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When To Approach The Kitchen

When to approach the non-valley line (the kitchen line) is a consideration with many variables. You almost never want to come to the line before the second bounce, because you may find yourself reaching backward to return the ball. It is much easier to run forward than back.

In fact many beginning players naturally step forward as soon as they serve. This is a mistake, since the opposing team can easily confound the advancing server by returning the ball deep to the backcourt. The server then frantically runs back, tries to scoop up the ball by his feet, and fails miserably.

Unless the opponent is likely to hit a ball high from the backcourt, both players on a team will usually approach the non-volley line as soon as they can. For the team receiving the serve, that’s after they’ve returned the serve. For the serving team, it’s right after they have responded to their opponents’ return-of-serve. In general, it is not necessary to run up to the non-volley line. You can usually approach calmly. The big trick is to avoid being caught in mid-court when you are receiving a ball.

But there are extenuating circumstances. If your return is high and to the backcourt, you might expect a smash. The smash cannot land in your non-volley zone. The net is literally in the way. So the smash will come to your mid-court or backcourt. If the opponent elects not to smash the ball, then it will be slow enough that you can run up to the non-volley line.

When possible, you’ll want to take note of your partner’s movement. If your partner is hanging back, you’ll want to also, since if you move forward when your partner doesn’t, you leave a huge diagonal gap into which a ball can be placed that you won’t be able to return. Staying with your partner is often referred to as “coming up together.”

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