Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Half Volley

The importance of getting to the kitchen has been emphasized to the point where I don't need to reiterate that point. Instead, today's post will discuss a shot needed to to overcome the disadvantage of being in no-man's land as progress toward the net is made. 

The subject shot is called a half volley. The name is a bit of a misnomer, though, as it is actually a groundstroke. The shot is defined as "A groundstroke shot where the paddle contacts the ball immediately after it bounces from the court and before the ball rises to its potential height." A half volley is needed when an opponent hits a shot to a player's feet, thus requiring a return made on the "short-hop". The most likely area where this occurs is in the mid-court as players earn their way to the net.

Let's start the discussion with a video from Deb Harrison called Half-Volley Pick Up.

Deb emphasizes several points:
  • The objective is to first get the ball back over the net. This is a difficult shot on which to be on the offense so the idea is to just make the opponent hit one more time.
  • The best way for the ball to be hit back is low over the net. Obviously, a high ball is never a good thing as it will be pounded back.
  • Another option is a lob over the opponents' heads. The speed of the shot makes the control of the lob's arc very difficult and the risk is a short lob to the opponents.
  • Deb's technique is to block the ball with a slightly open face as pictured below.

When you watch the video, please note the height of Deb's returns. If there is one problem with her technique, it is that all of her half volleys are high, as shown below. The ball is near the top of the screen shot above and to the left of Deb.

Paul Coletta, a 5.0 national champion, gave me some advice recently to help keep the ball lower. He talked about the "angle of deflection". That essentially means that the ball is already headed upward when struck so an open paddle face should be minimized. I'll try to explain using the diagrams below. The first shows the angle of the ball off the paddle with an open face.

The second diagram shows the ball angle off a closed (perpendicular) paddle face.

The difference in the close-up is subtle, but the angle is obviously more acute in the second diagram. A wider angle means the ball will rise to a greater height over distance. Therefore, a more perpendicular paddle face will mean a lower shot. The following sequence of photos shows this closed-face shot.

Several items should be noted in the first 2 photos. The first photo shows how low the player and paddle must go to hit this shot. A player must really bend his knees and take the paddle to just above the playing surface. The paddle then is brought slightly forward and up to hit the ball just after it bounces. The paddle face is nearly fully closed on impact.

The third photo shows the paddle position on follow-through. There is very little stroke on the shot. The ball's forward speed and distance is determined by the speed of the ball after its bounce off the surface. The stroke is largely a simple block on hard shots with some swing added to softer shots. Also note the ball on this particular shot. It is to high to be considered a good shot. This occurred despite a closed face due to he combination of the angle of deflection and the amount of upward movement of the paddle.

In this case, the ball was hit to the opponent at shoulder height at the kitchen line, making for a potentially easy game-ender.

The most difficult aspect of the half volley is getting the paddle into position to make the return. First, the ball is at the player's feet. Second, it is generally hit hard. A player must have quick hands to get positioned properly. It also helps to anticipate the shot by watching the opponent's body language and paddle.

A second layer of difficulty is added when a player's depth on the court is considered. The paddle face angle is different when a half volley is hit from the baseline versus a half volley hit at the kitchen line. As the kitchen line is neared, the paddle face needs to be more open in order get over the closer net. But the ball is also coming at a steeper angle from the opponent, meaning a more closed face would be in order. The only way to develop the feel for a proper paddle angle is to drill with a partner hitting shots toward your feet.

No comments:

Post a Comment