We’ve all been there.
You turn up to your local courts to play a match against a rival team, only to find that they are warming up by absolutely crushing the ball back and forth at each other across the net. You immediately get that nervous tingling in the pit of your stomach. This team look GOOD. And they hit with POWER. This won’t be easy.
The modern game of tennis is dominated by power baseline play. Balls being hit steadily harder and with more depth in an effort to win points through use of strength alone. That’s why it can prove immensely frustrating if you don’t have a natural technique that allows you to hit winners with ease.
So what CAN you do?
Well, you can learn to counter fire with just a little bit of feel.
Former men’s world number 1 Andy Murray has spoken in length about his frustrations trying to deal with power-hitting when he was a junior player. That was until he learned that he had silky smooth touch with which to beat opponents with.
So with all of that in mind, we’ve compiled a list to help you work out how to drop shot in tennis.
What is a Drop Shot?
The drop shot is easily one of the most delicate shots in the game of tennis.
It requires you to literally drop the ball into your opponent’s side of the court as near to the net as possible. In essence, you’re making sure that your opponent needs to come up to the net to try and get the ball before it bounces twice.
Check out some incredible drop shots in action below:
When to Use a Drop Shot
We recommend using the drop shot to help mix-up rallies and keep your opponent on their toes.
If you’re playing a match and you realize that the person you’re playing is a very competent baseline player who is having no trouble in extended rally exchanges against you, why not try out a cheeky little drop shot? You’ll be forcing them out of their comfort zone and up to the net, where they may prove to be slightly less competent. It’s then that you can take advantage.
Another perfect opportunity to try a drop shot is actually when you’re in a powerful position in a rally. If you feel like you’ve got your opponent on the ropes and you’re sending them further and further back behind their baseline, try a drop shot to catch them by surprise. With any luck, they won’t be expecting it and they’ll never make it to the ball.
This might sound like we want you to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses but we say all is good when trying to win! If you happen to notice that the person you’re playing against isn’t the fastest mover, hitting a shot that drags them up to the net quickly will likely have them struggling to consistently get the ball back to you.
Also, take note of how your opponent is playing at the net when they’ve moved up there. If you see that they’re consistently missing easy volleys, this is a sign that using the drop shot to force them to come in won’t be such a bad idea…
When NOT to Use a Drop Shot
Ah. We thought this question would come up!
Do NOT use a drop shot if you’re standing miles back behind your baseline on the defense. It’s exceedingly unlikely that anything is going to come of it… Unless your name is Nick Kyrgios, of course!
Hitting a pitch-perfect drop shot requires a stable and comfortable base, something that you’re unlikely to have when you’re scrambling around trying to retrieve shots from way at the back of the court.
We also suggest keeping drop shot usage to an every now and then kinda’ thing. If you overuse drop shots, it’s very likely that your opponent will wise-up to what your game plan is and start to expect it. Nobody wants to hit drop shots, only for their opponent to smash winners away time and time again.
Best to keep the drop shot as a wild-card shot to be used tactically.
How to Drop Shot in Tennis: “6” Easy Steps
As we’ve said up above, you want to wait until you find yourself in a relatively good spot in the middle of a rally.
You can, of course, hit a drop shot from anywhere on the court. However, you’ll see a lot of professionals strike them from a few feet inside the baseline with the intention of moving into the net to easily volley away a winner should their opponent get the ball back.
So with this in mind, we’re going to suggest that you should be standing a few feet inside the baseline. This isn’t such an odd spot to be in if you’re dominating a rally anyway and you can easily successfully hit a dropper from this position.
2. The Grip
Now when we usually tell you about grips, we keep it relatively straightforward.
However, this time, we’re going to talk a little bit about the importance of disguising your drop shot until the very last moment. This is important because, if done well, your opponent will be left floundering around on their baseline with little to no chance of making it up to the net in time.
We suggest using a Continental grip for hitting a drop shot. This is likely the grip that you already use for serving, volley, and slicing. It will allow you the perfect blend of controlled precision. The Continental grip can easily be found by holding your racket like a hammer or an axe, with the V shape between your thumb and index finger facing up towards you.
However, we suggest keeping your hands in their regular forehand or backhand grips for as looooooooooooooong as possible before switching to hit that sweet little drop shot you’ve planned.
Yes, before you ask, this does absolutely complicate matters a bit and can leave you making a few errors the first few times you plan for it. But once you master the disguise, you’ll feel great. The reason this is such a good tactic to use is that the actual swing for a drop shot is a lot shorter and more compact than a regular backswing.
Because of that, you can suddenly cut your regular backswing into a dropper at the very last moment, leaving your opponent yelling in frustration at the back of the court.
