patrick rafter volley with your feet

Volley with your feet… or not

There seems to be an obsession (strong word) with moving toward/to/through a volley. “Volley with your feet.”

Many websites including tennis.com and teaching pros encourage players to use their feet. Hence, players do it.

There is a tennis commentator who loves that phrase. I have heard it from several of them.

This is a true story: I like to follow Horia Tecau. In case you haven’t hard of him, he’s been doing well in men’s and mixed doubles on the tour.

I was watching a recent match of Horia’s and he missed a forehand volley in the tape of the net. He looked amazing doing it.

But the commentator said the error was due to his not using his feet. In my humble opinion, that assessment was incorrect. He couldn’t have gotten any lower, used his feet more, been more balanced, etc.

Do we ever consider what the hand is actually doing?

How about, “Horia may have been so focused on keeping the ball low that he just missed by an inch.” Or, “if only his racquet angle was a slight bit more open, he would have made that volley.” Or, simply, “Horia missed a volley.”

Anyway, some or quite a few of the players I see and/or teach heed the advice to “volley with your feet” and “move the feet through the volley.”

No matter what the situation.

Even when they are being bombed with a Davenport-like forehand and even though there is no time to move the feet, they do anyway.

They jump, they even scissor-kick, really (especially on the backhand volley). The result is most often a poor volley, like a miss-hit, total shank, miss.

Even though the results aren’t great most of the time, the jumping-swinging-volley-no-matter-what-ball-they’re-getting players keep doing it, encouraged by the amazing result they come up with here and there.

I have some video footage of some of my players, but to protect the guilty, I will not publish those examples here. You’ll have to believe me. They do it. You may, too.

Let’s just look at two examples from the world of the gods of men’s doubles. One where moving through the volley is appropriate and one when it’s not.

Volley with your feet example:

Wow! Is Nestor moving through that volley or what? YES! Why?
– He has some time as he’s transitioning.
– The serve is quite good and Mike’s return is a block, not a bomb.

When not to volley with your feet:

In the video below, Mike Bryan is being attacked off a previous weak-ish volley. I slowed down the video to where the Nestor’s forehand groundstroke seems slow. But it’s a big one. I did that for you to better see Mike’s volley.

Big ball coming. Therefore, no feet. Hips and hands. Absorb and redirect. That’s it! That’s. IT!

Do I see club players being attacked and still swing-volleying, jumping, dashing, “attacking,” “moving forward through the” volley? Yes!

Not every volley is an opportunity to attack the ball, go to it and volley with our feet.

So next time you’re being attacked by a big groundstroke, with little time, it’s OK not to move your feet besides maybe a little hip action and small balance-maintaining step.

Stay quiet, smooth, still and balanced, watch the ball all the way to the strings and absorb pace towards the desired direction.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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