How to Perfect Your Tennis Lob
The tennis lob is a great offensive technique used to baffle your opponent into having to move quickly – and it is often underestimated in its effectiveness.
While playing a game from the court’s baseline can be just as effective and even tailored to different playing styles – whether defensive or offensive, the lob offers an opportunity to score once the opponent moves towards the net.
Learning and perfecting this move can lead to a win, and not using it when the chance strikes could be very costly.
The move is not too difficult to get down either, especially if you have moved past the beginner stage and already have basic tennis techniques and movements down.
Though it is not the most technical move a player could use, it is certainly a useful one. Top tennis professionals such as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are well-known for using the lob during intense games.
Their skill is clearly shown during these occurrences, not just by pulling it off correctly but also by realizing the perfect moment to use it.
Here’s a compilation of the best tennis lobs by Rafael Nadal, some of which perfectly shows the reactions of the opponents that could not react to the lob in time:
How does the tennis lob work exactly?
Picture your opponent across from you, somewhere between the baseline and net. When they hit the ball towards you, you can hit it back across the net at a steep upwards arc.
When done right, the lob should land either too far behind or too far ahead of the opponent for them to hit it back across the net well. At least, the lob should startle and throw off the opponent. At best, the lob will lead to a stumble and a win!
When to Lob
When the opponent takes a position closer to the net, the lob is most effective. You could also use a lob to buy time to move or as a last effort when other strokes wouldn’t work.
However, different kinds of lobs work better with different conditions. Let’s take a look into what lobs can be used and how they work.
Types of Tennis Lobs
Variations can be applied to the lob to make it more effective during a certain kind of game. Switching up the standard tennis lob can even put the opponent off their game.
It is also a good idea to get a good grasp of how the different kinds of lobs work, so you can gain more skill over the move and make it more unique to your playing style.
Standard Tennis Lob
There’re no flairs or tricks to this shot – just good technique and a powerful, precise swing. This video by intosport shows the technique for a good lob and explains exactly the situations that are best to use the lob in:
The video explains how the lob is done well, from how to perfect your grip and how to position your shoulders to prepare for the stroke.
The slice lob, as aggressive as it sounds, is played defensively. The standard tennis lob is played offensively, but this kind of lob allows for a hit when the approaching shot from the opponent is barely reachable.
It can be hit with forehand or backhand strokes, although backhand is more commonly used. The forehand slice is similar to a normal forehand slice but angled steeply upwards.
The slice lob is hit with a backspin and a steeper, slower upwards slope. This will give you enough time to reposition yourself on the court, but unfortunately, so will the opponent.
It is good to use when you need a few extra seconds to catch your breath or reposition yourself on the court but is generally considered a last measure. That’s not to say it will result in a weak game going forwards – part of knowing how to win is by recognizing your limits.
It can also be called the ‘backspin lob,’ as it is referred to in this helpful instructional video by Essential Tennis:
To get right to the tutorial on practicing a backspin lob, skip ahead to the 1:15 minute mark! This video also explains a little bit about topspin, which is a great segue into the next kind of lob.
This lob is the slice lob’s counterpart, where controlled topspin is applied to the lob to make it drop faster. This lob can also be hit with a forehand or backhand stroke, the difference being the backhand is more difficult but can also result in more power.
The topspin lob is effective in two ways – fooling the opponent into thinking (or overthinking) the landing point, resulting in them preparing for an overhead passing shot instead, and in gaining slightly more time to prepare for their swing back in a power position.
This short but cohesive video by Tom Avery Tennis from CTW Academy explains how to hit a good topspin lob very well:
Tips to Get a Perfect Tennis Lob
While the videos above give a great explanation of how to practice tennis lobs and their variations, there are several more tips players can keep in mind when looking to perfect their tennis lobs. This stroke is an important part of developing a well-rounded and technically skilled game, so getting a good idea of every small aspect that goes into making the lob perfect is just as important!
1. Getting the Right Grip Positioning
No matter what kind of job you are looking to do, having the right grip is essential in playing it effectively. The position of the grip changes from each type of lob, making it even more important to know well so your hands do not fumble before accomplishing the lob.
This grip has the index knuckle and the hand’s heel pad on bevel two, with the thumb wrapping around and wrist straight. In this video by Ramon Osa, the continental grip is shown in action with a lob shot:
For topspin lobs, the perfect grip varies. The eastern forehand, semi-western forehand, or eastern backhand all work well! This kind of lob’s grip is much more adjustable, so it is best to try out every grip and decide which feels best personally.
2. Start with the Right Stance
The position of your footing up to your shoulders is crucial to getting a good lob. As the lob will be going high over the net, the upper body should be kept slightly turned towards the net, and the acute angle followed through during the stroke.
A lob does not take a huge amount of movement, and the legs will do most of the work.
With the feet in a power stance, bring the back foot around the side of your body as you hit the lob forward and up, and end with it pointed at the net. Keeping on the balls of your feet during and after the shot should help with dexterity and speed!
3. Keep Your Balance
When hitting the lob shot with force or when leaning heavily to the side, balance can be slightly put off.
