Coming into the Net
Marcin Bieniek explains what you should consider with coming into the net.
In the past, many players with a dominating serve and volley, like Fibak, Becker, or Sampras, did not wait on the baseline, they would come into the net. With their service. They thought of how to create a weaker return from their opponent so that they could finish with a volley. But we do not see this tactical approach these days.
Nowadays, many players are baseliners. They can hit with so much power that they look for winners and force errors. Many WTA players do not come into the net because they feel more comfortable on the baseline and know that their opponent can hit the ball very hard.
What should we do to convince players to come in more often?
Players need to know that when they come into the net, they intimidate their opponent, putting them in a pressure situation. Opponents will try to hit a passing shot, which often makes many unforced errors.
A passing shot is not the same as a groundstroke. If your opponent has excellent baseline skills, it does not mean they will pass you every time you come in. Try to put pressure on your opponent and see if they can play good passing shots.
Another reason to go into the net is that it shortens your opponent's reaction time. If you hit even a weak volley return, your opponent's reaction time is reduced by 50%.
What should you take into consideration with coming in?
You could decide before you have hit the ball. You choose before your service to follow it by coming into the net. You can decide you want to play an approach shot on easy second serves and then come in. When you play a rally from the baseline, you know that every easy short ball you should attack and follow it into the net.
You could decide after you hit the ball. This demands good observational and analytical skills of the ball and your opponent. It requires you to observe and react accordingly, depending on what you see.
If you hit an aggressive forehand and your opponent runs at full speed to get to the ball, it is time to come into the net. If you hit a good backhand and your opponent stretches to reach the ball, go into the net. If you hit a well-placed angle and your opponent moves with racquet-slice preparation, go into the net. This option is not easy because you have to observe many things simultaneously and decide in milliseconds on your reaction.
With proper practice and experience, you will see how effective you can be with your volleys.
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About the Author
Marcin Bieniek is a tennis coach from Poland and a former professional player (Polish National Juniors Team). He is a certificated tennis coach by the Polish Tennis Coaching Association and the Professional Tennis Registry. Marcin has worked with many of the top 20 Polish Juniors and the top 150 players in the world.