Several earlier blog articles have their origins in observations of play at Wimbledon. THE CIRCLE STINGER ( 9 ) suggested how Nadal used a “stinger” that proved troublesome for Federer. THE NEXT LEVEL OF TENNIS ( 10 ) concludes that Djokovic’s super ability to hit deep balls in either corner made Nadal’s “stinger” less effective. MOVING ALONG (37) extols the virtues of the drop shot in big time men and women’s tennis. And the speculation that more and more great players will use “all four corners”, as well learning how to defend against drop-shots. Allow me to notice the accuracy of these contentions.
This year (2014) called on THE JOKER once again for an area of improvement. But first, go back with me to an early 1970’s clinic at the USTA’S Teacher/Coach held in conjunction with the U.S.OPEN TOURNAMENT. The clinic topic was a question: “Which is the more important shot for men’s singles at Wimbledon, serve or service return?” The two clinicians were Jack Kramer and Don Budge. High Cotten for tennis commentary. Long clinic short; both “legends” agreed, for several reasons the return was more important. CERTAIN VOLLEYS BARE STRIKING RESEMBLANCES TO CERTAIN SERVICE RETURNS.
A all levels, most volleys are underspin. Common volley instruction advises one to “block the volley”, or to “punch” them. I prefer the term “touch and tighten”. Remember there are a variety of volleys (forehands, backhands. low ones differ from high ones, two overheads are most often hit out of the air, and the instinct, or “belly-button volley”, for examples). And they can vary in length.
There is an old baseball saying that applies here : “Never say never in baseball”. Still here are a couple of principles that apply to volleys : 1. The harder they hit it, the easier you swing”. 2. And while “an approach shot is an elongated volley”, some balls hit at you at the net allow for very little “swinging”, or “blocking”, or “punching”. Maybe one should just get it in the perfect “volley-spot” and touch it away from your opponent. I think good volleys are made with a little tightening in the hands.
Back to Wimbledon. In the semi-finals against Dimitrov, it seemed to me “THE JOKER” used a very similar touch and tighten technique while returning certain well hit serves. On many returns (at crucial times and very effectively) he concentrated on movement, more than stroking the ball. Having watched Novak play a lot, I felt that in this match he upped the percentage of “touch and tighten” service returns. That so, Novak?
CONCLUSION: “TOUCH AND TIGHTEN” works on certain well hit passing shots AND service returns. Good tool for your tennis bag.

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