When professional player Joey Farias first started playing Pickleball, he was still using a volley technique from tennis where you slice the ball. The problem with that is that the ball can float because you don’t have strings to put enough spin on the ball and control it. But Joey quickly learned from one of the top players at the time the importance of putting topspin on the ball, so he could hit what is called a forehand roll. Joey said, “I had never seen somebody put so much topspin on balls in terms of rolling balls. I was still hitting tennis volleys, mainly slicing shots, when we were first starting. Seeing the way he was able to hit what looked like ping pong shots from the kitchen line, that’s definitely been a big influence or was a big influence in my game early on.”
Joey said when he teaches the roll volley, he has his students focus more on hitting the back of the ball up in a brushing motion. People make a mistake when first hitting the shot by trying to hit the ball too forward. Joey elaborated, “Since my hands reaching out and the ball only has time to do one of two things that you’re trying to make it do, whether it’s go forward or go up. And since I’m putting spin, I know that the bottom won’t go forward and drop as well on its own with the natural swing. So I think that’s where players kind of go wrong when they’re first starting. It is they’re trying to hit the ball too forward. They see the target that they want to hit, and they go for that.” The result is that the ball stays too low and doesn’t cross the net, especially when hitting the ball from below the net.
In asking Joey about how the topspin in tennis differs from the roll volley in Pickleball, he said you are extending your follow-through in tennis. Tennis players are taught to think about hitting three or four balls. But in Pickleball, you’re just trying to hit one ball. The idea is to make contact and go straight up like a ping pong shot.
Whether you should hit a volley or let it bounce depends on where you will make contact with the ball in the air and how the shot was hit to you. If the ball is slower, like off the third shot drop, it makes sense to let the ball bounce before hitting it. It is because you have more options and can control the ball better. However, if the ball is coming faster, it makes sense to hit the ball out of the air. Joey said it’s really about your options. And the roll volley is another option to keep in your arsenal when at the kitchen line.