Tennis Approach Shot: Introduction
The tennis approach shot is utilized to transition from the baseline up to net. Generally a player approaches to the net on a ball that lands around the service line or shorter, or if they recognize that their opponent is out of position and is likely to provide a weak ball as a result.
For example, you hit a fast pace forehand cross court and you see that your opponent is barely going to get their racquet on the ball, their arm is fully extending reaching for the ball, you decide to take advantage by moving forward to the net to make a play on the ball resulting in your opponent not having enough time to recover and make a play on your easy volley. You win the point easily.
Moving forward to play a short ball can benefit you in many ways including taking time away from your opponent, shortening the duration of the point, and by putting pressure on your opponent.
Tennis Approach Shot: Footwork
The approach shot is one of the most exciting shots in tennis and it all starts with the feet. Like on other shots you want to time your split step to make contact with the ground at the exact moment you realize where the ball is headed.
Ensure the Proper Spacing
Once you recognize the ball is short you want to start running forward while you assess exactly where you expect the ball to land. Once you have assessed where the ball will land you want to run up at an angle to the ball so that when you begin to set up for your forehand or backhand you have enough room between you and the ball.
Tennis Approach Shot Pro Tip
It is common for players to run into the ball and as a result they hop up on their stroke or their shoulders rise up as the body attempts to create more space. If this happens to you try this tip. Once you turn to set up for the ball begin moving your feet by making small shuffle adjustment steps around and away from the ball. This allows for several little steps to be taken to ensure you find the proper distance on the approach shot.
Tennis Approach Shot: Options
The approach shot is unique in the sense that you can utilize any stroke in the game and choose to approach the net afterwards. For example, some players pick up on their opponent’s movements and if a player allows balls to drop rather than take the ball on the rise they may choose to throw up a topspin lob and approach the net giving them plenty of time to react to the next ball. Or a player may notice their opponent has difficulty moving forward and chip the ball short and take the net, the possibilities are endless. For the purpose of this post we will look at the approach in terms of the forehand and backhand.
Tennis Approach Shot: Stroke
The tennis approach shot stroke will be the same as the forehand and backhand outlined in prior posts with a couple differences depending on the ball height and where the ball is located in relation to the net. I recommend you utilize the neutral stance strokes for the approach shot since your body weight is moving forward and if the ball happens to be low it is easier to handle, however plenty of top tennis professionals hit open stance as well so you decide what is best for you given the ball you receive.
The approach shot is most effective when the ball is taken on the rise and hit from waist to chest height. This is due to most approach shots being generated off of weak replies and the sooner you get to the ball the less time your opponent has to recover and react. By having a waist high or higher ball you can focus on hitting through the ball, more pace, rather than creating lift, more spin, which is done for balls below net height. The location of the ball in relation to your body and the net will also determine the angle of the racquet face at contact. When the ball is high, one foot or more above the net, you may be able to close your racquet face more when driving through the ball. When the ball is low, below net level, your racquet face will be more open in order to create lift.
Tennis Approach Shot: Final Thoughts
The tennis approach shot is one of the most exciting shots in the game. If you like to be aggressive on the court and put pressure on your opponent, the approach shot is definitely worth your time and focus.
If you found value in this guide follow the link provided for a complete list of guides on tennis technique.
Get out there and practice! Report back what you find works and doesn’t work for your game so that others can benefit as well. Cheers!
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