Pat Rafter was one of the greatest serve and volley athletes in history. A vicious kick serve and a crushing net game took him No.1 in the world and back to back US.Open Championships. So what can the average club player learn from Rafter? Providing you have solid technique and the right grip (continental), you should be well on your way to having a great net game, right? Its not always that easy, as even the best of us routinely flub the high volley or just can’t seem to dig out the low ball at the feet. These are the two of the toughest volleys in tennis. The volley that is above the shoulder, or the ball that is dropping at the feet. Using these two quick tips can help you master the low volley and improve your high volleys.
Heres what we can take from Rafter’s net game!
The High Volley
KEEP THE CONTACT POINT AWAY FROM THE BODY
Keeping the contact point away from your body on high volley allows you to time the ball better and make sure your body weight is leaning forward, an earlier contact point also allows you to create short angles for put away volleys. A huge problem at the club level with high volleys is players swinging at the ball. Swinging at the ball reduces your control over the stroke and often causes you to contact the ball late, sending it long. You can see in these images of the higher volley (forehand and backhand) that Rafter’s contact point is in front of him, away from the body. Following through on a high volley is ok. Taking the racquet well behind your back to hit the ball is not. Sometimes you will see Professional players swing a bit on their volley for extra power. Keep in mind their timing at the net is finely tuned!
The Low Volley
KEEP THE CONTACT POINT CLOSE TO THE BODY
As you can see in the image above, the contact point for Rafters low volley is much closer to his body than the higher volley, this allows him to keep his eye level closer to the strings which results in much better ball control. On this tough volley the most import pressing obstacle is clearing the net. Staying low and keeping the ball close lets you control your racquet face much better. Making sure you split step and get your feet close to ball will also help you improve your low volley.
Although the presence of the net game is sadly less prominent in todays power game, knowing what to do when you get there will keep your opponents guessing and add a great dimension to your singles and doubles game!
See you on the courts!
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