The era of the serve and volley is pretty much over.
Today's tennis pros are stronger, faster, hit harder groundstrokes and return serves better than ever. These factors, combined with slower courts and improved string technology, have allowed players to easily pass their opponents at the net after the serve or make them play difficult volleys and pass them right after.
Does this mean we don't need to get to the net anymore?
Not really. Today, tennis pros have developed a more all-around style game and have mastered the approach shot to perfection to be even more aggressive.
Thus, it is time to use and improve the "approach shot" if you want to hit like the pros.
Remember, the approach shot is a transition shot (not necessarily a winner) that will allow you to go to the net effectively and make the opponent play a difficult shot so that you can finish the point with an easy volley or overhead.
The best moment to start the approach shot is when the opponent's ball lands short around the service line or just before it.
Turn your body sideways with shoulders and torso perpendicular to the net and move quickly towards the ball. Then, transfer your body weight on your front leg, have your knees bent with your head steady, strike the ball and keep the momentum going forward.
At this point, the biggest mistake players can make are either hitting and stopping at the service line and watching the ball landing or running back to the baseline.
At the striking zone, two common scenarios might happen:
►The ball is very low, and I would recommend to strike it by using a slice shot with a Continental Grip (with Carioca Step);
►The ball is high at the hip level, and I would suggest using a top spin shot with a Semi-Western Grip.
In both cases, instantly recognize you and your opponent’s position so that you can drive the ball deep with a smooth swing down the line or in a corner away from the opponent followed by a split-step. Your shot should be followed by a split-step.
At this point, you have forced the opponent to hit on the run or play a weaker passing shot. Still track the ball in the air and look at your opponent’s court position again.
Be in a ready position with a Continental Grip and cover down the line. But, also be prepared to take away with a volley or possible cross-court passing shots or to smash a lob with the overhead.
Lastly, keep the opponent guessing by varying your approach shot placement.
Antonio Glionna trained professionally in Europe and Australia. He has more than 20 years of international coaching and training experience, and he is also PTR-certified. Currently, Antonio provides private and group lessons at the Midtown Tennis Club and coaches kids and juniors at The Manhattan Tennis Academy in New York City.