OK, so we’ve spoken right up there about the disguise.
Keeping that in mind, make sure that you’re going to be committing to hitting a drop shot. There’s nothing worse than changing your mind at the last moment and flip-flopping all over the place, trying to hit a regular forehand or backhand.
As soon as you’ve decided and you see your opponent stumbling out wide to retrieve yet another one of your shots, get ready by planting your feet. If you’re hitting a forehand dropper, place your non-dominant foot forward and if you’re hitting a backhand one, place your dominant foot in that position.
You want to make sure you’ve got that solid, sturdy and maneuverable base for pulling off this shot.
Here’s where things get interesting.
If you feel comfortable with slicing a ball, this is going to come very easily for you. This is basically a miniature, less powerful version of a regular slice. Because you’re hitting a shot that requires a bit less power, the backswing is going to be slightly shorter.
Bring the racket back behind your body by turning away from the net. When you’re swinging backwards, make sure to engage your entire upper-torso as this is going to allow you to brush down underneath the ball for maximum touch.
Keep your elbow bent and you’ll be looking to have the racket hovering just behind your head height. You won’t need your full forehand and backhand extension for this shot!
Remember, drop shorts are usually hit with just one hand. So if you have a two handed backhand, try and disguise your drop shot by preparing for this as you would a regular backhand power slice. Keep your non-racket hand at the throat of the racket in preparation as you rotate backwards.
5. Follow through
Here’s the moment of truth! When the ball is slightly off to the side but still in front of you, get ready.
Keeping the racket face open and angled slightly backward while still facing the net, you’re going to cut down at the ball. You’re aiming to curve right underneath it for maximum backspin. Think of hitting this shot as a mega-slice. You want a large amount of backspin without the power.
The result of this will hopefully be the ball drifting just over the net and curving off to the side or even – in some exceptional cases! – bouncing backwards into your opponent’s side of the net.
We’ve spoken a lot when covering other shots about the importance of hitting through the ball for power. This is still key element here but in a different way.
In terms of hitting through the ball, you STILL need to put some weight through the shot, especially if you’re hitting from slightly further back. Otherwise the ball is going to drop too short and not make it over the net.
So while you’re working on skimming the underside of the ball with as much backspin as possible, you’re still going to need to have that forward momentum as well. As you’re swinging through the ball, remember to bring your backfoot forward and rotate your upper-body back to face the net again.
You’ll end your follow through slightly shorter than your average slice as well, as you won’t need the bull sweeping shot that slices require.
6. You’ve hit the Dropper!… Now what?!
Well, you certainly DON’T stand around admiring you deft handiwork, that’s for sure!
As soon as you see the ball is making it over the net, you want to be ready to move in. If your opponent is going to make it to the ball, you want to be ready to punch away an easy volley from right up at the net.
You should be keeping your eyes on the ball at all times through the drop-shot and your knees should be bent to allow for that deft-cushiony touch, so there are no excuses for not being ready to spring into action to finish off the point.
There’s absolutely nothing more demoralising than managing to pull off a wonderful drop shot, only for your opponent to make an absolutely outrageous pick-up at the net to seal the point with a winner.
Stamp. That. OUT!
6.5. Something to keep in mind…
Drop shots are a lot about the very fine margins. If you apply too much underspin and not enough power, the ball won’t make it to the net. If you apply too much power and not enough underspin, the ball will sit up for your opponent to easily make a winner.
When learning how to drop shot in tennis, try not to get frustrated because, in reality, it’s a lot of fun and helps to keep variety within the sport. Experiment and play around with the dropper because the different kind of angles and spots on the court that you can hit with it will boggle your mind.
Also, who doesn’t want to see their opponent growing ever angrier as their efforts to blow you off the court with power is thwarted by a feathery light touch?…
Whew! That was a lot, wasn’t it!
The drop-shot has many technical elements to it for a shot that is actually a fairly short backswing. It also requires a level of pre-planning before hitting to make sure that you’re making the right call. Otherwise, it can all end in disaster, with the ball tumbling meekly into the net or sitting up too easily for your opponent to make it.
With that all said… We here at Mind the Racket absolutely adore the drop shot. It’s a reminder for us that tennis can be played without the brutal all-powerful topspin centric focus that modern professionals use 99 percent of the time.
Yes, you need to have variety. Yes, you can’t simply hit drop shots on every other point. And yes, it won’t always work for you.
But when it does, when you finally master that sleek little underspin cut on the ball that you’ve been working on for so long to perfect, when you FINALLY learn how to drop shot in tennis, well… There’s simply no better feeling.
And on that note, we’ll see you out there on the courts!