I don’t watch much tennis even though I do love watching it. I just don’t get to.
However, I make time to watch at least parts of the end of the year biggie, the ATP World Tour Finals.
My favorite tournament. Crazy cool atmosphere (as crazy cool as I can see on the telly). The stands are mostly in the dark, while the court is the only part that’s lit up.
Another great thing is the format. This tournament has the top 8 players/teams in two round-robin groups of 4. Then top 2 from each group go on to elimination semis. And sometimes opponents that faced each other in the round-robin end up facing each other in the final.
Which is exactly what happened in doubles. Raven Klaasen + Rajeev Ram played against and lost twice to Henri Kontinen + John Peers. Once in group round-robin (3-6, 4-6) and then in the finals (6-2, 1-6, 8-10).
I watched this entire final. Several times, actually.
Why? Because I rewound and fast-forwarded so many times, looking for what I’d like to show you in this article:
The target for non-approaching volleys, or established-at-the-net volleys. This includes poaching volleys.
Why this topic: a lot of the club players I teach hit volleys right to an opposing player. Sometimes because that player is a “magnet,” they say, or because they are taught that way.
The match lasted 71 minutes. I worked on this for several hours. To save you the time and show you what the big dogs do.
So, first: watch this 2m:37s video.
Volley away from opponents video:
Now, for the meat. And potatoes.
Not including 3 easy, close to the net floaters that were crushed with an overhead, there were 30 first-time-in-the-point non-transition volleys in the video above. One or two points had more than one established volleys. We’re not counting those.
Here’s the breakdown:
Wins on subsequent shot: 9
Loses on subsequent shot: 5
So, out of 30, only 3 were missed and they had angle intent.
22 total won.
5 were made, but the point was lost on subsequent shot(s).
Not a single one was an intentional attack towards a net player.
Oh, but coach, you cut out all the other attempts that were meant to attack and overwhelm the net player. Not fair!
You so smart! Yes, I did.
Watch this video to see volleys attacking the net player:
Well, that wasn’t a long video, was it? Nope, I didn’t omit and volley attacks towards a player. The instance at 2:21 in the first video: I counted it as a transition volley. Even though it was directed at the net player, it was not a attacking blast.
Four is the number of volleys directed at net/nearer person with the intent to overwhelm them. And really, number 2 and 4 in the 2nd video were sort of transition volleys, as in serve–>floated return–>attack volley by the server.
Two won, two lost.
Need I say more?
Ok, I will.
First, get the volley in!
These guys never follow the “net-to-net” “rule.” I guess I could watch this video for the 22nd time and count the times when they are attacked and they volley safely towards the deeper player. It occurs several times. They only attack the net player if no other choice and if they know they can overwhelm them. And even then they lose some. Half in this example.
If you absolutely have no choice but to attack a (net) player directly with your volley, do it. It has to be a cracker, though. Otherwise you’ll lose. You may lose anyway.
Look for an open spot.
Until we start playing triples or quadruples, there will almost always be an open spot.
By open I don’t necessarily mean so open that it’s an easy and automatic winner. I just mean a space unoccupied by an opponent.
Angle, singles sideline, middle, whichever. Be intentional with the target. I know you can be, because you’re intentional with making your opponent the target.
Hit to that spot. With control. Yes, control. No, don’t crack it. It’ll be more precise. Make them hit a weak volley. Get them stretched and out of position. Then you may win on subsequent shot(s) because of the space you created AND because of the likely weak volley coming back.
Go practice. Over and over. Find a spot to volley to.
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I’d love to hear your thoughts. Use the comments area below. There are so many scenarios and MJ’s “yeah, buts,” that I can’t cover them all. I would be writing a novel analyzing everything. But if YOU have a specific scenario you’d like for me to address, comment and I will address it.