There are certain times when the lines of technique and strategy meet in the game of tennis to form a shot so fundamental to the game, it deserves its own unique name. One such shot is the “half-volley”. But what is a half volley in tennis?
A half volley in tennis is a stroke that involves a player immediately returning the ball after it has bounced. Unlike standard volleys that are returned mid-air, half volleys require a player to lower and straighten the racquet, before abruptly hitting the ball within seconds of the bounce.
If a player cannot reach the ball before it bounces, they will need to hit a short, precise stroke that clears the net effectively. Fortunately, certain techniques, such as the half volley, allow for quick returns at a shorter distance.
In short, it is a lethal shot when done properly.
To learn more about the half volley, and how to use the proper technique, keep reading. I’ll also cover how to make this shot effective, and when to use it during your next match.
What Does A Half Volley Mean In Tennis?
A half volley in tennis means that instead of hitting the ball directly out of the air, it was allowed to bounce but only for a fraction of a second before being returned
The half volley is commonly used when a player can’t get to the ball before it bounces and instead times their arrival to the ball so that they hit it right after the bounce. When done properly, the effect is almost the same as hitting a volley (right out of the air).
The contact made between the racquet and the ball is almost instantaneous to the ball making contact with the ground. It’s a quick “bounce” then “hit” type of play.
Why Is It Called A Half Volley In Tennis
Why is it called a “half volley” when it is in fact a groundstroke?
It’s called a half volley because the shot falls uniquely in between a volley and a ground stroke despite the ball hitting the ground. Even though the ball is allowed to hit the court, it isn’t allowed to come back up to its natural height and is instead hit as if no bounce occurred.
With the half volley, the ball comes off the racquet more like a common volley and looks nothing like a traditional groundstroke.
Despite having a bounce, it is called a half volley because the effect is the same as a regular volley back over the net.
Fun Fact: The term half volley also applies to other sports like cricket where the terminology is the same; the ball is hit immediately after making contact with the playing surface. It’s even common in soccer.
What Is The Difference Between A Volley And A Half Volley In Tennis?
The difference between a volley and a half volley in tennis is whether the ball bounces or not. While a traditional volley is hit out of the air, a half volley allows for a bounce albeit a very short one where the ball is struck almost instantaneously with the ball hitting the court.
For my complete guide on the traditional volley in tennis, and how it’s making a comeback, click here.
Understanding The Terminology
To better understand a half volley, it will help to learn the difference between three important tennis techniques: a volley, a half volley, and a rally.
Traditional volleys use short and compact strokes. They don’t require the racquet to come back behind the player’s shoulders. Plus, they almost never require a full swing to return the ball. And if the ball bounces within a reasonable distance of the player, it can often be returned using a standard forehand or backhand groundstroke.
However, there is an exception to this bounce rule. If the ball bounces closer to the player’s feet and the player returns the ball without swinging the racquet back behind them, then it is classified as a half volley.
Essentially, determining whether or not a stroke is a volley depends on if the ball has bounced and how you swing the racquet. If your swing follows through across your body or starts by swinging the racquet from behind the shoulders, then it is not a volley.
Even though the ball has bounced first, a half volley can still be considered a volley because of the shorter swing and hitting method.
The last significant distinction between a groundstroke and a half volley is that during a half volley, the ball should be hit before it reaches its apex height off of the bounce.
When To Use A Half Volley
The most common time during a rally to attempt a half volley is when you’re running up on the ball and can’t get there in time for a traditional volley. Instead of risking an out-of-control and out-of-position volley, it is best to let the ball make contact with the court and hit a half volley.
Half volleys are in some ways more effective than regular volleys. If a regular volley makes you lose technique and form, then a half volley is the better option.
Are Half Volleys Difficult?
A half volley can be challenging because it requires precise timing and the right amount of an open racquet face. The half volley is an extremely effective shot but, it’s also an advanced shot. So, beginners may have trouble at first.
Hitting a half volley may not be too difficult, but getting the ball to land where you want it to, is another matter. Pinpoint accuracy with half volleys is the hardest thing for newer tennis players to master.
Generally speaking, you would be in a position to hit a half volley if the ball is coming at you but you don’t have enough time to get to the ball before it bounces.
How Do You Hit A Half Volley In Tennis?
In reality, the half volley is more of a “block” type of shot than a swing. If you’re swinging through on a half volley, chances are you’re doing it wrong.
