Especially in female tennis where there are less opportunities to approach the net with an approach shot followed by a volley the drive volley becomes a very important stroke.
The execution, it’s a little bit easier. It’s difficult in the sense that it’s a high ball and the timing is a more difficult because it’s coming from high out of the air and it’s dropping faster. The moment we make contact, the ball is falling down, whereas in a normal forehand or backhand, the ball will be rising, and it might be hanging still the moment we make contact with the ball. So that’s the difficult part.
But I’ve (Carl Maes) got experience even with younger kids from the age of 8-9 years old, they can take that ball out of the air. You’ll be surprised how quickly even with orange and green ball players; how easy they learn how to time the ball correctly. So that’s why I’m (Carl) saying that is slightly easier.
What is the most difficult part is recognizing the situation when you need to move forward, because if you’re standing 2 meters behind the baseline consistently, by the time you get to this high ball, you might have been practicing this drive volley with your coach where he/she has fed balls from a basket with you waiting inside the court. If you are 2 meters behind the baseline, by the time you get into court, this ball is bouncing and you’re playing a normal forehand or backhand. So, this is why the anticipation and recognizing the opportunity to move forward, is key.
I’ve (Carl) got a small practical tip for everybody that’s listening and likes the drive volley concept. Don’t feed these balls from the middle of the court because players will not play drive volleys when the ball is coming from the middle of the court. First, if you do this for ten minutes, my recommendation would be 5 minutes in the forehand corner and 5 minutes in the backhand corner. Then there’s a small extra caveat I (Carl) think you need to do. Don’t feed the ball with you being in a comfortable position where you are feeding balls from the basket.
Treat your players to this little extra visual feedback and feed the ball whilst you are in difficulties. This might look a little bit strange but try to visualize the following. When you feed this high ball, throw it to the side of yourself, let it bounce first, let it bounce low and you have to stretch for the ball and then feed the ball, because this is exactly what the player needs to recognize on the other side of the net, when the opponent is in the tramlines and you can see the back of the opponent. That’s really when they are in difficulties. That’s the moment when your player needs to come from 1-2 meter behind the baseline to 1 meter inside the baseline, and that is when you feed the ball.
So, two important details don’t feed from the middle of the court, feed it from the corner and pretend as if you are in difficulties. Show them your back and then feed the ball upwards. It will give them a much better recognition when they are playing a rally in the next drill/match.
In the very start when you are practicing the drive volleys with female players you can and properly should spend entire drills 10-20 minutes on the drive volley, but when the players have got the basics of the drive volley going forward in their career I (Carl) don’t believe that you need to spend one dedicated drill to drive volleys. Instead spend 2-3 minutes during all warmups as that is enough for feeling, timing and recognition. Ask yourself how many times the girls that you work with smash in a match?
It will properly be close to zero. However, what do we always do when we warm up? We go to the net, we play a few volleys, and then we do a few smashes. Should we do a few smashes as they occur once in a while in a match, sure.
Now, let me ask a second question. How many opportunities when you are watching that match, how many times when they are playing a match do think “Oh, you should have come forward and taken the ball out of the air?” It will be much, much more. So, for me. I don’t want to make it too extreme. Forget about the smash warmup, but make sure that your female players hit a couple of drive volleys in every warmup.