© Ella Ling

Rafael Nadal - serve

Tim Henman: how to serve and volley


Make sure you don’t rush your serve:
“You want to hit your serve properly before going to the net. If you execute your serve properly, that will set you up for the first volley. You shouldn’t panic and think that you need to get to the net too quickly. You should focus on taking your time with your serve and hitting your spot.”

Understand the angle:
“Where you serve is important. If you’re serving out wide, you obviously don’t want to move into the middle of the court when you go to net – you want to move wide to cover the line. If they can then get the ball across the front of you and hit a winner, you have to say, ‘that’s too good’. You don’t want to be beaten up the line.”

Change your tactics from surface to surface:
“If I was serve-and-volleying on clay, which is obviously tough to do, I think it’s important to volley behind your opponent and not always hit the ball to the open court. Changing direction on clay is difficult, and the earlier in the match you can volley behind your opponent and force them to change direction, the better. You will sow the seed of doubt that you are not always going to volley into the open court, as your opponent probably would have expected you to do that most, if not all, of the time. That will keep your opponent guessing.”

Be careful about coming in behind your second serve:
“These days, with the way that the players return, you want to be selective about serve-and-volleying on your second serve. It should be a surprise tactic to keep them guessing, but it’s not something that I would advise doing a great deal of. I would love to see more people coming to net, but you have to be realistic about it, and look at the conditions and the athleticism of the players and how hard they hit the ball. If you come to the net, you have to make sure that you’re going in after the right ball as otherwise you will be in trouble.”

Watch the doubles players, not the singles players, for inspiration:
“There aren’t that many good volleyers on the singles tour. Andy Murray has good technique and he understands how to cover the net, he’s one of the best. Mardy Fish volleys okay. But for the best volleyers, you have to look at the doubles guys. They are doing it a lot more often. Go back a few years on the singles tour, and there was Pete Sampras, Pat Rafter and myself. But volleying is a dying art.”

  • Pol

    Thanks Tim for sharing these great thoughts about the dying art! Good luck from your Polish fans!