Tennis Shots that Win Points. The 6 Best Types To Play
Looking for new tennis strokes to play? There are a dozen of them! Check out this guide to learn more about tennis strokes and their uses.
There are dozens of tennis shots out there for players to master, divided into attacking and defensive shots. Despite the general classification, all of these tennis shots have a specific use during the match.
There is an option to master all of the tennis shots, but very few people can do so apart from the pros.
Therefore you’re best to understand all the shots first and then pick out the ones that work for you to be kept in your immediate arsenal.
These shots will become your go-to shots and define your style of play.
This article helps you identify and understand the different types of tennis shots available. Attached with these shots are video tutorials for each shot to help you master them perfectly.
What You’ll Learn
Tennis Shots Mechanics
Before exploring different tennis shots, it is worth taking time to understand the mechanics behind them.
Every typical tennis shot employs a technique of cumulative movement.
This is also referred to as the Kinetic Chain. The Kinetic Chain describes the initiation, propulsion, and release of energy starting from your feet up to your hands and ultimately your racquet.
This means that the buildup of energy will start from your feet for any given shot that you want to play. It will then move to your legs, hips, trunk, shoulders, and arms, all the way to your hands which you will use to swing the racquet and hit the ball.
The Kinetic Chain movement concept emphasizes the importance of correct posture and stance for playing any tennis shot.
A continuous, uninterrupted, kinetic chain will ensure a powerful, well-timed, precise shot – and vice versa.
Types of Shots
As mentioned above, dozens of shots are available to you as a tennis player.
These shots differ in nature depending on the tactics they are used for.
For example, tennis shots can be aggressive and defensive depending on the type of play. Forehand shots, backhand shots, volleys, overhead shots, drop shot, half volleys, and lobs are some examples of different tennis shots that are available.
Tennis strokes are usually classified based on the manner they are played in. These include:
4) and some particular types.
Serves are one of the most basic types of shots in tennis. They are also crucial since serves start the play for every point. This is why we have put serves at the top of this list of tennis shots.
The basic idea is that the players take turns playing the serve before starting each point. Each player has two chances, the first serve, and the second serve.
The primary purpose of a service is to get the ball into your opponent’s court and start the play.
There are three different types of serves:
- Flat Serves – little or no spin, maximum power.
- Kick Serves – topspin, adds extra bounce.
- Slice Serves – side spin allows the ball to skid off the surface.
Each of these serves is explained in detail below.
Flat serves add little to no spin on the ball.
The strength lies in the power and speed that this serve imparts to the ball.
Flat spins are hard to read because they don’t allow your opponent much time to react.
Flat serves are usually the first choice for a serve for many amateurs and professional players.
A kick serve is a little more complex type of serve and also carries more benefit. The idea here is to hit the ball on the up, tilting down your wrist before making contact with the racquet.
This sends the ball flying down and dropping in the opponent’s court very close to the net.
Another advantage of this type of serve is that it adds extra bounce to the ball.
Usually, when the ball lifts after touching the ground, it’s at a comfortable waist height for the opponent to play.
With Kick serves, the ball usually bounces higher than waist height and requires your opponent to move and adjust according to the ball’s trajectory.
This is a serve requires more skill to execute and is usually played by pro tennis players.
Slice serves, as the name implies, are played by “slicing” the outer edge of the ball with the tennis racquet.
The ball’s slicing makes the ball spin vigorously on its vertical axis and provides more energy to the shot.
The slice serve is a tough serve to play.
Once it reaches the opponent’s court, the tennis ball bounces off the ground higher than usual. Thus, the ball moves with the spin, altering both the ball’s height and direction.
When played away from an opponent, the slice serve can help you make space and prepare for a putaway shot.
When played close to or into the opponent’s body, the slice serve creates confusion and increases the chances of an error from your opponent.
Groundstrokes are one of the most common tennis shots out there. These also include the very first shots taught to new players.
As the name suggests, Groundstrokes are shots that are played to hit the ground in the opponent’s court once.
Groundstrokes can be played with both forehand and backhand.
There are different groundstroke varieties for both forehands shots and backhand groundstrokes. Some of them are listed below.
Topspin Forehand and Backhand Strokes
The forehand and the backhand strokes are usually two of the first strokes taught to new tennis players.
