Drop Shots In Tennis

Drop shots in tennis are a beneficial tactic on the court if you can use them effectively. At many points during the game, hitting a drop shot is a good idea because it goes just over the net and lands close and low to the net. If you can play it fast enough, the opponent won’t be able to hit it back. Even if they hit it, you will have the back and mid-court space available to exploit.

However, timing is everything and that differentiates between a good and a lousy drop shot. If you use it when you are out of position, it may turn out to be an error and you will end up delivering an easy short ball for your opponent. If you are struggling to ace the drop shot, this article will help you improve your technique and show you how to hit the perfect drop shot with ease and efficiency.

What is a Drop Shot in Tennis?

If you hit the ball very softly over the net, it lands short in the court. That’s called a drop shot in tennis. The ideal time to hit a drop shot is when your opponent is out of position or standing somewhere near the back of the court.

A good drop shot is one that barely lands over the net, and the opponent is unable to run towards the net to hit it before it has bounced twice. In this long rally (in the video below), You’ll see Dimitrov hitting a drop shot to win the point, but Djokovic quickly counters it with another well-timed drop shot. Have a look.

How do you do a drop shot?

The drop shot can turn out to be lethal if you deliver it at the right time and with precision. When you hit a ball over the net so that it lands in the opponent’s court close and low to the net. Your opponent will find it challenging to get there. That’s when the drop shot will be termed as perfect or well-timed.

Here are some essential points to help you learn the technique of hitting a drop shot.

Grip:

The continental grip is the ideal grip to use to hit a drop shot. It is the same grip you might use to hit a slice or a volley. The continental grip allows you to hit the ball out in the front to control the placement and spin.

Swing Path:

It is worth noting that a drop shot’s swing path is very much similar to a slice. However, the backswing of a drop shot is relatively shorter. You may open the racket’s face and swing under the bell to hit a softer shot with a better feel. This technique allows the ball to have sidespin and backspin to bounce away from the opponent.

Best Tips for Perfecting your Drop Shot Technique

Always remember that:

The ball shouldn’t go very low over the net; up to four feet over the net is perfect. The vital thing to note is that the ball should fall before or at the exact time it gets to the net to allow it to have the second bounce with backspin. This way, the ball will stay closer to the net. The technique will also help you disguise the shot since the opponent won’t perceive that the ball will fall short. When you hit very low over the net, your opponent will immediately start coming in, and the ball’s second bounce will be much deeper. Watch this video to understand how to time your drop shot. Roger Federer is one of the best drop shot hitters, and you will get to know why after watching it.

Your drop shot must be a winner. Hit the drop shot to get your opponent out of their comfort zone. Aiming for perfect placement of the ball will make it go into the net often, which will serve no purpose.

Cross-court drop shots are undoubtedly devastating for your opponents. However, such attempts usually result in errors. Let your mind accurately estimate the distance between you and the net while hitting straight-head. The net will get farther and farther away from you for cross-court hits.

If you lose a point due to miscalculated drop shot, don’t panic. Pause and think about what you can do to make it more effective the next time.

How to Use the Continental Grip for the Drop Shot

The right technique for the drop shot’s continental grip involves a perfect grip and swing path.

The continental grip offers both. A drop shot should be hit with backspin. The continental grip is ideal for achieving that as it tilts the racket back on the backhand and forehand sides. Moreover, the player should remain well inside the baseline before attempting a drop shot.

Ideally, the incoming ball will still be on the rise to impart backspin and give maximum energy to the shot. The best time to hit a drop shot is against a weak second serve. When you hit the drop shot, the continental grip will let you hit the ball in front while maximizing spin and placement control. To hit it, shorten your backswing, open the racket face, and swing under the ball.

If you are already familiar with a good forehand or backhand slice, you won’thave any difficulty since the swing path is quite similar to that of a drop shot. But if compared to a standard slice, the drop shot features a much shorter backswing. Big backswings, as you may already know, allow for more power. On the other hand, short backswings allow you to create a better feel and time and let you hit the ball softly. You can open up the racket face a bit more when making contact and come under and slightly across the ball. This will allow the ball to spin backward and slightly sideways, and it will spin away from your opponent after landing.

How to Disguise the Drop Shot in Tennis?

To prevent your opponent from detecting or anticipating the drop shot, fake a normal topspin groundstroke. That’s the best disguise for a player. You should quickly switch from the topspin grip to the continental grip to hit a drop shot. This technique is useful on both backhand and forehand. For instance, Novak Djokovich has this unique ability to disguise drop shots on his backhand side, while Nick Kyrgios can immaculately disguise forehand drop shots. This video shows how Nick swings like a normal backhand to hide the drop shot.

When should you Hit a Drop Shot?

When the opponent is out of position:

It is comparatively easy for the opponent to get out of position during rallies, specifically if they are getting slow or feeling tired. If this is the case, the drop shot will prove to be a viable strategy at every level from beginner to intermediate, advanced, and professional. For example, late in a third-set, the drop shot will serve as a useful tool because your opponent won’t be as fresh as in the first two sets of the match.

When Opponent is Comfortable at the Baseline But Not at the Net:

It would help if you drew your opponents out of their comfort zone. To do this, drop shots, or short slices are your best bets. Watch how easily Federer brings his opponent Tomas Berdych out of his comfort zone through a drop shot.

