Whether you’re a recreational player or a top woman tennis professional, you need a put away shot in your arsenal. The purpose of this shot is to hit a winner, end the point and not give your opponent another chance to hit the ball. Not every incoming ball though can be hit for a winner. The key to hitting successful put aways is to be in the right court location and to only hit balls that are potential put aways.
Hit put aways from the correct court locations. If you're a baseline player and hit near or behind the baseline, the chances of you hitting a winner from this area are slim -- too much distance and your opponent will most likely get to the ball. If you're a few feet inside the baseline, you have a 20 percent chance of hitting an effective put away, but only if you have a reliable weapon, such as a killer topspin forehand, tennis professional Ron Waite notes. The best location is 1 to 3 feet behind the service line. This is where you can really attack the ball. If necessary, you can follow in behind it to hit a volley put away.
Recognize potential put away balls. In general, short balls that bounce net high or higher are good candidates. Look for a sitter or floater. This is a ball hit by your opponent with no pace that floats as it crosses 5 to 8 feet over the net. This is the perfect time to move forward and hit a volley put away. It's almost impossible to hit a put away off an incoming ball with backspin. Backspin causes the ball to stay low and skid as it bounces. Instead of going for a winner, just hit it back deep. Look for incoming topspin balls. Topspin balls usually bounce up above the level of the net, which makes it easier to hit a winner.
Prepare quickly when a put away opportunity presents itself. When you think you have a chance to hit a point-ending shot, get your feet going and move into position. Anticipate where the ball will land and decide on what type of put away you plan to hit -- for example a topspin cross-court shot, a volley or an overhead. Take your racket back into its proper position according to the stroke you're about to hit. Be committed, avoid over-hitting and maintain control.
Hit volley put aways when you're within 2 to 3 feet of the net. It's much easier to hit a winner from here than when you're at the baseline, and you don't always need to hit the cover off the ball. When you contact the ball, keep the racket's head above your wrist and brush down along the backside of the ball when you make contact. This puts backspin on the ball, which causes the ball to have a low bounce. A well-angled and strategically placed volley is effective in both singles and doubles play. When your opponent is well behind her baseline, a short volley can be as effective as an angled volley.
Learn to hit an overhead smash. The perfect time for this shot is when you're standing in one of the service boxes and your opponent tries to lob over your head. If she fails to hit it deep, quickly turn sideways to the net with your nonhitting shoulder facing the net. Move your feet quickly so you can position yourself underneath the ball. Raise your hitting arm and bend it about 90 degrees into a cocked position behind your body. Raise and extend your nonhitting arm and point it toward the ball. Swing your racket similar to the way you hit a serve, contact the ball and snap your wrist to hit the ball sharply down into the court.
- Have a hitting partner hit you short balls, lobs and volleys, and practice putting them away.
- Beware of heavy topspin balls. If you're not in position and prepared, topspin balls can bounce up quickly and jam your attempt at a put away.