The drop shot is now front and center stage. We didn’t see it with Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi. Certainly Chris Evert didn’t use the dropper as there was no reason to encourage Martina Navratilova to take the net. And nearly all of the big big hitters on the tour favor power over guile. But that said, Rafael Nadal, of the punishing topspin shots that drive the opponents well behind the baseline, shows us the damage this delicate touch shot can wreak. And this shot is not just for the French Open. You and I can use this shot to good effect. But just as important as the technique to feather the backspin, the equally important issue is real estate: Where to hit it, where to be positioned to hit it, and where to move to cover the opponent’s reply.
Jim McLennan with some thoughts about the drop shot.
From where I sit as a coach as well as a player, I think most of us rarely try this shot. But when looking at the court and routine patterns of play, it appears most footwork is back and forth along the baseline. Players practice these moves in lessons and on the ball machine, and with a singles court 27 feet wide, most of these lateral moves are 10 or perhaps at most 14 feet. Rarely do players move further to reach the ball.
But the court is also 39 feet deep, and in many instances players are five or even ten feet behind the baseline, meaning one might move much further than 14 feet to cover a drop shot. And even if retrieved, generally that same player is now way out of position for any subsequent shot or at the very least, way out of his comfort zone.
Put the shoe on the other foot for the moment and recall how you feel on the receiving end of a drop shot. When fooled, you feel truly “foolish.” If you can get to the ball, and your opponent lobs easily over your head, you feel “toyed” with. And if you chase down the drop shot, race back for the lob, only to see yet another dropper, you have got to be seriously out of breath, if not somewhat demoralized. Now imagine the cumulative effect of this shot when you have faced (or better yet hit yourself) six or seven of these babies.
Coria wins the point with this well disguised drop shot.
So let’s take a look at the drop shot from the point of view of court position and anticipation.
All things being equal (though they rarely are) one wants to position inside the baseline when hitting the drop shot. When playing farther back the ball takes longer to cross the net, and for this shot the key is limiting your opponent’s time to get to the ball. Further, it is generally better to make contact as the ball is rising; this shot is next to impossible when the ball is descending into the contact zone. And back to positioning, in most cases when inside the baseline, the ball will ascend into your contact zone. This is a good thing.
You can play this shot cross court or down the line. The general rule of thumb is to play this shot the greatest distance from the opponent. As they race to retrieve the shot, the fun really begins. Sometimes drop shots are outright winners. Sometimes they are so difficult the opponent can barely control their reply. And sometimes the drop shot is not really that good which gives the opponent many more options. In each case the fun flows from your anticipation of likely outcomes and your subsequent repositioning.
Safin is well inside the baseline when he hits the dropper for an easy winner.
On your outright winners, take note of the effect on your opponent. Sometimes he may hustle for the ball, and even return to the baseline without noticeable effect. But other times an opponent runs forward with difficulty, if at all, or may appear clumsy and ill at ease trying to get to this ball. Or better yet, your opponent returns to the baseline winded, deflated, or both. Usually players are much more adept at the side to side baseline thing than the forward back drop shot lob thing, and if this is the case, you can and should use this weapon to full effect.
Now let’s work through the scenario where your drop shot is pretty good, but your female opponent is racing forward and it appears she will make a play, though the ball is dropping well below the net and about to bounce a second time. As she reaches the ball, she is out of position, either too close to the net, or off to the side of the court, and in either case, the court is open for your second shot. The trick is to quickly move forward into “No Man’s Land.” Now, if she floats the return you can play it early, or volley it into the open court. If she is as well trained as you, she may try to return your drop shot with a dropper of her own. But as you have moved forward into “No Man’s Land,” you can more easily get to any drop shot reply. On the other hand, if you play the drop shot then hang back on the baseline and wait for the reply, while you wait she will be recovering, and if you wait too long (as is unfortunately often the case) she can scramble back into position to restart the rally on more even terms. Watch the pro’s, in this scenario. The player who hit the initial drop moves forward to rob the opponent of recovery time.
Click photo: McEnroe closes the net after hitting the dropshot in case his opponent reaches the ball.
Finally consider the scenario where the drop shot is really not all that good: it sits up and gives the opponent a swing at the ball. All is not lost, for often this shot is rarely practiced by a baseline oriented opponent. She may not have the touch or the timing to put this ball away. But as to anticipation, now it is up to you to guess one side or the other if she is in perfect position, for you can safely assume she will not play this ball back down the middle. If the ball is not a total sitter, your anticipation is to really to see how she sets up to hit this ball. Be alert and willing to move to the ball quickly if she gives any cue as to the target.
As you experiment with the drop shot, and its close relative the lob, remember tennis is a game of errors. And many times the drop shot is not an outright winner but equally as effective when it produces an error. The mantra for tournament juniors is “keep the ball deep.” In this case your mantra could be “play one deep and the next one short.” And after a series of drop shots, you have inflicted both physical and psychological damage, for truly this shot hurts your opponent.
On the surface, the volley seems like a very rudimentary shot. “Keep it simple,” “don’t swing,” “just meet the ball,” sound familiar? However, anyone who has played tennis for any length of time knows the volley is filled with as much guile and treachery as any other shot and Doug King sees it as a useful stroke to use as a case study for the rest of the game.
Tennis pundit, Matt Cronin is joined by Richard Osborn of Inside Tennis to discuss Martina Hingis - her return to the WTA, surprising success, and her impact on the game. She is the feel good story of the year and for the first time in her career, Martina has become a fan favorite.
Whenever David Brouwer attends conventions or runs into fellow teaching pros, the first thing they ask is “got any new drills?” It seems that every pro is looking for that new drill or game to keep their teaching fresh. Here, Dave introduces some large group games you can do with many players on the court, keep everyone moving, and see results in your student’s matches.
Current professional tour coach, Heath Waters and wife, top 100 and former no. 33 in the world ranked tour player, Lindsay Lee-Waters, are proud to release the first predominantly all streaming video based e-learning tennis instructional website at www.virtualtennisacademy.com
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For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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