So how should you properly hit a half volley in tennis?
The proper way to hit a half volley starts with almost zero backswing. Instead, keep your elbows in and make contact right after the ball has hit the court. From there, keep your racquet face square and follow through to your target.
From a technique stand, keeping your elbows in is super important. This is what allows you to not overswing and turn it into a groundstroke.
Remember, the half volley is a short block or rebound shot that doesn’t require much power for it to be effective. You’re using the previous shot’s own momentum to create the rebound effect on your half volley.
Essentially, the power is already there and you’re using it to your advantage.
Fun Fact: Did you know that let serves are one of the most misunderstood rules in all of tennis? Here are the facts.
Other Tips And Techniques To Improve Your Half Volley
Now that you know the basic form for half volleys, we can discuss some important tips and techniques. These tips will improve your tennis game and make you a more well-rounded player by consistently incorporating the half volley.
3 Keys To Better Half Volleys In Tennis
There are three important keys to remember as you practice and execute the half volley:
1. The position of your body
2. The position of your racquet
3. Your body’s momentum.
In this section, I will outline specific ways to execute the proper strategic positioning for each part.
In terms of body positioning, the nature of the stroke requires that your stance is a little lower to the ground.
You are meeting the ball before it gets to the apex of its bounce, so the shot requires a bit of a crouch. So keep your knees bent. To hit a half volley well, your body is must positioned slightly lower than your normal tennis-ready position.
You also have to consider the positioning of your racquet. For the stroke to be classified as a half volley, you cannot swing your racquet beyond your shoulders.
To help mitigate the length of the swing, it is helpful to position your racquet in front of your body. This positioning essentially forces you to do the necessary short and compact strokes for a half volley.
The last thing to consider is the momentum of your body. During a half volley, you always want your momentum to be going forward. Your body might naturally want to lean to the side or back, but this will limit your accuracy.
Moving forward also ensures that your racquet is also moving straight forward for a more controlled and accurate volley.
Combine Various Volley Techniques Using The Half Volley
There are a few different ways you can hit the ball during a half volley, including a block or drop shot. The techniques used in half volleys lean heavily on techniques needed for traditional volleys too. So, if you’ve already learned the traditional volley, you’ll be able to execute similar techniques in the half volley quickly!
The Block Volley
The best time to use the block volley is when a player hits a high-speed ball in your direction. The block volley doesn’t require any forward momentum because the ball is already coming at you so fast.
So, to execute this in the half volley, you simply put your racquet out to “block” the ball. This type of half volley can be very technically challenging because the faster the incoming ball, the more difficult it can be to control and return immediately after the bounce.
Remember, when you use the block volley technique in the form of a half volley, you’re simply rebounding the ball back over the net just like a wall would.
The Drop Volley
The second variation is the drop volley. The goal of the drop volley is to land the ball just barely on the other side of the net in your opponent’s court. A drop shot on a half volley return is super effective and a little bit easier to execute than the block technique.
Even when executing this shot in half volley form, the goal is to drop the ball back over the net and have it sit down with little to no movement after the bounce. This will require your opponent to run to center court from the baseline before your half volley drop shot bounces a second time.
With enough practice, you’ll drop it in right beyond the net where your opponent has the least amount of time to run and get under it.
What Is A Half Volley In Tennis – Final Thoughts
The half volley in tennis is a shot all pros use with lethal results. But it’s also a shot amateurs and casual players can learn and master too. Hopefully, after reading this guide, you’ll be able to improve your half volley technique and add it to your repertoire of shots.
The half volley in tennis is a shot that requires little to no backswing, but instead uses a blocking motion while your forward momentum generates the power.
Keep your elbows in when hitting the half volley, and time it properly. Time it so that your racquet makes contact literally fractions of a second after the ball has bounced.
Half volleys can be used to ricochet the ball off the racquet quickly in an open area of the court. Or, they can be used to gently drop the ball softly over the net where your opponent doesn’t have enough time to get to the ball.
I hope this has helped you gain more confidence in trying the half volley and how it can be a game-winning shot when used properly. Good luck, now get out there and practice!
Welcome to TheVolleyLlama.com. My name is Keith, I’m just a lover of all sports that involve a racquet, net and a ball. I played competitive high school varsity tennis, love racquetball and my whole family plays pickleball regularly. I started this website to help give people like you the basics to learn these wonderful games.