The Art of the Drop Shot
Having a variety of shots in your arsenal when playing tennis is a great advantage to have when you step on the court.
Particularly in the modern game where tennis is played all over the world, players are fitter, racket and string technology is so well developed and so many players can play well from the baseline.
Also factor in slower courts these days, and it is easy to see why having more than just one dimension to your game is a key part of improving your tennis.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to introduce the drop shot to your game.
A tactic often used for the element of surprise, this cheeky little shot can turn a long, gruelling rally on its head.
It is a play implemented by all of the best players in the world to great effect, most notably used by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
All great tacticians and students of the game, these players have been extremely successful on tour and have used drop shots to wrong foot their opponents.
Djokovic and Murray have been known for using drop shots and lobs throughout their careers.
These have been particularly effective given how strong both of their two handed backhands are, making an opponent expect another crushing blow from this wing, only to be left flat footed when a soft floated drop shot is thrown in.
It took Federer a while to adopt this strategy on the other hand.
Arguably the most talented player the game has ever seen, Federer only really started using the dropshot in earnest from around 2009 onwards.
He had already won 14 grand slams by that point, but adding this shot to his game really helped improve his all court style, adding another element of surprise to the maestro’s repertoire.
So, let’s explore the art of the drop shot and how you can use it to improve your game!
How Hitting Drop Shots Can Improve Your Game
As we’ve mentioned, adding drop shots to your game is a great way to improve the variety of your game.
If you are used to playing a predominantly baseline focussed game, playing a soft, short drop shot may not come naturally.
However, this can give you a tactical and mental edge on the court, since you know you will always have an ace up your sleeve.
Drop shots act as an element of surprise when executed correctly, since they completely change the pace of the rally and the court position of both players.
A well disguised drop shot can freeze an opponent in their tracks, and plant a seed of doubt in their head for the rest of the match.
This is an added bonus of using drop shots, as your opponent will never know when you will play the next one, meaning they may hedge their bets and step further inside the court.
This can then make playing deeper balls more effective, highlighting the knock on effects of being able to play drop shots at any moment.
This in turn can open the door for faked drop shots and underarm serves, adding another layer to keeping your opponent uncomfortable on the court.
How to Hit a Drop Shot
As shown by Novak Djokovic below, you need to think of a drop shot as a short slice.
This is a great comprehensive lesson from the reigning world number 1, but if you skip to 2:55, you’ll see a great clip of him explaining how he hits his drop shots.
In order to master the art of the drop shot, Novak explains how you need to hit it on the front foot, open up your racket face and make a ‘cut’ on the ball with this short slice to generate enough backspin.
Let’s unpack what he means here.
So, when Novak mentions hitting the drop shot on the front foot, he is referring to your weight going forward and the ball being well in front of you.
In this position, you have the most balance and therefore the most control over the ball.
Since the drop shot is quite a delicate shot to hit, it is especially important to have good balance and have a solid base to play from.
Then, Novak talks about opening up the racket face.
This may not be a common turn of phrase for you, but it basically means turning your racket in your hands so your strings are pointing more to the sky facing towards the other end of the court.
This ‘opens up’ the racket face, meaning when you hit the ball now, it will go up in the air and generate backspin.
This is exactly how you want to hit a drop shot, since you will want the ball to bounce short on the other side of the net and stop dead in its tracks, making it even harder for your opponent to reach.
Finally, Novak explains that we need to make a ‘cut’ on the ball and a short slice in order to get the ball to land short on our opponent’s side of the court and spin back towards us.
What he is referring to here is having a short swing on the drop shot, so it does not travel too far.
When you consider the open racket face you will be hitting the drop shot with, if you hit the ball hard it will simply balloon up in the air and you’ll be left a sitting duck!
However, if you use a shorter, smaller swing with this grip, you will be able to hit the ball just over the net.
But because of the backspin you’ll put on the ball, you’ll be able to give the ball just enough loft to have some margin for error, whilst generating a good amount of backspin to stop that ball right where you want it.
As you start to develop more confidence using the drop shot, you may want to add side spin to the mix.
This offers a new angle to your drop shots, making it even more difficult for your opponent to read where the ball will go after it has bounced.
Mastering the art of the drop shot will certainly help you get better at tennis!
When to Use the Drop Shot
As much as it is important to know how to play the drop shot, it is useless if you don’t know when to use it.
If your opponent is a net rusher or likes to serve and volley, then playing drop shots frequently is probably not going to be very effective, since they will already be close to the net the whole time!
On the other hand, if you are looking to defeat a pusher or a baseline player, using the drop shot is a great tactic.
This is because in general, baseline players tend not to be as comfortable coming to the net, since they prefer to hit attacking groundstrokes and dominate from the back of the court.
So if you can bring them into the net with a drop shot, even if they are able to make up the ground and return it, you should be able to easily pick them off with a dipping passing shot or topspin lob.
Furthermore, if you are playing on a surface with poor traction or your opponent is not a great mover, then throwing in drop shots will help you finish points quickly and easily.
This is especially effective on clay, since it can be difficult to find grip and change direction quickly.
Ultimately, tennis tactics are about understanding your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and recognising the best way to exploit these.
It is important to remember to play the drop shot when you are in an appropriate position to do so.
If you are in a defensive position or way behind the baseline, you will probably lack the necessary control or balance to execute a well placed drop shot.
Whereas, if you are already moving up the court to play an approach shot or crush a short ball, then shaping up to hit big and then turning this into an underhand drop shot can leave your opponent floundering.
You should be on your toes and try to move closer to the net after you have played a drop shot, as this helps you cut off the angles and since your opponent will be hitting up, you’ll likely have an easy put away volley.
Finally, be careful not to over play the drop shot. The idea is to be unpredictable and keep players guessing, so be sure to only hit these when the time is right!
The Different Types of Drop Shots
One for the more advanced players, below is a range of different drop shots you can hit, inspired by the pros!
The Side Spin Drop Shot
The Drop Volley
The High Drop Shot
The Drop Shot Fake
The Bernard Tomic
Ultimately, using the drop shot adds variety to your game and helps retain the element of surprise.
You can keep your opponent off balance and win the mental and tactic battle by using this deft touch.
It will add a new element to your game and increase your confidence on the court!
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