For the most part, both these strokes are straightforward and use either one or both of your hands.
Topspin forehand and topspin backhand shots add, you guessed it, topspin to the ball.
This helps the ball achieve extra bounce once it hits the court on the opposite side. This topspin is added to the ball because the player brushes the tennis racquet on top of it.
Flat Forehand and Backhand Strokes
Flat forehands and backhand shots are also typical tennis shots, and they are played when you don’t want to allow your opponent any time to move.
Flat forehand and backhand strokes are challenging to play for your opponent because they make the ball almost skid across the surface without bouncing much, leaving the opponent no time to react.
However, flat forehand and backhand strokes are also hard to control, just like the flat serves.
Players with eastern grips usually play the flat forehand and backhand strokes much better than players with western or semi-western grips.
Sliced forehand and backhand shots are primarily defensive shots. Unlike the topspin forehand and backhand shots, these are played with one hand, and usually when you are trying to catch up to your opponent’s assault.
Sliced shots give the ball a characteristic backspin since the racquet brushes against the ball’s lower surface when hitting the shot.
Reverse Crossed Forehand Stroke
A reverse crossed forehand stroke is played when a player runs around his backhand to hit the ball with his forehand across to the opposite side.
This is a powerful and popular stroke as it has multiple different uses.
Players who don’t have a strong backhand prefer using this stroke.
This gives them the ability to overcome their shortcomings and surprise the opponent.
Also, it could be hard to play for your opponent if your opponent doesn’t have a strong backhand.
The reverse cross forehand also makes for a good choice when running to get to the ball and not having much time to play a precise shot.
Since this shot lets you hit the ball accurately when playing late on the ball, it makes for a good countermeasure.
Parallel Inverted Forehand Stroke
Like the reverse crossed forehand stroke, the parallel inverted forehand is also played by a player who runs around his/her backhand to use his forehand for the stroke. The difference between the two strokes lies in the direction of the ball. Instead of hitting the ball cross, this stroke hits the ball down the same line.
A volley is when a ball is hit before it even touches the ground. This is a handy tool when the player is either running towards or already close to the net.
Once at a close distance from the net, the player can hit the ball towards the opponent’s side due to an increased hitting margin or sharp angle.
Volley can be played with both forehand and backhand techniques.
Forehand & Backhand Volleys
Both forehand and backhand volleys are hit with the player’s dominant hand. A volley usually works perfectly with the continental grip.
This grip allows players to quickly send the ball back over the net without hitting it too hard.
Players who are new to volleys are usually encouraged to engage two hands for their backhand volleys allowing for better control over the shot.
Sometimes, when players are running towards the net to play a volley shot, they’ll find themselves a little too far from the ball to hit as a volley and a tad too close to wait and hit a groundstroke.
These situations can be tricky because, as a player, you have to decide whether to try and reach the volley or hang back and see what happens.
Situations like these can be saved by hitting the ball as a half volley.
A half volley stroke, is when a volley is missed, and it hits the ground but is struck on the up as soon as it bounces off. This is a simple block, or deflection, of the ball in the opponent’s direction.
Like volleys, half volleys can also be hit with both the forehand and the backhand with a continental grip.
4) Special Tennis Strokes
Other than the very typical tennis shots described above, some other tennis strokes can be used and should be used by a player in different situations. These tennis strokes are among the most useful and also downright odd strokes in the game, as you will see.
A modern tennis player should always learn all these strokes and keep them under their sleeve as tricks to surprise their opponent.
An approach shot occurs when you approach the net to hit the ball. This is a powerful shot and can be played with both the forehand and the backhand.
Sometimes your opponent will hit the ball short. This means that the ball will fall closer to the net and that you will have to move in closer to reach the ball.
If you’re fast on your feet and reach the ball early, you can play the approach shot, which provides you with greater control and precision over your shot’s direction.
A passing shot is when your opponent is close to or at the net, and you try to “pass” the ball right past them.
This is a straightforward yet fantastic shot that can leave your opponent perplexed.
Because of its apparent simplicity, sometimes players overdo it and fail to execute the shot correctly. However, this can be avoided by keeping yourself calm in intense situations.
Sometimes an opponent on the net is difficult to get past. In times like these, when you can’t play the passing shot, lob shots are an excellent alternative.
