Recently I received an email asking me how does one handle high balls. High bouncing balls are relative. It is not how high the ball is bouncing but where it bounces is more appropriate. Balls landing near the baseline create a situation where the player will have to do one of three things.
First, the player may have the option to back up. Backing up in anticipation of a deep bouncing ball will allow the ball to drop to a more comfortable level to play a regular groundstroke. This will usually happen when the ball is slower and the player can retreat and still make the shot without falling backwards or leaning back. High bouncing balls are like all other balls, it’s more a matter of where do you need to be in order to make contact at a level that you choose.
Secondly, if the ball is coming too fast to retreat or run back, the player will have to swing at the ball with a high groundstroke. The best way to do this is to raise your backswing the level you anticipate making contact with the ball. Raising the backswing will allow you to swing level (or flat) at the ball. You will still need to turn your shoulders and take a pretty big swing to get the ball back with any depth because there is very little upward swing in this shot to help the ball go over. With practice this can become a comfortable shot and on short high balls can become a weapon.
My third solution and the least favorable, is to hit the ball before the bounce gets too high. This is called a “short hop” or some people call it a “half-volley”. Instead of hitting the ball on it’s decent like we normally would do, we are hitting the ball on the rise before it reaches it’s apex. This is difficult to do because the timing involved takes a lot of hand-eye and hand-racquet coordination. The best way to hit a ball on the rise is to take half a backswing and try to contact the ball about a foot off the ground while it is still low. This shot requires good footwork to get in a position to make contact at the low level. As with all shots if you practice this short hop return you will get better with it.
The high bounce ball offers players a variety of options and makes the game interesting. Once you have become more comfortable handling the high bounce then hitting deep, high balls to your opponent is a very good strategy.Doug Hofer, USPTA