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By Bob Hilborn

The weekend warrior in tennis can have a long rally, exchanging groundstrokes with an opponent at ease. But what separates most players from the rest of the competition is their confidence at the net.

Once a player crosses the service line (whether in doubles or singles) it is easy to assess their skill set when it comes to volleys and overheads. Reaction time and anticipation are a good indicator of a player’s confidence at the net. The five tips below will help you finish off points and take your net game to the next level.

Repetition: The more practice you get volleying and hitting overheads, the more confident you will be during the match. A player’s net game is an area that takes a lot of work and dedication to improve. If you think simple match play will advance this part of your game, you are wrong. As cliché as it may be, practice really does make perfect!

Footwork: How many times have you had that easy put away shot (whether a volley or overhead), but hit the ball into the net? Often times, the reason for this is a lack of footwork. If you aren’t shuffling your feet, you will be in the wrong position when it comes to hitting your volley or overhead, which can lead to an errant shot. Focus on your footwork, and you’ll have more net success!

Concentration: When you hit an overhead into the net, often lack of concentration is the culprit. While it might look a bit goofy, when you see a high lob and are in the position for an overhead, point at the ball with the opposite hand in which you’re holding the racquet until you make contact with the ball. This will help with your focus, and you’ll be amazed by the results.

Pressure the Opponent: If you are frustrated with your opponent “pushing” the ball on their groundstrokes, come to the net and you’ll be amazed by the results. You’ll be able to put pressure on your opponent by forcing them to hit a solid shot into a smaller space. Not only will this put you in position for plenty of easy put-away shots, but you’ll also notice that the “pusher” across the net is suddenly making far more errors. Don’t be afraid to come to the net!

Approach Shots are Crucial:
If the groundstroke you are hitting causes you to move more than three feet from the baseline (towards the middle of the court), you should be approaching the net. You are already moving forward on your groundstroke, which should help put you in position for solid shot placement. An aggressive, well-placed approach shot will more often than not lead to a put-away volley or overhead.

Bob Hilborn is the Head Pro at Scarborough East Tennis in Columbus, Ohio.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)


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