a strong base of support before and after contact of the ball. Only use lunging steps for balls powered past a volleyer. Players must learn after flow stepping to move to any ball to the side with time as if it had been perfectly fed to them.

In your initial turn, align your shoulders horizontally to the ball path and then keep your eyes and head balanced over the ball contact position to the completion of the swing. Use your non-dominant hand on both volleys as a balancer when you initiate your forward swing and follow through.

Understand the different size backswings for various shot situations and ball heights but predominantly work on the short backswing, as this is needed to control power coming at you.

On your forehand volley work on keeping the hand and arm in front of the hitting shoulder and on shortening the backhand swing and allow your arm out to the side on stretch a little.

On your forward swing keep the racquet head above your wrist, creating a high-to-low racquet trajectory with good understanding that the racquet face needs to also travel slightly inside the ball.


Final tips

  • At contact/impact point, the wrist should be solid but flexible through contact.
  • Maintain strong mental projection image in relation to net height and ball contact height. Always take the net out of play to improve consistency in this department.
  • Your head should remain still and your eyes muyst stay over the contact point until the shot is executed. The biggest mistake players make under pressure is taking a sneak look too early from contact. Keeping your head and eyes there longer creates total process versus results-based thinking and better racquet head control.
  • Know when to absorb power or deliver it through feeling in your hand, as well as the amount of racquet speed needed to hit through your target area. Don’t grip the racquet tight.
  • Think effect of spin for desired outcome of shot and optimum penetration.
  • On follow through, create a habitual check of racquet head towards target area on waist high to low balls. Make sure you keep your body weight moving forward dynamically.
  • Stay balanced at all times and be extremely reactive with recovery and anticipation in readiness for the next shot. Follow the ball path of your volley and then recover.
  • Master the feel (it’s all in the hands) using pace, taking pace off, creating your own pace.
  • Understand that your racquet face determines all outcomes. Know what it’s doing!

Next week

In the second part of “Improve your net game”, Simon Youl advises on volley zones, provides key tactical advice and gives his top tips for developing your net game.

For more tips from the experts on how to improve your game, check out the latest edition of Australian Tennis Magazine.

Simon Youl competed on the ATP Tour for 13 years and has been a coach for the past 12 years. He is now a National Coach based in Tasmania and is a Tennis Australia High Performance qualified coach.