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Why volleys are still a crucial part of the game

This is an excerpt from Tennis Anatomy by Paul Roetert & Mark S. Kovacs.

Volleys

Although elite players don't come to the net as much as they used to since passing shots have improved significantly with new equipment, volleys are still an important part of the game, especially if you predominantly play doubles.
The net game is still critical for doubles play at every level. Many points in doubles are won by a well-angled volley or put-away overhead. In addition, as players adjust to strong passing shots, they will learn new skills and methods related to attacking the net. All-court players in particular are continually looking for ways to end the point by moving forward. Many athletes who do not play at the professional level also look for a variety of ways to put away the ball.

Being fit enough to endure a long match while pressuring your opponent could be the difference between winning and losing. Coaches know that good volleys are hit with the feet as well as the hands. You have to be in proper position to volley well. Therefore, training the legs is probably the most important activity you can participate in to become a good volleyer. Lunges in all directions should receive particular attention because these movements mimic the on-court demands for volleying.

Since volleys require excellent movement skills, training the legs is key. Volleys require similar lower body movements as groundstrokes; however, the muscular actions may be more exaggerated. Greater flexion and extension at the hips, knees, and ankles in particular are likely. In addition, many of these movement patterns will be repeated at a faster speed the closer you are to your opponent. Muscles of the lower body need to be trained eccentrically as well as concentrically. Volleys are shorter strokes with an abbreviated backswing and follow-through compared with groundstrokes, although the same upper body muscles are used. Therefore, eccentric strength for the follow-through is key for immediate success and protection of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

If players have time, they often hit volleys with closed stances. Since the swing is shorter, weight transfer becomes more important. Stepping forward facilitates the weight transfer.

During the backswing of both the forehand and backhand volleys, the gastrocnemius, soleus, quadriceps, gluteals, and hip rotators contract eccentrically to load the lower legs and begin the hip rotation. The concentric contractions of the trunk rotation phase involve the ipsilateral internal oblique and contralateral external oblique, while the eccentric contractions pull in the contralateral internal oblique, ipsilateral external oblique, abdominals, and erector spinae. For the forehand volley, the concentric contractions of the shoulder and upper arm rotation in the transverse plane are performed by the middle and posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, infraspinatus, and teres minor and are followed by contractions of the wrist extensors. The eccentric contractions of the shoulder and upper arm rotation in the transverse plane are performed by the anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, and subscapularis. In the backhand volley, these concentric and eccentric actions are exactly opposite.

During the forward swing of both the forehand and backhand volleys, the gastrocnemius, soleus, quadriceps, gluteals, and hip rotators contract both concentrically and eccentrically to drive the lower body and hip rotation. Concentric and eccentric contractions of the obliques, back extensors, and erector spinae cause the trunk to rotate. For the forehand volley, the latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoid, subscapularis, biceps, and pectoralis major all contract concentrically during the acceleration phase to bring the racket to the ball for contact. For the backhand volley, the acceleration phase of the upper arm is performed through concentric contractions of the infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid, and trapezius.

During the follow-through phase of the forehand volley, the upper arm decelerates through the eccentric contractions of the infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid, rhomboids, serratus anterior, trapezius, triceps, and wrist extensors. During the backhand volley, the upper arm decelerates through the eccentric contractions of the subscapularis, pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and biceps.

Read more about Tennis Anatomy by Paul Roetert and Mark Kovacs.