How to Volley in Tennis? Top Tips On Technique

A volley is where a tennis player takes the tennis ball out of the air before it bounces. Volleys are often executed by players at or near the service line. Volleys are often aggressive since their main goal is to exhaust your opponent or disrupt the rally’s timing, giving you the opportunity to catch them off guard or win the point right away.

A player does not get much time to react so a player must be prepared when executing a volley.  I always think Jamie Murray has some of the best reactions at the net of any player I have seen.

Forehand volleys often require the use of the player’s dominant hand and arm, whereas backhand volleys call for the use of the non-dominant hand (making it a more difficult shot). During volleys, most players use a Continental grip.

In this article we will cover the following areas related to the volley;

  • Technique
  • Position
  • Type of volleys
  • Tennis volley drills
  • Best 5 volley tennis players


The first thing you do in the volley technique is turn your shoulders. Don’t make a big swing with your arm because you don’t have enough time for that. Turning the shoulders up to 45 degrees angle is enough backswing on the volleys, and the elbows should stay close to the body.

The next important thing is to follow with your legs. The best timing for going through with legs is while there is a contact point with the ball.

The right grip for volleys is the continental forehand grip, and you keep the same grip for backhand and forehand volleys as you don’t have much time to change when you are at the net.

Make sure you do a proper split step at the right time to be in a position to react to your opponent’s shot.

Forehand technique:

For the forehand volley, your racquet face should always face your opponent. After turning your shoulders and hips, you must step forward with your left foot, leaving your right leg behind. You should also keep your left hand up and outstretched away from your body. You will bring the forehand volley into your body as you hit it, bringing both arms together. You’ll be able to maintain control and balance as a result.

Below is Miki demonstrates the correct body position for hitting a forehand volley.  Note how still his head and body are and how his backswing is compact.

Backhand technique:

You must lock your hips and feet early and pace the volley properly to hit a nice backhand volley. You’ll expand your hips to drive your racquet head forward into the ball once your hips are closed and the racquet is just behind you. When doing a backhand volley, most people make the mistake of raising their racquet too high. As a result, they chop down on the volley, and the ball pops up slowly.

Because of this, I like to start with my racket lower than I think it should be. If I need to, I can raise it as I hit a full swing.


While hitting the volley, make sure you’re going forward and not sideways or backward. Your feet and body weight should be going toward the shot while leaning forward. You should transfer your weight from your back foot to your front foot when you hit the volley, opening your hips from their contracted position to allow your arms to release energy into the ball through the racquet.

Many players are afraid to close into the net and keep their forward momentum for fear of being smacked. There are two important positions on the net for the volleys. The first position is around the service line, and that’s the place where you will play the first volley. Sometimes, if you are not fast enough, it can also be a half-volley, which is a shot where you hit the ball very soon after it bounces.

Usually, with this shot, you should try to find a good placement, either playing deep or keeping the ball low after it bounces to your opponent’s side and prepare for a finishing volley in the next shot. If you hit a good volley shot, your position for the finishing volley should be as close to the net as possible. That’s a position where you will have many options to finish the point with a volley, including a drop shot.

Type of Volley;

Regular Volley is a volley that you usually hit a bit from outside of the ball, giving a little bit of slice rotation to the ball, using a continental grip, and keeping your elbow close to the body. Positions for this volley are either around the service line or inside a service box.

Half volley

When a player hits the ball off the ground shortly after it bounces, it is called a half volley. Because the ball is rising as the player hits it, the half volley is often referred to as an “on the rise shot.” Because you hit the ball after it bounces rather than before it bounces, the timing required for the half-volley is considerably more challenging than it is for a standard volley. The half-volley calls for a comparable compact movement and fast footwork, even if it isn’t a real volley. One of the hardest shots to pull off well as it requires soft hands and the perfect placement of the ball so your opponent does not have an easy shot.

Drop shot volley:

This type of volley is usually played as a finishing shot, depending on where your opponent is and where you are on the court. If you are close to the net, this is the easiest way to finish the point. For drop volley, you must have soft hands and a good touch.

Swinging/Drive volley

A swinging volley violates the standard volley technique. When a player smacks the oncoming ball out of the air with a full groundstroke swing, it is known as a “swinging volley.” When caught in no man’s land, players frequently throw a swinging volley (the space between the service line and baseline).

Advanced players should use the swinging volley because it demands the ideal combination of pace, power, and swing to prevent it from crossing the opponent’s baseline.  Serve and volley is not that often a tactic in tennis today as the balls are slower than in the past. Currently, the only player using that is Maxime Cressy (ATP No. 37). Pete Sampras and Roger Federer were two of the best players in tennis history to use such shots and clean volleys. The advantage of that game is that you give your opponent less time to recover after the return. Not many of the top players today use serve and volley as they play more of a baseline style.

