Pat Rafter Waiter Tray Volley Tips

Today I’ve got a great tip that’s going to help you with your low volley. If you struggle with low volleys because your swing across your body or chop down after contact, especially on the forehand…

…or if your follow through is too long after you make contact,  then the “waiter tray” finish will really help you.

A lot of players swipe across the ball on the volley which causes mishits and bad mistakes into the net. Chopping down and not getting enough of the ball causes you to dump the ball into the net.

The good news is that you can copy a former Grand Slam champion, Pat Rafter who did something very different other volleyers on the tour. He used what I call the “waiter tray” finish on the volley.  Rafter finished with his racket strings facing up towards the sky on his low forehand volley

Now, Imagine being in a restaurant and your server is holding a waiter tray with a plate of food on it. This is an awesome visual cue to use when you want to master this new technique on low forehand volleys.

The key with this unique forehand volley finish is to not let the racquet head drop when you hit your volleys because you don’t want the racquet head to get away from you.  Focusing on the “waiter tray” finish will solve. When you do this the racquet will stay closer to you and the racquet will face towards the sky.  This can be tricky for some because if you open the racquet face too early the ball might pop up in the air.

Another key factor to focus on when using the  “the waiter tray” finish is to keep your dominant hand on the same side of the body that you contacted the ball with.  This will keep you from excessively swinging across your body.

The “waiter tray” finish is an unconventional tip that Pat Rafter did used but you can’t argue with his results at the net. There was no one who finished like him and there was no one who volleyed as well as him during his era.

The next time you’re on the court and you get those lower volleys especially on the forehand side, finish with the racquet strings facing up towards the sky in the “waiter tray” position. See if that helps your forehand volley when the ball is just below net level.



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  1. Robert Ang

    Good stuff. This ‘cures’ the primary error that causes balls into the net, which is the racket not being open enough. Just don’t get too busy with the racket — excess motion makes timing all the more difficult.

  2. Martijnvan Beek

    Interesting, Jeff, I am gonna try it out tonight…


  3. barry

    Can you use something similar on a low backhand volley?

  4. Bruce

    This is a nice effective tip for the low forehand volley.
    They have been teaching this exact technique & “waiter tray ” wordage
    At steve wilkinson’s tennis and life camp for over 25 years for the low volley
    & the drop shot

    • Jeff Salzenstein

      Ignaz, There is some truth to this video but there is more to it. And I think Rick would agree.

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