The smash is played against a ball that travels over and above the head of the net player. It is hit using serve technique and therefore requires precise positioning underneath the ball. This is because the required swing is longer and requires more coordination than the swing needed for a volley (the same reason that a server must toss the ball accurately). This longer swing allows the player to impart more power and spin on the ball.
Having a strong and reliable smash is a great advantage to a female player. Unlike in the men’s game (where having a powerful smash is almost a prerequisite), not all women hit this shot to a high enough quality. This contrast in execution is attributable to the difference in height and upper-body strength between male and female players. Many female players try to win all their points from the baseline because they are fearful of playing from the net.
This mentality often leads to a player forcing her shots too much from the back of the court and making too many errors as a consequence. Although executing the smash can be difficult for females, this shot is often under estimated and certainly not practiced enough, even though it should be included as an important part of a player’s attacking options.
The smash should be used when the oncoming ball travels too high for the player to hit as a volley. This is generally around head height and above. Similar to the drive volley, the smash should be hit into big target areas on the court because its power, rather than its placement, usually overwhelms an opponent, and also because an opponent often chooses a side to defend after lobbing-and moves there before the smash is hit. Areas such as the middle T on the court can provide excellent high-percentage targets to aim for when an opponent moves too early.
The smash (and bounce smash) should be practiced from all areas of the court. Sometimes, however, a player can have difficulty deciding whether to smash, drive volley, or volley a ball because the trajectory of the oncoming ball (i.e., its height, spin, and depth) is hard to read. Early perception and decision making are vital in this situation because each shot requires different technique and different positioning.
This is an excerpt from Women’s Tennis Tactics.