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TENNIS TIPS: The tricky forehand volley

August 24, 2013
By JAK BEARDSWORTH ( , Lake Placid News

So what's so tricky about it? When you turn into a one-handed backhand volley - even two-handed back courters go to one hand at the net - the hitting shoulder is naturally positioned in front, versus the forehand where the shoulder initially moves away from the net while preparing, making striking the ball in front more challenging.

And there's more.

The first thing to notice about the forehand volley technique pictured above is that I'm playing the shot eye-high with the racket elevated from my wrist at about a 45-degree angle. This, coupled with the accompanying lowered center of gravity and the resulting forward posture, equals textbook stuff.

Article Photos

Photo by Shaun Ondak
Jak Beardsworth demonstrates how to position for striking a forehand volley.

Since backcourt opponents are geared to keeping the ball low to the net when you're positioned there, or when moving in, keeping the racket head up is essential when getting down for the ball to avoid dumping it into the net. Dropped racket heads spell trouble.

Perhaps that's where the generations-old saying, "bend your knees, $5 please," comes from, back when far more balls were taken in the air.

The eye-high cue also leads to better ball-tracking - can't succeed without that. What better way to see the ball clearly, and keep it in front, than keeping your eyes on the plane of the approaching ball?

With those approaching balls varying in height, keeping them "high" in the strike zone will produce opportunities to be more aggressive and do damage - a much less likely outcome if one is playing the net "tall."

Now what about the wrist action, or no action as the popular misperception endures?

Yes, there is some subtle wrist on the forehand volley, which is exactly what provides that extra pop and control. Keeping a "stiff wrist" is analogous to trying to volley with a surgically fused one - the Frankenstein volley. Not good.

"Winning ugly" - think Brad Gilbert - isn't going to work this time.

In the preparation stage, just lay-it-back a bit but avoid getting the racket head much past your ear. The forward wrist flexion then occurs going forward as the racket meets the ball. That's when the racket wins the collision handily. You'll feel the effortless power. But absolutely keep in mind that it doesn't "break" loosely through the hitting zone, although there is some limited follow through. Just no wavy gravy, please.

Then it's just a matter of recovering for the next ball - that is if there is one.


Do your best. Always aspire higher. Love the game.

Jak Beardsworth, USPTA Elite Pro, is available for lessons at the Crowne Plaza-Lake Placid Club., 941-626-0097,



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