Tips and Instruction for the Tennis Backhand Volley Technique

The backhand volley technique is part of an important stroke when playing the net in expectation of a tennis volley.

The backhand volley technique is part of an important stroke when playing the net in expectation of a tennis volley. Players must learn the proper backhand volley technique and tips so they can hit this shot with consistency.

2007 Medibank International - Day 7The backhand volley is a shot that is rarely practiced but an important component of the tennis volley

As any beginner will probably attest, the backhand volley is one of the last shots he or she ever learned. It is not because it is the most difficult shot to learn but because it is the last basic shot his or her coach ever taught. Tennis lessons usually go from the forehand groundstroke to the backhand groundstroke to the serve to the forehand volley and finally to the backhand volley.

Nevertheless, there are players who master this stroke more than quickly than some of the others. This is especially true of players who are able to develop a good one handed slice backhand. Stefan Edberg and Martina Navratilova are great examples of such players.

The backhand volley is a consistent stroke, meaning no matter what kind of ball is coming in at you, the mechanics of the stroke remain fairly the same. It is therefore of utmost importance to teach the correct fundamentals for this particular stroke.

Backhand Volley: The Grip

All strokes start with a proper grip and for this particular shot, the accepted strokes include the continental grip, eastern backhand grip and the two-handed backhand grip. Of all three, the continental grip is the best because it allows for a much longer reach than the two-handed grip and does not require a grip change to hit a forehand volley. A variation of this grip, called the hammer grip is also accepted and affords the same benefits.

When you are up at the net, it will become obvious why having these advantages is vital. There will be times when you simply have no time to switch grips as when playing doubles and all four players are up at net hitting reflex volleys. Some passing shots are struck so hard and far away that you have to absolutely stretch out for them. Alternatively, there will be some uncomfortably placed volleys right at your chest or navel. You have to quickly position your racket for these shots and the continental grip is the most adaptable of all grips.

There are pros that volley with two hands or with an eastern grip, but these players are exceptional because their hands are probably the quickest on tour. Martina Hingis is one such example but even she volleys with the conventional one-handed continental grip for shots that are beyond the reach of her double hander.

Backhand Volley: Technique and Preparation

Proper preparation is the next key in learning to hit a good backhand volley. As with all other basic shots, preparation deals not just with the racket going back but also the entire body down to the legs and feet. You cannot prepare for a shot if your feet haven’t moved and adjusted to the right stance or position.
For this shot, as soon as you see that the ball is coming, turn your shoulders sideways at once. Your feet, though, should maintain course and propel you towards the ball.

Backhand Volley: Takeback

A good tip to automatically take you to the ball is to move your head to the ball. This might sound dangerous but you will find that instinctively, once you are getting to the ball, you will slow down and adjust to keep the ball at arm’s length, which is the ideal distance to hit it. The racket is taken back high and supported by the non-dominant hand.

This backswing is not as extensive as on a groundstroke. But it can be more pronounced than on a forehand volley, which tends to be more of a blocking motion. Just remember to keep the racket head above the wrist.

Once the ball is in reach, you should hit at it with a slicing motion, keeping the racket face at a consistent angle throughout the stroke. To do this, the wrist must be firm and keep the racket face above it. The arm should ideally be straight. If there is any bend in the elbow, it should only be slight.

Backhand Volley: Mistakes to Avoid

Hitting with a crooked elbow is one of the sure ways to develop tennis elbow. The slicing motion helps ensure that your backhand volley will be well controlled. At the same time, the spin created will make it bounce lower and more difficult for your opponent to hit a passing shot. If you slap at the ball, your shot will be flatter and potentially faster but it will lack control.

It will be difficult to time this kind of shot so you will have a tendency to bury the ball into the net or hit it long depending on how you mis-time it. If you hit it softly, you can control it but the resulting ball will be too easy for your opponent to handle. Remember to always slice through the ball on the backhand volley.

Tennis Backhand Volley: Role of the Non Dominant Hand

Recall that before you hit the ball, your non-dominant hand was supporting the racket on the backswing. As you stroke through the ball, your non-dominant hand releases the racket and moves backward away from your body. This provides maintenance of balance and the correct sideways stance throughout the stroke because it counteracts the tendency of the body to rotate or twist back and face the net. Maintaining this closed stance is another way of ensuring proper ball control. Opening up during the stroke will lead to a tendency to hit all your volleys to your dominant side. You might even find that you will frequently make volleying errors wide of the side-line.

Backhand Volley: Points and Technique

As much as possible, the backhand volley should be hit in front of you and above the height of the net. However, there are many instances when you simply have to hit it a lot lower or later. In cases where the ball drops too low, you should bend primarily with the knees and not the waist. Imagine that your body is supported by springs which represent your legs. These springs coil and uncoil depending upon the height of the incoming ball. But the body has to maintain its upright posture as much as possible.

Tennis Backhand Volley Footwork

Tall players sometimes have no choice but to bend at the waist in addition to bending their knees. On other instances, the ball is so far away that you have to make a full stretching lunge toward the ball. In any case, proper balance needs to be maintained. If the torso has to bend at all, balance is provided not just by the non-dominant arm but also by the back leg. This can be either leg as long as your shoulders are turned and you are on a stable platform but it is usually the same side as the non-dominant arm. The follow through can be longer than it is for the forehand volley but still not as extensive as a regular sliced groundstroke. At this point, you can relax your wrist already but for beginners, it is more advisable to keep it firm and maintain the position of the racket head above throughout.

The footwork on this phase of the stroke sometimes takes the back foot behind the leading foot in order to maintain a sideways stance. This is more pronounced when you have hit your volley down the line or inside out to the opponent’s right corner or side-line. Recovering from the follow through requires a quick split step back to the ready position. Simultaneously, the racket goes back in front of the body, preparing for the next shot.

Practicing the Tennis Backhand Volley

The backhand volley can only be perfected by constant practice. A good drill for this is to hit reflex volleys against a wall from about 3 or 4 feet away. Mark the wall with the height of the net (3 feet at the centre and 3.5 feet at the sides). As much as possible, you should try to hit the ball above the line but not more than 6 inches over it. Above all, use this shot when in an actual match. Gaining experience in match play is the best way to improve a stroke.

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March 3, 2015