The drop shot is one of the most risky, cheeky and satisfying shots in tennis. However, there is a very fine line between leaving your opponent helplessly flailing towards the net and making yourself vulnerable to a winner.
As many amateur players prefer to stand on the baseline, an effective drop shot is an excellent way of breaking up your opponent’s rhythm and force them into making a mistake. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a winner – just pull them out of position.
We’ve put together a three-step list of tips and tricks to help you prepare for, disguise and hit your drop shot.
As with all strokes, timing is absolutely crucial in a drop shot. It will largely be dictated by the position of your opponent – with the perfect time to strike being when they are on, or preferably behind, the baseline.
However, getting the timing wrong could result in an easily attackable ball so always make sure beforehand and, if you hit dud drop shot, get back into position as quickly as possible. Alternatively, follow the ball into the net so you can quickly hit a follow-up volley or smash.
In this clip from the Australian Open final in 2015, watch how Maria Sharapova bides her time, gradually pushing Serena Williams further behind the baseline before unleashing a perfect drop shot.
With drop shots, cheekiness and subterfuge are the name of the game. Obviously, you don’t want the competition spotting from a mile off that you’re trying to catch them out.
You should, therefore, aim to disguise your drop shot. To do this, move towards the ball as if you’re going to hit a normal forehand or backhand in an open stance. Look as if you’re about to take a big backswing, but, at the last second, shorten the swing and open the face of your racket.
Here’s a perfect example, courtesy of Gastón Gaudio:
3. The shot
So how should you actually hit a drop shot? Well, first things first: adopt the continental grip as if you’re going to serve or smash. This means you’ll be able to add more underspin to the ball. To do so, move your racket along the back of the ball in a forwards and downward chopping motion – as if cradling the ball upwards.
Remember: the faster the ball comes towards you, the better because you’ll be able to more precisely control it and not have to apply any force to the shot. You also want to soften your grip on the racket, meaning there’s dull thud (as opposed to a crisp pop) when the ball hits the strings.
Here’s a selection of drop shots from the master for inspiration:
Now check out the three best videos showing how to play an overhead smash