7 Drills To Improve Your Volleys

The volley is the most simple shot on the tennis court, so why do so many players have issues when they come forward? Missing an easy volley after setting up the point so perfectly will leave you pulling your hair out. How do you fix it? 

Improving your volleys takes a lot of repetition, but it is crucial to train the right way. Just rallying up the middle with a partner while you stand at the net is boring and unrealistic. You need to practice your volleys with purpose every time you step on the court.

As a player, I wasn’t blessed with the most natural hands at the net. However, I attribute my successful transition game to these 7 drills that will make your volleys rock solid. 

Bryan Brothers Drill

When trying to improve parts of your game, it only makes sense to copy the best. The Bryan Brothers are undoubtedly the best doubles team of all time, so why not borrow some of the drills that made them so good? I had the privilege of training with Bob and Mike a couple of years during the two week Masters 1000 tournament at Indian Wells.  Being on court with them made me realize how years of sharpening their volleys got them to where they are. 

One of the drills that they were doing every day during that tournament is referred to as “The Bryan Brothers Drill” most likely because they use it so much. This drill is useful because it includes several key aspects of the volley: lively feet, quick reaction, and sharp precision. 

It starts with both players in the middle of their respective service lines. As they begin to hitting volley to volley, both players move to their own left or right side as they rally. The players will be hitting crosscourt as they are moving opposite directions, or away from each other. When they reach the alley, they both come back to the center and continue on to the other side, trying to keep the ball in play as long as they can. If you miss, just feed another ball in quickly and keep going. This drill is pretty physical especially on the forearms, hands, and wrists. Below is a video of Karue Sell and I demonstrating the drill. We slowed down our footwork and ball pace to show a starting point for the drill. As you become more comfortable with practice, you can speed it up.

Bryan Brothers Drill

Key Points to Remember:

  1. Stay low even though you are moving laterally. It is easy to let yourself pop up.
  2. Keep the hips as square as possible to the net as you move. This is a lateral movement, not a forward movement. 
  3. Don’t crowd the ball. Give yourself space. If the space isn’t there, create it. 
  4. Don’t assume the ball will be where you want it to be. Remember, this is a reaction drill. Make it realistic and don’t expect it to come in the perfect place. 
  5. Work together to keep the ball going as long as possible. It won’t be perfect, just strive to get better. 

Wall Ball

As traditional as it sounds, you can improve a lot hitting against the wall. Some of the best tennis players ever, including Novak Djokovic, say they started their successful careers against the wall when they were kids. Though I’m not the biggest fan of hitting against the wall for groundstrokes, it has worked wonders for my volleys. Volleying against the wall helps strengthen your forearm, sharpen accuracy and precision, and keeps your swing compact.

 The first drill you can do against the wall is simple repetition on each side. Start with 100 forehand volleys without a break, followed by 100 backhand volleys. They don’t have to be in a row, if you miss just keep going. The closer you get to the wall, the more challenging it will be.

Key Points to Remember:

  1. Keep your wrist firm. We are training strength in this drill, it is counterproductive to do this with a broken wrist.
  2. Keep your weight on your front leg.
  3. Move your feet. You will have to make small adjustments as you go. 
  4. Stay low. Feel a burn in your legs and don’t pop up as the drill goes on. 
  5. Keep your swing compact. If you can’t keep the ball going and it feels rushed, it is likely because your swing is too big. 
  6. Keep your head still, but keep your eyes locked on the ball the entire time. 
Wall Ball

As you master this drill, you can move on to moving the ball up and down the wall. This is not easy, but it is a good challenge for you to work towards.

The next drill that you can do on the wall is changing between forehands and backhands. You can do this switching sides every other ball or every two balls. You will want to take a couple of steps back from the wall for this one so that you have time to switch. Be sure to have a pocket full of balls so that if you miss you can start over right away. 

    Key Points to Remember:

  1. Stay low. You won’t have time to allow your body to rise.
  2. Be precise with your targets. Your goal is to get the next volley right on your strings so you aren’t required to move too much. 
  3. Maintain a firm wrist. 
  4. Keep the same grip on both volleys. If you don’t have a slightly different grip for your forehand and backhand volley, this is a good drill for you to change that. 

Offense-Defense Volleys

This drill will help you improve your ability to close the net and your hand quickness. The offensive player in the drill will start a foot or two behind the service line, while the defensive player will start a foot or two inside the service line. The defensive partner feeds the ball as the offensive partner comes forward, closing the net until he can’t anymore. You should be able to hit 4-6 balls each before the player that is closing reaches the net. After you are content with how the drill has gone, switch roles and do it again. 

Offense Defense Drill

    Key Points to Remember:

Offensive player:

  1. Sticking your volleys with purpose.
  2. Move through each volley with rhythm, you don’t have time for too many choppy steps.  
  3. Stay square to the opponent so you are ready for a forehand or a backhand.
  4. If you happen to get a high floater, do your best to put it away. 
  5. Put the last ball away off the court to work on finishing the point.

Defensive player:

  1. Keep a strong, low base. Remember, you are trying to absorb the pace.
  2. Do your best to keep the ball low so that the offensive player cannot put the ball away. 
  3. Keep your wrist firm. If you let the wrist break, you will not be able to handle the pace. 