Placement of the volleys

The decision of where to play a volley depends on a few factors. If you play a volley from the service line, you will mostly have to play a low volley, and in that case, you should aim for a deep and precise shot. If you are hitting a high volley above or around your shoulder height, you can really attack it and play it more aggressively looking for a winner. In the second case, try to be as close to the net as you can.

Tennis volley drills;

Below are three-volley exercises that I really like and will help you improve your volleys.

1) With your partner across the net, start by playing volleys only from the service line for the first 10 to 15 minutes. This will give you a lot of repetition and help for your first volley in the match.

2) Three volleys exercise. This is a wonderful serve and volley exercise that is more on the advanced side. The drill will only be performed by one player, however, extra help is required to feed the balls. Start the exercise with the player around three feet behind the service line. You get three fast volleys from the player on the other side of the net. The first volley is taken from the starting point. After hitting the opening volley, you quickly approach, hit the second volley, advance one more, and finally hit the last volley.

You should be, at the very least, 5-6 feet from the net when you make your third and final volley. It is advisable that the person feeding the ball, feed the balls directly after each other. Feed quicker and lower shots to a player who is more experienced to make the volley more difficult. The feeder may choose to hit all three volleys to either the forehand, backhand, or at random.

The player returns to the location three feet behind the service line and repeats the practice after all three balls have been volleyed. The feeder has the choice to launch a lob for an overhead smash once the three volleys are made.

This exercise is great for improving your volleys as you move in, but it might burn you out if done fast. For this practice, the split-step is encouraged. Advanced players, though, can dispense with it in favor of a fluid volley. Your technique can get incorrect while completing this practice fast, therefore it’s a good idea to record yourself to track your development.

3) Volley to volley. One of the greatest exercises for improving your volley game is this one. It should be used during every session and, if used regularly, will definitely improve your reflexes. This exercise is for two people. One person on each side of the net will stand at the service line. I prefer to position myself in the middle of the court so that there is enough room to my left and right. Hit the ball to your buddy first. The ball should ideally be volleyed into the air by your partner and hit directly to you. Then you will volley it back to your partner while it is in the air.

We’ll keep doing this until one of you misses. Just start over when it happens. To practice your volleys, you want to hit the ball at each other. Don’t attempt to hit hard to try to score the point. This drill is not intended to achieve that. Half volleys are also acceptable because the ball may occasionally not come to you. You can go a little closer to the service line to volley, but if you do, the practice will get very challenging for both of you since the ball will be moving too quickly.

When you initially master this practice, it could be challenging to get more than a few volleys in return. Use a continental grip and start slowly when hitting each other. After each volley, get back to the ready position as soon as you can. With consistent practice, you will soon be able to hit several volleys before missing. Remember that this is a practice session, not a competition. The goal is to keep the ball in play for as long as you can, not to smash it past your partner.

Best 6 Volleyers in the game – our view

Roger Federer is renowned for his all-around abilities, which include excellent volleys. He has 20 Grand Slam victories, and his accurate touch and fluid movement at the net makes him a tough opponent. Federer Volley Slow Motion 2018 (HD) – YouTube

Stefan Edberg, who won six Grand Slam singles championships and eight Grand Slam doubles titles, was a master of the serve-and-volley game. His smooth, effective net style was famous.

John McEnroe is known as one of the best serve-and-volley players of all time. He has won seven Grand Slam singles titles and nine Grand Slam doubles titles. He had an unmatched touch and feel at the net.

Pete Sampras won 14 Grand Slam singles championships and seven Grand Slam doubles championships. He was a strong volleyer and server. He was a feared opponent because of his aggressive technique toward the net.

Martina Navratilova: With 18 Grand Slam singles championships and 31 Grand Slam doubles trophies, Navratilova was a dominant force in women’s tennis. In both singles and doubles, she possessed unrivaled talent at the net.

Jamie Murray: I think having a specialist doubles player in makes sense.  Jamie has been world number 1 doubles player previously and has incredible reflexes at the net.  His volley style is so simple, little movement and takes the ball early.

If you remember anything, pls remember these four things to improve your volley

  1. Make sure you have a continental forehand grip
  2. Stay closer to the net.
  3. Keep your backswing short
  4. Be purposeful in your volley

Final Thoughts

A volley is a real weapon in the game of tennis.  Today the volley is having some form of a renaissance as the game has evolved, more drop shots and tweeners are in the game and therefore there is more net play than there was 10 years ago. Follow our tips and you will not go far wrong in playing your volleys.

David Harris

David is the founder and chief writer at Tennis Pursuits. A tennis fanatic, David has extensive experience of the game and has reviewed 100s of products to date. He is passionate about helping others on their tennis journey.

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