For me, the volley has been a weakness in just about every racket sport I have tried. With the smaller dimensions of a padel court, there was nowhere to be able to hide from playing the volley as it makes up such a big part of every point.
How to volley in padel?
- Rather block the ball back to your opponents rather than hitting the ball.
- Start about 2 meters from the net, holding the racket vertically out in front of you.
- Swivel your shoulders to the side where the ball is coming to open your racket face for the volley.
- Take a short backswing to roughly in line with your shoulder.
- Plant your front foot in the direction of where you want to impact the ball.
- Keep the racket head higher than your hand to maintain a neutral wrist position through the volley.
- Maintain your normal continental grip for the volley for better control of the ball.
- If you have a strong wrist and forearm then the impact vibrations will be absorbed by your shoulder muscles rather than your elbow and wrist.
- Use a very short follow though if any at all. This way you will finish your volley virtually back in the start position.
Luckily there are only a handful of basic fundamentals that go into most of the volleys you will face on the court, especially at the beginner/recreational level. Let’s get to those so that you can make a big improvement in your game.
1. The Key Block Of The Volley
Because you are standing so much closer to your opponent while at the net, there is no time to take a full backswing, nor a full follow-through.
Therefore the type of shot that makes up most of the different types of volley in padel is what is known as the block.
The block is essentially where the racket is held almost still with a strong forearm and wrist. You then use the speed of the ball coming onto the racket face to generate the power that you need to play your volley.
Because you are not generating the power in your shot, you can use your focus to direct your volley to where you want the ball to go based on the angle of your racket-head.
So to recap, to play a block-volley you take a short backswing and then place an almost stationary racket head at the point of contact with the ball and then direct the ball to where you want it to go with a kind of pushing motion.
2. Start Position
The first part of your start position that we need to cover is how far from the net you should be. Stand to close and you will get lobbed into the big open space behind you. Stand too far from the net and your opponents can play Chiquitas down to your feet.
Ideally, you want to be standing between the first and second posts, measured back from the net. This will put you between 7 and 10 feet (two to two and a half meters) back from the net.
From this position, you will be close enough forward to be able to deal with a drop shot that just clears the net by taking just a single step forward. Similarly, just a single step or maybe two back and you can reach most lobs.
Next, we look at your racket position. Using the continental grip, hold the racket vertically out in front of you. Place your non-dominant hand lightly around the “throat” of the racket.
3. The Swivel
When you are in the start position, the moment the ball is played to you, you will immediately know if the ball is coming clearly to your forehand side, backhand side, or straight at you.
The first thing you do is what I call the swivel. This is a shoulder and hip pivot to either the forehand or backhand side. Just this movement alone will open the racket face toward the oncoming ball in case you need to play a fast reactionary volley against a very fast shot.
Only swivel to the forehand side if the ball is clearly coming to your forehand. If the ball is coming straight at your body, attempting to play a forehand volley will be very cramped and you will have little to no control over your volley.
Conversely, swivel to your backhand side when the ball comes to your backhand or in toward your body.
4. The Backswing
As you swivel to either the forehand or backhand side, bring the racket back for the volley specific backswing. In both instances, your shortened backswing will only extend back to shoulder-level or perhaps very slightly further.
For the backhand side, keep your non-dominant hand on the throat of the racket as a way to make sure that your backswing stays short enough to get your racket back in time.
When playing a forehand volley, release the racket with your non-dominant hand.
In both instances make sure that you keep the racket head higher than your hand through the backswing. This will allow you to maintain the strong wrist and forearm that you will need to play the volley.
5. The Foot Plant
The next part of executing the foot plant. The easiest way to do this is if you think of it as a continuation of the swivel I mentioned earlier.
If you swivel to the forehand side it will feel natural to step forward with your non-dominant side foot. Conversely, you step forward with your dominant side foot when you swivel to your backhand side.
Where this step becomes a foot plant is when you can place your foot in a way that your leg points in the direction of where you would like the point of contact with the ball to be.
6. Racket Head Height
Ideally, you want to keep your racket head higher than your hand. This is a neutral wrist position that will transfer the impact force of the volley to the larger muscle groups of your shoulder, chest, and upper back.
If you need to play a lower volley, bring your body lower by bending your knees so that you can keep the racket head higher than your hand so that you can maintain your neutral wrist position.
When you hang your racket head down low, just about the only thing that you will be able to do is flick your wrist which gives you neither power nor control over where the ball will go.
7. Maintain The Continental Grip
A key error that a lot of novice/social players make is that they change their grip when they volley.
The most common of these is hold the racket in much the same way that you would a fly swatter. This involves keeping an open stance the whole time with the racket in front of your face and then kind of pat the ball down over the net.
Not only is this completely ineffective in terms of power and control, but you are also limited to only really returning balls coming more or less at you and at shoulder height or higher.
You are far better off maintaining your continental grip and swivel your body to the forehand or backhand side as a way to open the racket face to the oncoming ball.
8. Strong Forearm And Wrist
Maintaining a strong forearm and wrist is key to playing a good volley.
That way you can use the pace of the ball coming onto your racket to block/push the ball back with the control to place your volley exactly where you want it to go.
A positive side effect of having a strong forearm is that the vibrations from the ball impacting the racket are absorbed by the larger muscles around the shoulder as opposed to your wrist and elbow.
9. Short Follow-Through
Lastly, don’t try and hit your volley with a full follow-through. If you do you will encounter two problems.
The first of these is that a full follow-through will increase your racket head speed through the area of impact. Although this serves you well when you are standing at the base-line and the ball has further to travel. However, when you volley you are much closer to the opponents’ base-line. A full follow-through on a volley increases your chances of hitting the ball out.
Secondly, when you volley with a full follow-through it will take you longer to get back into your start position. If your opponent returns your volley quickly, you will still be out of position and not able to make the second volley.
Many times when you simply block the ball back with almost no follow-through your racket will end in a spot that is very close to your start position. This way you will already be ready for your next volley before the ball reaches your opponent’s racket.
Now you know the fundamental basics of the volley in padel. This would be a good time to see how these principles apply to each of the 7 most commonly played volleys in padel. Click here to go to that article.