By Vic Braden, Tennis Contributor - Archive - Email
The Approach Shot and Volley Can Come Back
If you're a little late getting to the net, don't stop.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At the September USPTA World Conference, I presnted our research on what it will take for a pro player to become an effective net rusher. First, let's take a look at the modern eequipment. In the days of wooden rackets, there was normally a four second time frame between a player's first and second hits. In today's tennis, with faster rackets, the average time is 2.2 seconds between hits for men, and 2.5 seconds for women. In our research with the top players, there is an average of 1.5 seconds to get to the net. Thus, most players have a stroking style that will only allow them to attack the net on very short shots. That's due to the Open stance style that cause one's center of gravity to move laterally rather that forward.

I understand that the open stance is great for players who only go to the net to shake hands, but it's not the best style for a potential net rusher. We have also seen some negative effects of the long wrap around the neck follow-through. In fact, we have found a couple of players who use up the entire 1.5 seconds unwrapping the follow-through.

So, what's the cure? It is mandatory that a ball striker finish his/her shot with the center of gravity ahead in front of the shot which has landed towards the net. That's now called the "closed" stance and not the favorite of most players. It's also the style of hitting that was used in the wooden racket days, making it automatically rejected by today's players as going back in time.

Next, if the net rusher is smart, he/she will spend time analyzing an opponent's attempts at passing shots. Players do give away their signal with tiny cues which are often overlooked. I tell our players to sit in the stands and watch a match, then guess which way a player is going to direct a shot. Players are often stunned at their success record in analyzing. Thus, there is a system to predict passing shot direction.

Next, a person attacking the net should make certain his leg muscles have been pre-sretched as the opponent prepares to hit. Volleyers who get into a relaxed split step normally lose about 110 milliseconds to take the first step to make the volley. Just watch the Bryan twins, who seldom stop moving at the net.

Finally, if you're a little late getting to the net, don't stop. One can make a diagonal turn faster on the move than from a split step position. Try this drill with your coach. Have the coach on the opposite side of the net while you are running full speed towards the net. The coach then lifts a left or right arm to signal the direction you should run. We have never had a person fall, or stumble, in this drill. But, it allows the net rusher to gain a position much faster to intercept the passing shot.

I predict that we will see great net rushers as soon as one good one studies the science and rises to the top. He or she will be copied.

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