#13: Make Your Opponent Run: Use the Drop Shot!

If you have tuned in to the Tennis Channel lately you have undoubtedly witnessed the birth of the next tennis superstar — 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz. He is a breath of fresh air to men’s tennis. Although he does not have the artistry of Roger Federer (who sadly may be playing his last tournament in Basel, Switzerland, in October), Alcaraz possesses an entire repertoire of shots including a deft drop shot from both wings.

Years ago the drop shot was considered a “woman’s shot.” Federer didn’t add the drop shot to his game until about a decade into his career. Nadal uses it now as he sees his opponents retreat far behind the baseline to defend against his spin. Novack uses it more often than the other two, sometimes even too often. But it’s Alcaraz who now goes to this touch shot, even under extreme pressure. Given that the men’s power game pushes players farther behind the baseline, the unexpected drop shot can be a lethal weapon. At the time of this writing, you can check out the 2022 French Open matches and take note of how often the drop shot is used!

In USTA adult tournament tennis, the drop shot may be used to great effect, particularly in women’s games because women tend to move better side to side than men but not as well up and back. Women’s senior tennis is all about the drop shot. If you watch a women’s tournament singles match you will witness an incredible number of drop shots. Incredible, in that a typical match might highlight 10 or more drop shots in two sets. It’s used less in doubles because it brings opponents to the net in an aggressive position, but in singles it puts players in spots where they are easily lobbed. Hitting the drop shot off a weak second serve is also a smart tactic and employed often by top women players. In fact one of the top women players in the world in my division (70’s) has single-handedly been responsible for three of her opponents pulling a hamstring (me included!).

So what is the drop shot, how and when do you play it? A drop shot is  a ball hit softly over the net with backspin so that the ball lands close to the net with no forward movement after the bounce. It is the ultimate feel-based stroke. The shot begins with a Continental grip and a slightly shortened backswing. As the racket moves forward the face of the racket should open on contact to create backspin and less force forward. The end of the stroke is also shorter and makes a “U” shape around the ball. The wrist is firm, the hands are soft. A well done drop shot can bounce three times in the service box.

Play the drop shot in these situations:

  • Against a player who is positioned well behind the baseline
  • Against a player who is a steady baseline player
  • Against a player who does not move well
  • As a surprise and change of pace
  • Against the wind
  • Play the drop shot when you are on or inside the baseline and have control over the ball

Watch this Online Tennis Instruction YouTube video to learn more about the drop shot:

Learning the drop shot may take some time but will pay big dividends. Add this to your game and watch your opponents run …

Judy Dixon

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