To make things more interesting, make it a game. Play on half the court with no alleys so that there is no room to go around each other. Play to 7 and add the scores between the two games. 

On Top of the Net Drill   

This drill is one of my favorites because of how challenging it is. Even the best doubles players can benefit from making their hands just a little faster, and this one will help you do that. 

For the “On Top of the Net Drill,” one player will be on the baseline while the other is only inches from the net. The goal of this is NOT to have long rallies and find rhythm. You really shouldn’t expect to make more than 3 or 4 balls in a row, or else you are not doing the drill correctly. 

On Top of the Net Drill

Key Points to Remember:

  1. Keep your hands up. If you drop your hands, you won’t have time to get them back up.
  2. Keep the swing compact. 
  3. Meet the ball out front as much as possible.
  4. Don’t let the ball move you. Be a wall and resist against the power of the baseliner’s shot. 
  5. Depth doesn’t matter. All that matters is you are sticking the volley back and you are making the ball with force behind it. 

Crosscourt Doubles Drill

The crosscourt first volley drill is a great way to improve your doubles transition game. The first volley is the most important volley in both singles and doubles, but most players don’t work on it nearly enough. 

For this drill, both players start on the deuce side of the court. One player will start on the baseline, while the transitioner will start in “no man’s land.” The baseliner feeds the ball to the transitioner and they play the point out crosscourt, alleys are in. After the feed, anything goes, including lobs and drop volleys. The baseliner should be sure to mix up feeds so that the drill doesn’t become repetitive and predictable. Feed some slow ones, some fast, some dipping at the feet, etc. This is a 4 part game, as both players will play a game to 7 as the transitioner and the baseliner on both the deuce side and the ad side.

Crosscourt Doubles Drill

Key Points to Remember:


  1. Pick a big target on the first volley. This is a point starter, and the goal is to make the opponent play. 
  2. Close the net to take away room for the opponent to hit. 
  3. Make adjustments. If you are getting beat on lobs, don’t close as hard. If you are getting beat on angles, close harder. 
  4. Keep points short. As the net man, you are on offense. If you get a ball that you can put away, be sure to do it. 


  1. Avoid unforced errors. You are on defense, so you want to make the volleyer earn the point rather than give it away. 
  2. Utilize the lob. It is easy as a volleyer to get right on top of the net, so keep them honest with a lob. 
  3. Play with variety. If you become too predictable, you make the volleyer’s job too easy. 

“The Floor is Lava”

 The “floor is lava” drill is one of the more physical volley drills that you can do. It will improve your ability to get up and back quickly. Being able to cover the lob is essential because it gives you more confidence to close the net harder. 

For this drill, one player will start a couple feet inside the service line while the other is on the baseline. The objective is pretty simple: the volleyer isn’t allowed to let the ball hit the ground on their side of the court. The baseliner should try to get the ball to hit the ground by mixing in lobs and dropshots when appropriate. The goal of the drill is to get the volleyer to work, so make sure as the baseliner you are pushing the volleyer to their limit without making it too challenging. 

The Floor is Lava
  1. Be ready for anything. There is no pattern because it makes it more realistic, so try to cover as much court as possible.
  2. Keep the ball going as long as you can. If you have an overhead you should put it away, but other than that you want to keep the ball moving until someone misses. 
  3. Go until exhaustion. It is a tiring drill, but you want to try and go as long as you can. 

*** Make this a game by either playing on half the court with no alleys and play to 7. Alternatively, you can play this game 2 on 1. There will be 2 baseliners and one at net, alleys are out. The baseliners can only hit winners by lob or dropshot, but not winners around the net-man. Rotate so that each player has a chance as the volleyer. 

“Get Low, Stay Low”

If you have a hard time staying low on your volleys, this is the drill for you. The “Get Low, Stay Low” volley drill is simple. One player will be at the net volleying while the other will be at the baseline hitting groundstrokes. The volleyer is required to touch the ground between each of his volleys. The goal is to see how many volleys you can hit in a row without losing the quality of the shots. 

This drill is not only good for working on staying low, but it also helps you improve your reaction time. When you go back to hitting volleys normal without touching the ground in between, you will feel like you have all the time in the world. 

Get Low Stay Low

Key Points to Remember:

  1. After you touch the ground, still stay low. This should not look like you are doing a burpee.
  2. Keep your chest up throughout. 
  3. Bend with your knees, not your back. 


Volleying is simple, but it requires work to become a master of it. Fine tuning your volleys is important because it is the most effective way to end points. Players without good volleys are at a huge disadvantage in finishing points for both singles and doubles. 

Using these 7 drills have improved my volleys, and I have confidence that they will help yours as well, no matter what level you play at. Set aside a bit of time daily to train your volleys with these drills and you will be sticking them with authority in no time. 

Austin Rapp

Hi there! My name is Austin Rapp and since I picked up a racket at age 8, I worked hard to improve my game. I was never the most talented junior, but I tried to learn the game to give myself an edge. I earned the privilege of playing at UCLA for 4 years, serving as team captain for my last 2. In my time there, I took advantage of the coaching and great talent around me to grow my knowledge of the game and became an All-American. I am currently playing professional tennis, ranked top 700 in singles and top 350 in doubles. Above all, my favorite tennis moments were hitting with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal at Indian Wells!

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