by Will Boucek

August 27, 2021   

Today, I want to show you why the backhand volley is one of my favorite shots in doubles.

Wait… the backhand volley?

Yes. I don’t mean I like hitting backhand volleys – I prefer my forehand. What I mean is, I love watching my opponents hit them.

Ever play a team that crowds the net? Hit at their backhand volley.

Up against a serve and volleyer? Go to the backhand side.

In a crosscourt rally that you know you shouldn’t be in? Tell your doubles partner to poach. If that doesn’t work, try the net player’s backhand volley.

3 Times To Hit at the Backhand Volley

There are really 3 times you should be trying to find the backhand volley. I’ll go through each, and common misconceptions about each.

#1 – When Both Opponents Crowd the Net

Wait, why not lob?

Good question. Lobbing can work, but here’s the thing about lobbing.

Lobs are only effective up to a certain level of tennis. If you’re a 3.5 player, and happy staying at 3.5, then by all means, keep lobbing.

But, if you want to improve to the 4.0, 4.5 or even 5.0 level, lobbing will NOT get you there.

I’ve looked at the data on this and the win % of doubles teams that lob at high levels is very low, like under 15%.

So instead, when both opponents are crowding the net, find the weaker player and hit at their backhand volley.

#2 – Against the Serve and Volley

Players who serve and volley prefer hitting the half volley on their forehand side. So try hitting a return to their backhand side instead.

Again, change up the pace, spin, and height you’re hitting with to find the most effective ball to hit. Generally, the lower the better so they pop the ball up which will allow your partner at the net to poach.

#3 – Stuck in a Crosscourt Rally (Against a Better Player)

I’m not great at rallying crosscourt for more than 3 or 4 shots, so I generally try to get to the net (if I’m playing smart). That’s okay though because most points don’t last that long.

But if you are in a crosscourt rally against someone who can out hit you, take the first opportunity to come in or hit at the net player.

One mistake people make is they try to hit a winner here. When you’re going at the net player, don’t always go for the down-the-line winner. It depends how easy the shot you have is, but most times, going at the backhand volley is the higher percentage play.

On the ad side that means hitting just left of the center net strap to make the net player stab at a weak backhand volley.

On the deuce side, you are going to hit down the alley, but again, don’t always go for the clean winner. I like to hit into their body on the backhand side. They usually miss or pop it up for an easy next shot.

Rules for Hitting at the Backhand Volley

When you’re attacking a players backhand volley, change up the shots your giving them.

Here are a few rules to follow.

  1. Start by trying to get it to their feet.

    A low backhand volley is typically the most difficult. If that works, keep doing it until it doesn’t. If they start making a few…

  2. Try changing your pace, spin, and height.

    Maybe they got used to the flat ball at their feet, so you throw in a topspin ball higher over the net and they miss. Many players struggle with the high backhand volley.

The point is, give them a different look.

So, in your next match, look for more ways to find the backhand volleys. In 3.0 to 5.0 tennis you’ll put yourself in an offensive position most times you hit it there.

Are there any other times you like to hit at the backhand volley??

Comment below.

Will Boucek

About the author

Will Boucek is the Founder & CEO of The Tennis Tribe. He has played and coached tennis for over two decades. Will is a strategy analyst for ATP & WTA tour players and coaches. He also tests the latest tennis racquets, shoes, & other gear from Wilson, Babolat, Head, Prince, and other tennis brands. He currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas where he plays USTA leagues & tournaments.

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