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Monday, December 28, 2015

Offensive Volleys

In The Basic Volley, I discussed the punch volley as an offensive shot and a variation of the punch volley, the block, as a defensive shot. There are additional variations of the volley that are even more powerful shots.

The Poke Stroke

The punch volley is a very short movement of about 3”-6” while the block is a wall that has no movement. The block reduces pace from the return and the punch volley maintains the pace of the return. The poke stroke adds pace by extending the paddle movement to 12” or more. It uses the exact same technique as the punch volley with a longer extension or follow-through. The result is a dramatic increase in the pace of the return. A Deb Harrison video called Poke Stroke is below to illustrate the shot.

The Swing Volley

If the longer movement of the poke stroke can add pace, why not go for even more pace with a much longer swing. The swing volley does exactly that as a hybrid between a punch volley and a groundstroke. The feet and body are positioned like a volley, i.e., an open position with the torso facing the direction of the ball. However, when making the swing volley, the body turns (at the hip) away from the ball during the backswing and then closes when the paddle arm swings across the body as described in The Forehand Ground Stroke

The power of the shot is generated from the shoulder turn and torso rotation and not the step associated with the groundstroke. The ball should be struck in front of the body with a firmly locked wrist. The intent of the shot is to drive the ball past the opponent or overpower his ability to make a return.

The swing volley from the kitchen line is difficult due to the perfect timing it requires. The player is close to his opponents and their shot will arrive much more quickly than for a baseline groundstroke. A more compact swing – especially the backswing - is important to compensate for the speed of the ball. As always, practice, practice, and more practice helps to get the timing right.

The following video, also from Deb Harrison, called Swing Volley, Defending Against Bangers, Part 3 explains the swing volley technique.

The poke stroke and swing volley are incremental steps up in aggressive shot-making. The positive side of being more aggressive is hitting more winners and forcing opponents to make more errors.  The negative side of increased aggressiveness is the increased probability of making a mistake yourself by hitting the return into the net or out of bounds. Remember the principle of keeping the ball in play. Dial back the aggressiveness level a little by reducing the paddle motion or being more selective in choosing which balls to aggressively go after. Also remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to aggressive shot-making.

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