A lob is simply a shot that sends the ball flying over your opponent’s head and landing on the court behind them.
Lobs are seldom used as attacking maneuvers, but they make for an excellent defensive tool.
Players can choose to play the lob with both a forehand and a backhand. They can also choose to add topspin to the ball to increase its bounce once it hits the ground.
You can opt to play the lob when your opponent is throwing fierce shots at you one after the other.
By simply lobbing the ball up, you can buy some time, catch your breath, and reaffirm your footing before your opponent has a chance to hit the ball at you again.
You can also choose to play the lob when your opponent is too close to the net, and you can’t seem to get one past them.
The Overhead Smash
If your opponent plays a lob, you’ll find yourself in a difficult situation. Typical tennis shots hit the ball at a waist height. A lob flies over you, coming at an almost vertical angle. This presents a problem.
However, a simple solution is to use an overhead shot.
An overhead shot is a modification of your typical serve. It’s played by letting the ball come to you and then hitting it from over your head, adding topspin to the ball for that extra sweet bounce.
Like many other tennis strokes, an overhead smash is played with a continental grip.
The Drop shot
A lob is a perfect fit for when your opponent is too close to the net.
But what if your opponent is far from the net, smashing you with a barrage of fast forehands? Easy. Just drop the ball near the net and watch your opponent get frustrated.
A drop shot is executed by adding a little power to the ball as required to get it past the net. Once past the net, the ball drops close to it.
A drop shot would be a wrong choice if Usain Bolt played tennis. Since he doesn’t, a drop shot is indeed an excellent choice for when your opponent is at the baseline, visibly flustered and tired from all the running – often played later in the match.
Chip and Charge
A chip and charge shot is played exactly how the name suggests.
You chip the ball back to the opposite side and immediately start charging towards the net. The intention is to create space for a volley and hit it past your opponent.
While this is a highly effective game plan, if executed well, it can quickly turn over its head, though.
You might not be able to reach the net in time or perhaps execute it wrong, giving your opponent a chance to hit you with a passing shot.
A putawayisn’t a particular type of tennis stroke. It’s simply a term for a shot that “puts away” the ball far from your opponent. This can happen with a chip and charge situation, a volley situation, and even an approach shot.
A winner is also an expression of the “tennis talk” rather than being a shot.
Any tennis stroke that goes past your opponent is a winner.
BONUS: The Tweener
Imagine a scenario. You played a chip, and now you are charging towards the net, hoping to put the ball away for good on return.
However, your opponent is not an average joe, so they decide to surprise you with a lob over your head.
You see the ball and think about playing an overhead shot right back at that smug grin on your opponent’s face.
But the lob was hit a little too well, and now you find yourself running around for it with your back turned to the net.
This is a tricky situation not only because it’s got you running like you’re running for your life, but also because you won’t be left with any time to turn around and hit the ball even if you manage to reach it.
So, what do you do in such a situation?
A Tweener shot is made for situations like these.
It’s not your typical tennis stroke, and it certainly isn’t helpful in many cases. The Tweener stroke is usually played more because of its visual appeal rather than its effectiveness.
However, like the one described above, some situations require the use of this shot.
A tweener shot is when you play a lob between your legs.
This is a complicated stroke to master, and not many people consider using this shot in pressure situations.
However, once mastered, the tweener allows players to play impossible lobs that seem to fly over your head right down to the edge of the court.
As you can see, dozens of tennis strokes are available, and even more ways to play every one of them.
Some are played with forehands, some with backhands. Some use both and allow the player to add spin to the ball as well.
All these tennis strokes serve a purpose.
Some shots are defensive, while others are as ruthlessly aggressive as possible.
A proper tennis player knows the importance of playing all these shots in their respective particular situations.
If employed well at the right time, all of these shots can turn you into a US-Open winning tennis pro – well, not quite, but darn close to it.
This is why knowing and learning all of these shots is extremely important.
Although each shot serves its purpose, you don’t have to use every shot in its particular situation.
Remember, you are a human. Give yourself the margin of human error. No human can remember and execute such an extensive portfolio of tennis strokes and use them when they’re required.
This is why it is recommended that you try all of them and then handpick the ones you see fit your game. Once under your belt, you can select any of these shots and, well, “shoot-your-shot” with it – pun intended.