Thousands of tennis fans gather each year in awe of Roger Federer’s volley technique.
Whether on TV or in person, the Federer Volley is admired by fans around the world for its perfection and flawless volley technique. While the Federer Volley is admired by many, few players can hit this shot with consistency.
Many players are reluctant to approach the net, lacking confidence in their volley technique and court coverage. This is unfortunate because many points can be easily won at the net.
One modern player who has gobbled up his fair share of points at the net is Roger Federer, and a quick look at the Federer Volley technique can help players at all levels.
Roger Federer has been called by some experts the greatest player in men’s tennis history, and the reason is not entirely based on his won-loss record or number of major championships won.
Federer has earned that distinction in the minds of many because of his superb all-around game. His serve is formidable, his forehand lethal, his backhand a work of art, and his volley nearly flawless. In short, there are no holes to Federer’s game, no areas that a player can attack. The Federer Volley is one of the elements of his game that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents.
Before digging into the exact Roger Federer Volley technique, let’s first discuss the mental aspects of the volley.
Many players are reluctant to hit volleys because of bad experiences they had in the past. Perhaps as a child first learning the game, you were hit by a ball or two or three when standing at the net during a drill to practice your volley technique.
You never forgot that feeling of the ball hitting you square in the mouth or eye, and that painful memory has formed your game even into adulthood.
Sound far-fetched? Ask a player who is young and fit why he or she does not go to the net, and you will be surprised by how many refer to an earlier bad experience there.
Why Learn From the Roger Federer Volley Technique?
If you have not been smacked by a ball in the nose at the net, then you truly have no excuse not to venture there from time to time to win easy points. Yet, other players avoid the net like the plague for several reasons:
1) They watch the pros and see that they rarely, if ever, go to the net. They then conclude, “If it’s good enough for the pros, then that style is good enough for me. I’m going to stay back.” The reason the pros don’t go to the net is because they do not even have time to approach the net in many cases. The modern game of tennis at the professional level is built on raw power.
Racquets are more powerful, as are the players. Professionals often do not have the time to get to the net and they also have great confidence in their ground strokes. They are thus willing to grind out points from behind the baseline.
You, however, are not a professional. Some of your opponents hit soft shots that you could devour at the net. Your opponents also will be stupefied if you break out a serve-and-volley game for a few points per set. You might not win all of the points that you pursue at the net, but you will win more than one-half if you use sound technique. That leads to the second reason why players do not go to the net:
2) They lose a few points there and conclude that the gamble is not worth the risk.
This occurs many times with players at a lower level. A coach tells them to proceed to the net to win some fast points. The first time a ball whizzes by their ear and lands in, they conclude that the net is not a fair wager. What they don’t realize is if they win four points and lose two, they are still far ahead with their gamble. No player should let a few good passing shots or lobs discourage them from going to the net. In fact, those two possibilities can be greatly reduced when sound strategy and technique are employed, which leads to the third reason why so few players incorporate the volley into their games:
3) They lack total confidence in their volley technique.
Players who have gone to the net from time to time and never practice their volley believe that it is far more difficult than a groundstroke to execute. In fact, the opposite is true. The volley motion is easier than the groundstroke. What is required, however, is focused concentration and an eye on the ball. With that introduction, let’s break down the Roger Federer Volley technique. For a more graphic explanation, several videos are available online showing how Federer hits his volleys.
Technical Elements of the Roger Federer Volley Technique
Roger Federer begins his volley with his head centered over his feet, enabling him to move gracefully and quickly at the net. You, too, should have your feet spread a bit and your shoulders facing the net to be in maximum ready position. Your racquet should be in front of you unless you have guessed to which side your opponent will hit the shot.
Federer‘s Volley Technique, once he begins the motion to strike the volley, extends his left arm for greater balance, much like a figure skater or skateboarder. He does not keep it tucked into his body when hitting a forehand volley.
The Federer Volley features the racquet moving forward from a high position, with the racquet head above the wrist, ensuring stability. The backswing on a volley is, of course, limited. Take the racquet back just a bit and be ready to strike the ball. You will avoid punching the ball by executing a nice follow through in a moment. The entire efficacy of the volley is based on using the speed of the approaching shot against your opponent. Because the ball has not struck the court and suffered the slowing effects of friction, it is coming at you at a greater speed than normal, in all likelihood. That’s why you’ve been afraid of this shot for all these years!
This is the most defining part of the Roger Federer Volley Technique. The head must be still and the eyes following the ball all the way into the strings. As you watch the Federer Volley on tape, you will see his chin almost touching his right shoulder as he watches the ball into the sweet spot of his racquet. Most errors on volleys can be attributed to the player moving his head and eyes off the ball too quickly. This will result in a mis-hit that can further discourage your volleying efforts. Practice keeping your head absolutely still when you hit volleys.
Federer never springs forward to strike his volley too soon. In many cases, the ball is coming too quickly towards him for him to wait even a millisecond. However, on other shots, the ball hangs in the air for a brief moment and he waits until it is close to his racquet before moving towards it. Many other volleys are ruined because the player rushes the motion. Federer almost never does this.
This motion is not just for the ground strokes! It is equally important for the volley. Federer often whips his racquet all the way around his body after a volley to ensure that he does not simply punch the ball weakly.
The Federer Volley is also characterized by the relaxed posture of Mr. Federer. He never appears to be panicked by the ball zooming towards him. He keeps his knees bent and is able to go low and dig ankle-high volleys out because his knees are already supple. Be sure not to simply bend at the waist when a volley is below your belt. You must bend your knees to hit a solid volley. As you bend, your eyes will be much nearer to the ball, a necessity for a volley to imitate the Federer Volley.
Modeling the Roger Federer Volley Technique
Armed with these points in mind, you, too, can have much greater confidence in your volleys and use the stroke to great effect as Roger Federer does. If your opponent pops a ball up or hits one so weakly that it will barely clear the net, consider that shot to be an open invitation to run to the net and punish the ball. Do not get too eager, though. Keep your balance, have your racquet above your wrist, maintain a still head, wait until the ball is upon you and follow through with bent knees to do your best imitation of the Federer Volley.
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