How to Hit a Lob in Tennis (Simple Guide)
Want to learn how to hit a lob in tennis?
Modern tennis players tend to favour baseline exchanges, but no match is exclusively played from deep, and when your opponent does visit the net, possessing an effective lob shot can often prove to be a very useful weapon to have.
So, we’re going to show you how to hit the perfect lob!
A Solid Lob Sends a Strong Message
A well-executed lob shot wins points, but crucially, it also sends an impactful message to your opponent. It advertises a well-stocked toolbox of shots, and as we will learn, a good lob also illustrates a flexible and alert mind.
Cumulatively, a good lob speaks of having a comprehensive skillset, something that can play havoc with your opponent. As shots in your arsenal go, having a good lob shot can be a real disrupter.
Let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to hit a good lob.
8 Steps to Hit a Winning Lob in Tennis
It’s a defining moment when your opponent approaches the net.
You know the point is about to end one way or another, but who’s going to come out on top?
If you know how to toss up the perfect lob, then your chances of winning the point go up a lot.
That’s why we’re going to show you how to hit a lob in tennis – here are the steps we’re going to look at.
Step 1: Get the Groundstroke Fundamentals Right
If you don’t have confidence in your forehand or backhand, then it’s going to make it much more difficult to hit the lob.
When you attempt to play a lob in tennis, your margins are pretty low. You’ve got to threat the ball over your opponent’s head and inside the baseline, which is no mean feat, so you’ve got to have confidence in your groundstrokes.
They’re going to allow you to improve your strokes in no time at all, without having to leave the house!
Once you’ve got the groundstroke fundamentals right, then you’re in a great position to hit the lob.
Step 2: Size Up Your Opponent
Of course, all of this happens in split-seconds, but these are nuances we often compute automatically and instinctively, but nonetheless, they are important components that it is useful to be mindful of once we have a solid lob available to us.
Warm-ups are the perfect time to assess your enemy’s height, reach and strengths – in short, their susceptibility to being lobbed.
Step 3: Choose the Right Ball
So, how do you add a destructive ‘lobber’ to your bag of tricks?
Firstly, there are a few essentials that help the effectiveness of your shot.
Clearly, your opponent needs to be in the frontcourt, as near to the net as possible as this will expand your margins. Then, picking the right ball to lob against can stack the odds further in our favour.
A low slice landing deep at your feet will be a challenge to attack given that our goal is engineering a lob shot that is high, controlled and being greedy, loaded with topspin.
Facing an approach that allows full access to the ball is preferable, especially as a lob shot can carry a high tariff. Misjudge things and fail to hoist a high ball and you gift-wrap an easy smash, while overdo the power and we risk the ball sailing long.
Attempting to lob a ball that arrives too low will make imparting the requisite combination of height and spin difficult. Similarly, a ball too high, notably the heavy, head-height balls loaded with spin (think Rafael Nadal’s heavy topspin forehand) and again our odds of success can reduce.
The biggest fundamental is choosing the right ball to lob against.
Preferably, while you are on balance, is a solid foundation upon which optimal and offensive lobs are built.
Step 4: Hit the Lob at the Right Time
Imagine we are mid-rally where our opponent presents an attackable shot into our backcourt. You are alert, your footwork is responsive and the ball bounces at a favourable height. In your peripheral vision, you can see your adversary has approached the net and an opportunity has arisen to lob.
What comes next is cooking up a lob shot winner with a recipe consisting of feel, height and spin.
You need to be aware of your opponent’s location and ideally their vertical reach from which you can discern how much height will send the ball beyond their reach while remaining within bounds.
Taller opponents complicate things while against certain opponents, maybe the more diminutive or less mobile, you can purposefully construct points to manufacture lobbing opportunities by drawing your opposition into the net with the occasional drop-shot.
Tennis matches are won and lost on small margins, so making sure you get your tactics right can make all the difference.
Step 5: Use Spin to Help You Hit the Perfect Lob
Now, hitting a lob shot with topspin is not essential but it helps.
Naturally, your degree of experience will help determine the difficultly of shot being attempted, from a simple ‘bunt’ that floats high and flat, to an aggressively whipped salvo loaded with topspin – you have options regardless of your experience.
The former option is the easiest to execute of course, but a high and flat lob shot affords your opponent the opportunity to retreat and hit a reply, whereas the introduction of topspin brings extra effectiveness to the party.
