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Volley a low ball like Mardy Fish


Originally published on: 12/08/10 09:44

‘How to volley a low ball like Mardy Fish’ featured in the June 2010 issue of tennishead magazine. For more details on how to subscribe, click here.

Grip it and rip it: No time to change. Once you get to the net you’ll have next to no reaction time between volleys. It’s important to learn to use the same grip for both your backhand and forehand volleys so you don’t need to fiddle about between shots. Adapt to playing both volleys with a chopper grip – same as most people use for serves and smashes.

Attack the right ball: You should have an aggressive mindset when going to the net, but as the sequence below shows, you won’t be able to attack every ball. Lower your expectations on anything that you have to play from below the height of the net. When playing low volleys, simply aim to get the ball back deep and low, then move forward so you can attack the next ball. Playing a volley back behind an opponent is a great play – they’ll struggle to change direction and set themselves for a passing opportunity. Here’s how Mardy Fish does it…

Fish tracks the ball with his racket back early. His wrist is fully laid back which is quite extreme – not all players prepare this way. His arm and racket form a U-shape, whereas most players form a V.

He takes a lovely large step forward and across his body with his right foot, automatically turning his shoulders side-on and ensuring he is well balanced and can put his weight behind the volley. 

This is a tough low volley, so Fish’s foot has landed before contact. His left hand has released to let the racket travel towards contact point. As his eyes track the ball, his head remains very still.

Key point: It’s important to keep the racket head well above the wrist and the racket face slightly open

Excellent straight arm on contact, with Fish’s left arm perfectly counterbalancing the right. As his body weight continues to move behind the racket, his head remains still as he focuses on the contact point.

Key point: Focus on or just in front of the contact point as you volley to help maintain good shape as you strike the ball

Here’s the important frame: Fish holds the crouch position as the racket slides under the ball imparting backspin to keep the shot low, giving his opponent a tough ball to deal with.

Golden rule: Having been strong during the shot – turning your shoulders, creating a wide base by stepping into the shot and meeting the ball in front – ensure your body doesn’t collapse forward after contact

Fish uses his left leg as a brake so he can recover his position for the next volley. As his body begins to rise out of the shot, his shoulders are level – a common error is for the shoulders to be pulling strongly to the right


Key point: Only now, with the ball crossing the net, does Fish look up to track the ball, a sign of confidence in his technique


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.