THE VOLLEY

 

Volleying the ball frequently is key to winning. When watching two players of similar level in a hard match, I would put my money on the one who volleys more. Unless of course he tries to volley drop almost everything. It is obvious that a player should volley to keep his opponent behind, and then volley to put the ball into the front corners.

 

Volleying has three general advantages. The player who volleys, will not give up the T (unless he mistakenly sends the ball right into the middle of the court!!)He will also save energy because he doesnít have to go all the way to the back corners. (Note that a player who attacks a lot on the volley may find it hard work, but in the long run, it is energy very well spent. It is generally better to make big efforts to attack rather than chase the oppositionís shots.) Finally, he will allow his opponent less time.

 

Now it is obvious that all works well as long as the players' volleys are precise and he/she doesnít attempt to volley almost unreachable shots. At this point, I feel the moment is right to get one concept perfectly clear.

 

Whacking the ball at a hundred miles an hour to increase the pace of the game, serves no purpose if these hard shots are not precise, or are not backed up with frequent volleying. Using up lots of energy to hit the ball hard would be a waste, if shots within your reach are not volleyed, but rather left to go past. Therefore, it is logical that priority number one is accuracy. Priority number two is taking the ball early. Only then can we get to number three and hit the ball hard on the volley. It would only be in vain to make the extra effort to hit the ball on the volley, and hard, only to send it near the opponent. You will be surprised to find that the pace of the game has increased for you and not the other player. That is, the exact opposite result will be attained.

 

If you get a chance to watch the top professionals, note how a great player like Peter Nicole takes the pace to higher levels by insisting on staying light on his feet and volleying frequently. Especially when his opponent is showing signs of fatigue, he may be very tiered himself, but he will still volley accurately rather than hard. He takes the ball early, rather than hammering it with all his strength.

 

All the shots that have been explained, such as the drop shot, sidewall boast, kill-shot, etc may be played on the volley. For technical information on each of these shots, go to the dedicated section.

 

 

THE STRAIGHT DRIVE PLAYED ON THE VOLLEY sdv

 

The drive played on the volley is one of the essentials in playing winning squash. As seen earlier, the drive is a fundamental shot, which could be very effective. More so, if played on the volley. In this case, you will not have to go all the way back to the corners and give up the T to your opponent. At the same time, your opponent will have to go back and forth at an accelerated pace and remain behind you. In other words, he will be working much harder than you, and still kept in a defensive position.

 

Keeping the other player on the move and under pressure will also create the perfect environment for the use of deception to wrong-foot the opponent. See how by going to the section on deception.

 

The photo sequence below demonstrates the shot. The shot can also be viewed in action in the following video clips. Starting on the forehand side, the videos cover a range of different ball and body positions to offer a fairly comprehensive explanation of the shot. Make sure you have already mastered the basic forehand technique before attempting the shot on the volley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo sequence shows how the movement is very similar to the normal straight drive. Note however, that the arc traced by the arm and racket is on the rise during the swing and descending on the follow-through. The racket is more vertical when the ball is struck and there is also some downward wrist action after impact. The higher the ball, the more accentuated this is.

 

The first clip shows a rear view of the shot. Notice the pace and height of the ball when struck, and on impact at the front wall. The second clip is from the same angle, but shows how the player stretches to hit the ball. The following video shows a front view and close-up of the shot. The ball makes its second bounce very low on the back wall. The same shot is then executed with the use of the other foot as seen here, and here. The last video clip is of the same shot played off a higher ball.

 

 

 

It is usually easier to stretch to the side and volley by stepping forward with the right foot. This should only be attempted after perfecting technique with the use of the left foot. When using the right foot, make sure that the left knee is turned towards the sidewall, as in the photo on the left. Leaving the knee pointed towards the front wall inhibits a correct stance and rotation.

 

Moving on to the backhand side, let us first watch how the shot is played off the correct foot. The technique is basically the same as that for the backhand drive. The video clearly shows how the playerís elbow remains very low during preparation and is not raised excessively when striking the ball.

 

 

 

Despite having to volley a high ball, the elbow remains low during the early part of the swing.

 

 

 

††††††††††††††††††† The racket head rises and then descends on the follow-through.

 

The same shot can also be played off the other foot. Many players find that they can delay impact when the left foot is used, but the shot lacks power. Why would a player want to delay impact? If the opponent's shot were slow but high and clinging to the side wall, instead of reaching upwards and getting too close to the side wall, it would be better to allow the ball to drop a little, and then reach sideways. By reaching sideways, the player stays far from the sidewall and a little closer to the T. Another reason would be to avoid a point of impact when the ball is "stuck" to the sidewall. Often, a fraction of a second later, the ball will "free itself" and move out a few centimetres.††

 

This final clip has been included to demonstrate that when the point of impact is low, the ball must be directed well below the service line to achieve perfect length.

 

This is further illustrated in the photo on the right. When volleying to the backcourt, always make a mental note of the speed of the ball, it's trajectory, and the resulting length achieved.

 

 

 

The video clip, which can be viewed here, demonstrates how the swing used for the straight drive is very similar to that used for the volley. As the point of impact is higher off the ground, the racket has a more vertical position. Note how the open racket face is maintained.

 

In contrast, this video clip demonstrates a common error among less expert players. The shoulder and arm are raised higher to hit the ball on the volley. Such an error should be totally avoided, as the player would never be able to make full use of the volley as an offensive weapon. The corrective exercises found in the forehand technique section should resolve this defect. (click here to go there now)The similar error committed on the backhand side, creates less disastrous consequences but should not be left uncorrected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some further words of advise on technique may resolve potential problems. Timing is even more important when volleying, for two reasons. Number one, it is easier to get the timing wrong when volleying because the ball comes towards the player at a faster speed. It does not bounce first, hence, does not slow down. Positioning the body for a volley is more difficult and when the ball is high up in the air, especially on the backhand the player cannot make much use of his muscular strength. Therefore, it is the playerís ability to smoothly accelerate the racket head and make clean contact with the ball, which allows him/her to hit hard enough. The ball must be struck while the racket tip is still accelerating but very close to its maximum speed. It is vital to have this ability, in order to attack and also get out of some sticky situations.

 

So, when you volley, give important consideration to the following. You must be able to relax and move your arm smoothly. Think of accelerating your racket instead of trying to snatch at the ball. Acceleration will allow you to use the right muscles at the right time and get the most power without excessive effort, as had been explained before. (See relaxation, and co-ordination.) This in turn makes you use up the least energy for maximal results.

 

Co-ordinating the ballís speed and that of the racket completes the package. Identify the point of impact. Concentrate on the ballís speed and work out how long it will take to reach this point. Also consider how much time it will take to get your racket accelerating smoothly to get to that same point. If your calculations are right, you will receive a beautiful sensation and the ball will go where you want. If however, you just let things happen, you will either hit the ball too early or find yourself late and suddenly have to snatch at the ball. All leading to disastrous results and a frustrating feeling of weakness.

 

Volleying the ball when really tight to the sidewall is very difficult indeed, but learning this trick takes the player to new levels. Even a great opponent possessing admirable precision will find himself locked behind you. The secret to this shot is to let the point of impact remain very late, perfectly in line with the right shoulder (right handed player) while keeping the head still, and tons of practice. Try the exercises in Shot Squash 2000. Remember not to grip the racket tightly and try to feel the ball. You will sometimes have to use the frame to play this shot. Good luck.

 

††††††††††††††