A later impact position
So, we all know the importance of volleying, and also forcing yourself forwards to the ‘T’ quickly after any drive from the back, all with the aim to take the ball as early as possible (ie. volley) to put relentless pressure on your opponent. What I am talking about here though is a slightly later impact point at which you hit the ball in relation to your front leg – especially on the backhand volley, but on every shot.
Whenever I see people trying to reach out and hit the ball in front of their body, they do not control the ball well, in particular relation to the tightness of the shot to the side wall. Hitting the ball in front of your front leg more often than not leads to the ball hitting the front wall and then coming away from the side wall. I have seen so many people give ‘strokes’ away because of this.
If you hit the ball when it is ever so slightly behind your front leg (not behind your body but behind your front leg), you will find that the ball always runs along the side wall. Your shots will be much tighter – this is really obvious when playing straight volley drop shots on the backhand. Gregory Gaultier does this perfectly. You can see a slow-motion video of me performing this at the bottom of the page.
This video looks at it with an angle to hit the ‘nick’ – it works even more effectively when striking the ball closer to the side wall when all you can do is to hit the ball tight along the side wall.
Another advantage of this technique, is that your opponent cannot see the point of impact. This means they cannot read your racket angle so it adds deception. I find so often people expect a boast (because experience tells them that if somebody hits the ball slightly later they will boast the ball) and then you find yourself sending your opponent the wrong way on a simple straight drive or straight volley drop. Very satisfying! Nick Matthew does this well on his backhand volley.
The only danger of this when you start out, is if you mis-judge the flight of the ball, you can make impact slightly too late, and the ball is too far behind your body, and you will probably catch the side wall before the front wall. You will soon get used to the judgement (sooner than you think) and even if you do impact the ball ever so slightly too late, you will be able to use a bit of wrist to straighten the ball the required amount, or if you do allow the ball to go too far behind you, you can just whip in a quick boast.
I am a big advocate for this technique and have recently seen it work for top professionals and club players who I’ve been coaching. Give it a try.