To keep the center of gravity right, use the non-dominant hand that is not hitting to keep your balance by stretching it out to the side.
You can use this hand to guide the racket back to a neutral position to keep your balance on the balls of your feet and getting ready for the next shot!
If you are using a double-handed grip, you can keep your balance by leaning your torso back, which will give the racket more room to maneuver to the ball.
4. Know How to Swing Your Racket
Much like the grip positioning, the speed and trajectory of your racket’s swing will vary according to what kind of lob shot you want to execute.
As the lob shot is meant to take a high arc over the net and land in a specific area to make the opponent’s return much more difficult, the swing will take place from a low angle, with the racket’s head lower than the handle.
When swinging, follow through on this angled curve upwards, swinging up for height rather than driving it forward for power.
As mentioned, the topspin lob will be faster than the slice lob, so the swing’s speed will also be faster.
Keeping the pace consistent with the type of lob shot you want to pace is necessary. Floundering on either the trajectory or speed of the swing can create the perfect opening for the opponent to hit a powerful shot back over the net.
You might also fool the opponent by swinging differently. Instead of following through a huge swing for a topspin lob’s speed and height, keep the racket steady in a powerful grip and snap it upwards during the swing’s end. This will launch it into the air more effectively.
5. Know Where to Place the Lob
One of the most crucial points of an effective lob is getting its landing placement right. Placing the lob too closely to the net and in reach of the opponent allows them to hit the lob back offensively, putting you in place to act quickly at a disadvantage.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of areas to aim at the lob shot, which will give you the advantage.
The most effective placement for a lob depends on where the opponent is currently standing and where they can reach most easily. If they are nearer to the net, placing the lob further behind them will force them to retreat.
If the lob is placed in a high enough arc, the opponent might follow it with their eyes to determine where it will land, which means more time to move without them seeing where you have gone.
You can also take that opportunity to move towards the net and continue playing offensively, forcing them to defend without time to gather their thoughts. If the time is right, they also might stare into direct sunlight, causing momentary confusion.
If they are in one corner of the court, placing the lob in the opposite corner forces them to run towards it, effectively making them push for a shot that will not go long or be too powerful.
6. Surprise the Opponent
Part of pulling off a good lob is to conceal it until it is already in the air, confusing the opponent and fooling them into preparing for a different type of shot to hit back.
This works especially well for a slice or backspin lob, usually leaving the player at a slight disadvantage due to its less powerful nature and longer air-time.
If the opponent can tell a lob is coming their way, they will probably have time to adjust their position on the court and hit it back. Even a second of extra time in preparing can be detrimentalsince taking just a couple of steps backwards or forwards might lead to them reaching a smash hit back over the net.
Ideally, keeping the opponent fooled or confused about the lob will last until the ball is already high up in the air, making them scramble to hit it back! To keep it concealed, make your positioning and racket resemble that of a groundstroke or similar shot, only switching it up once necessary.
This is a part of why it is so important to get your stance and racket positioning down. Having good lob skills also means you can keep the racket head up rather than titled down until a second before taking the lob shot – making the opponent think you will be hitting it back in a completely different manner.
Keeping on the balls of your feet will also help to hide the lob shot – only lean back when the racket’s swing has begun and then immediately bounce forwards again. Staying leaned back, wide open, and with the racket head tilted down, ready to snap up, is a sure sign a lob is coming.
What Comes After a Lob Shot?
Knowing how to defend or offend after you have played the lob shot or the opponent can make or break the shot just as much as anything else.
Choosing how to follow-up to the lob shot ranges from where to stand next on the court, what stroke to hit back with, and what to do better!
After smashing out the perfect lob shot, do not become satisfied and stand by while the opponent fumbles! The point of a lob shot is to create an opportunity, so do not let it pass you by.
Switch up your approach after the shot by moving closer to the net, playing with aggression or speed, and watch for the opponent trying to give you a taste of your own medicine by delivering a lob shot back at you.
However, if the opponent becomes complacent after delivering a lob, take advantage of that opportunity too!
Prepare For the Next Move
Staying still after pulling off your lob shot is again a waste of a chance to get ahead. As soon as it is off in the air, take every second to move quickly and catch the opponent off-guard.
If the opponent delivers a lob, it is important to move to it – hitting the lob back as quickly as possible will work in your favor.
Know Where to Hit Back
Depending on your position in the court after taking the lob shot, the game could weigh much more in your favor. First, analyze the opponent’s playing style. Have they been keeping towards the baseline during the entire game?
Hit a shallow lob, force them to move in and play nearer the net, and then keep them there. Are certain strokes out of their comfort zone? Use a lob to corner them and then play aggressively from the baseline, forcing them to hit back with strokes they wouldn’t normally use.
If they seem to expect a certain shot from their body language, lob back at them and get them frustrated their plan isn’t working!
The tennis lob shot is a great maneuver in many situations – granted, you know how they work.
Taking time to practice the various kinds of tennis lobs, even if you do not usually use them, is sure to pay off eventually. It is also important to know how to react to a lob shot when you are facing it from the opponent and even turn the game in your favor.