… Catch the ball in a cone.
When executing the forehand volley, I like to visualize the position of the hand as if you are trying to catch a ball with a cup. To catch the ball, simply set the cone to the side of your body, tilt the cone open, slightly laying back the wrist, so that the ball remains in the cone after receiving it.
If the cone is facing forward versus slightly up, the ball will simply roll out of the cup onto the court. Guess what happens when your racquet face is square or flat to the ball during the volley? Exactly! With your racquet strings facing the net, a downward angle of deflection is established as the ball pops off the strings, sending the ball into the net. Even if you are a couple of feet away from the net.
When using the continental grip, your racquet face is slightly open, and the angle of deflection is now up. Which is exactly where you want it because just about every shot coming at you at the net is dropping as it crosses over the net (your opponent is usually trying to keep the ball relatively low and hit with topspin).
This is the main reason why the Eastern forehand grip so ineffective at net—the racquet face is flat at contact. The ball has no lift and therefore easily finds it way into net. And if you reach for the ball attempting meet the ball out front, as many coaches command, your volley will lack stability, lift and spin, and depth.
When you meet the ball out to the side of your body as you transfer your weight, your volleys will simply pop off your racquet with better feel, stability, and control.
Just as your groundstrokes are hit with lift, your volleys require varying degrees of lift over the net. The racquet face must be slightly open, almost allowing you to catch the ball on your racquet strings, propelling it over the net with a very short follow through that ends just ABOVE THE CONTACT POINT. That’s right… Above the contact point, not below it.
To control the volley, you will need to control the spin or rotation that has already been applied the ball. In other words, it is easier to control a topspin shot with backspin because when you send back the topspin shot, the ball is spinning in the same direction. The energy has been simply redirected back to the other side of the net.
Control is the key. You are closer to your opponent and to the baseline. You don’t need to accelerate the racquet head at contact but rather to decelerate it.
Ever wonder why many of your attempts to return a heavy topspin ball with heavy topspin results in your shot being a knuckle ball (a ball with very little spin on it) and not solidly struck? It is because you are attempting to reverse or change the direction of the spin and the energy of the ball. It requires more racquet head acceleration and stability.
All volleys should be executed with some type of spin. The only exception is when you standing virtually on top of the net swatting away a volley. Realistically, you don’t get many, if any, of those types of sitters during a match or practice.