When you are Hitting with Power:

A drop shot is most effective during multiple spells of rallies. But, you must catch your opponent at a time when they least expect it. Such as when they have become accustomed to rallying with power from the baseline. Watch how Nick Kyrgios catches his opponent Illya Marchenko off guard at the 2016 US Open.

When you Need to Approach the Net:

A drop shot will force your opponent to play at the net even if they aren’t comfortable and decide the point there. A drop shot is ideal for bringing the player up close because a drop shot’s most common response is to hit another short or soft shot. Many players hit the drop shot and quickly move into the net behind. So you can use the drop shot as an approach shot to gain positioning in the court and get ready for the next ball. You will be at the net and narrow down your opponent’s shot selection by taking away some of their angles.

When NOT to Hit the Drop Shot?

When Out of Position:

Never use a drop shot when you are out of position. Just like the best time to hit the drop shot is when your opponent is out of position, the worst time to hit is when you are out of position. Balance, focus, and technique are fundamental to hitting a good drop shot.

Too Often:

It is better to keep the drop shot rarity. If you hit it too often, your opponent will anticipate it and attack the short ball quickly. Out-of-position drop shots are risky even for the most outstanding players like Roger Federer. Using it too much can make it predictable for your opponent, and when they start anticipating it, they will quickly figure out how to play it.

How to Defend Against a Drop Shot?

For singles players, it is imperative to recognize and defend against the drop shot. The following tips will help you counter the drop shop well.

Best Option- Play the ball a little deeper

You will see all kinds of spectacular counter drop shots on an ATP tour, but there is always the risk that it could be a hit-and-miss case. So, statistically, your best option is to play the ball much deeper down the line so that you could cover the net. This trick will put you in a good position at the net.

Play Cross-Court

If you believe that you can finish the point and cannot cover the net well, a cross-court drop shot will be an ideal option as it will leave too much of the line open. But if you don’t finish the point while hitting a cross-court shot, you will most likely pass down the line. If you believe that you can get to the drop shot and finish the point by hitting the ball cross-court, go for it.

The rule of thumb is that if you hit the drop shot early enough, you can hit the ball above the net’s height and then play it cross-court and finish the point. Conversely, if hitting the ball below the net’s height, it would be better to push the ball deep down the line and prepare for one more hit at the net, such as an overhead or a volley.

Go for a Counter Drop Shot

If you reach the opponent’s drop shot, a counter drop shot will be a great option, provided that you aren’t still running or at full stretch. You require fine hands for executing the counter drop shot with much accuracy. Accuracy relies on the position. If you are in a difficult position, your accuracy will be lost.

If you opt for a counter drop shot, do ensure that your eyes are glued to the ball, as you will have to hit it precisely. A counter drop shot is like a double-edged sword. You may immediately lose the point if you don’t execute it well. Watch Novak Djokovic’s drop shots to learn how to hit one and return it effortlessly.

Choose a Down-The-Line or a Quick Cross if Opponent Moves In

If you are the one who has played the first drop shot, it is possible to follow it into the net because you are expecting a weak response. If this doesn’t happen, you most likely will get past or won’t have enough reaction time. To quickly move in after a drop shot, you need excellent perception and volley skills for its execution. On the other hand, if you are on the receiving end and your opponent moves in after hitting the drop shot, you can either reach the ball comfortably to play a fast passing shot or play a low ball down-the-line if you reach the ball below the net height.

What to Do After Hitting the Drop Shot?

You should move inside the baseline, a bit cross-court to protect against the re-drop or prevent an angle put-away. If you can get the racket on an angle, you will benefit from the drop shot the most. If your opponent manages to go down the line, they will have to go over the net’s high part to the shortest amount of court left to have enough time to respond with a lob when the opponent is vulnerable. By merely moving in slightly, you can get to a re-drop to tap the ball with an angle or down-the-line.

Recognizing Your Opponent's Drop Shot

You can easily differentiate between drop shots and slices by closely inspecting your opponent’s backswing. If their take-back is high, it will be a drop shot. Since you want to take pace off of the ball, the swing will most probably look like a pendulum or a cup. When the opponent aims to hit a hard slice, the swing will be much lower, and the ball will be driven in a straight line.

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How to Return a Drop Shot

After you have learned to recognize your opponent’s drop shot, choosing what to do next is an important consideration. Generally, players counter a drop shot simply by playing the ball deep up the line to cover most of the net. On the other hand, a deep cross-court ball will allow your opponent to have more space to hit their shot into the open court or down-the-line.

Or else, you can play it back shot, much like a counter-drop shot, to return it as you are at the net and in a position to cover your opponent’s best options. They won’t have the chance to play a short ball again.

Final Thoughts- How to Improve Your Drop Shot?

If you don’t usually hit drop shots, it will be a superb strategy to add to your game. A general rule is that the more strategies you use in tennis, the better capability you will have to handle different opponents.

All you need to do is practice your drop shots. Have a practice match or use a ball machine to practice your drop shot.

As a final overview, here are the top tips to keep in mind when practicing drop shots.

  • I always prefer using a continental grip.
  • Using a shorter backswing, swing your racket in a cupping motion under the ball.
  • Fake a groundstroke to disguise your drop shot.
  • Never overdo the drop shot. Use it selectively.
  • Try experimenting with a drop shot as an approach shot too.

Check out high take-backs to identify when your opponent might hit a drop shot.