Topspin lob shots will dip more violently, virtually ‘lengthening’ the court – affording you the opportunity to hit the ball higher and harder, using topspin to make the ball fall sharply once it has reached its apex.
And if you needed convincing that spin is your friend when hitting a lob shot, remember that revolutions translate into traction, with the spinning ball gripping and fizzing off the court, taking with it, the odds of your adversary staying in the point.
Step 6: Commitment is Key to Your Lob Shot
In terms of executing the lob shot and the required technique, your watchword is ‘commitment’. For what can be an aesthetically appealing and graceful shot to watch, commitment is paramount – no half-measures.
In the same way as a golfer will use a full-blooded swing to hit the ball relatively short distances when using his most lofted club, we likewise want to make an aggressive pass, brushing the back of the ball with whip while our racket tracks on a ‘low to high’ path to achieve the desired combination of height and spin. Meanwhile, leaning back a little with your weight more in your heels will help encourage the desired ‘high launch’ angle.
Fail to commit and the ball will likely ‘float’ and fall within reach of our opponent while committing without imparting spin will risk the ball landing beyond the baseline.
Step 7: Remember the Defensive Lob As Well
Tennis is never fair and opportunities to lob do not always allow for an attacking opportunity. We may face awkward approach shots for which a lob attempt is still a strong option – in this instance in a defensive move. A shot that may not necessarily result in a winner, but one that keeps you alive in a point.
Here, your primary objective is to hoist the ball over your opponent, buying you time to recover. Again, you will benefit from developing an intuitive sense of what it takes to avoid the reach of your opposite number, but where previously we have looked to dictate proceedings, here we scramble to stay alive.
With a defensive lob shot, our primary objective is to stall our opponent and create time so that we can regroup. The priority is lofting the ball high and deep and using the time it takes the ball to complete its journey to recover our position and breath – while disrupting our opponent who may need to scurry back to invariably play a less controlled return.
And if you would appreciate a golden nugget to enhance your chances even further, direct your lob shot into your opponent’s weaker side. Almost exclusively this will be their backhand wing unless you are playing Coco Gauff (who strangely is much less potent on her forehand).
Step 8: Get Inspiration from Andy Murray
For inspiration, look no further than Andy Murray who is a real exponent of lobbing as this montage from Wimbledon shows.
It often appears that Andy is on the backfoot, pinned to the baseline with his opponent in control, but Andy routinely flips the script and invariably wins the point.
And to illustrate the art of how lobbing is a combination of instinct, technique and positioning, just look at how Murray repeatedly and successfully lobs the 6’11” Croatian, Ivo Karlović. Note how Murray hits with freedom, his racket freely tracking upon a more vertical path with a full release helping to impart spin that ensures the ball clears the Croatian’s huge reach while landing short of the baseline.
Murray has clearly invested time to hone his lob shot and if it works for Murray against giants like Karlović there is no excuse for you not to practice the fine art of lobbing.
How to Hit the Lob in Tennis: Practice Practice Makes Perfect
If you have a ball machine (here’s our guide to the best ball machines) or incredibly patient practice partner, it is a shot worth experimenting with.
While the fundamentals are universal, feel is wholly subjective and it is worth spending time to calibrate your personal range, developing your craft to find your personal formula of spin, power, and trajectory.
And if you get some alone time, you can always use that opportunity to stand on the baseline, experimenting with hitting to targets in order to help calibrate, to determine what a good lob shot looks and feels like.
On Attack or Defence, the Lob Is a Vital Skill in Tennis
So, by virtue of having a solid lob shot in our armoury, we have options that can disarm an accomplished opponent.
We can create uncertainty in the mind of habitual ‘net rushers’ and when pinned back by an aggressive player, a good lob yields the option to make our adversary play one more shot.
It’s a must-have shot on the tennis court, but what about the rest of your game?
Well, you’re in luck, we’ve got some awesome resources to help you out:
- A Complete Guide to Doubles Strategy
- The Art of the Slice Backhand (Step-by-Step)
- Carlos Alcaraz Forehand Analysis
- Wilson Clash vs Head Gravity (Full Racket Comparison For 2022)
Now there’s only one thing left to do.
Get out there and learn how to hit the lob.
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