It’s been a lengthy rally and you’ve impressed yourself with how you’ve managed to stay in the point with your opponent hammering his shots from the baseline. They’re running you side to side to side to side and you’re pretty sure you’ve done more moving in this point than any other one combined.
And your opponent is feeling the effects as well. You can tell he’s feeling it a bit and that he’s going to mix it up in an effort to change the flow of things.
Sure enough, they flick the switch by hitting a slice approach shot that spins out wide and lands just in the court. Your opponent is now up at the net and you’re stranded back on your baseline with a few different options.
Now in reality, you’ll have about 1 second to react to this ball and decide how to return it but right now, we’re not in reality. We’re in this article right here and so we can take our time to think over the correct play.
So while you may be tempted to try ripping a cross-court passing-shot winner, we’re going to go in another direction. We’re going to focus on a play that requires a bit more touch and accuracy.
We’re going to focus on the lob. So get some popcorn and settle in for a read while we take you through a comprehensive guide on learning how to lob in tennis…
What is a Lob?
Good place to start, this!
A lob is a shot that you hit with far more height than any other in the tennis playbook. You’re directly looking at getting it right up there and landing it deep on your opponent’s side of the court, ideally as close to their baseline as possible.
It’s played in a variety of different situations but usually, you’ll be looking to get it right up and over your opponents head. If pulled off successfully, this shot will undeniably leave you feeling like an absolute boss!
It is important to know the array of different lob types and so with that in mind, let’s get on with analysing some of them!
Types of Lob
So you’re in a good position. You’ve deliberately brought your opponent into the net with a drop shot and they’ve managed to scramble the ball back over the net.
But you’re in control and you want to be cheeky with a nice high lob up and over their heads. Well, this is an entirely legitimate play and is what’s known as an offensive lob. You’re in a winning position in the rally but you want to end it with less power and more precision.
Well, this is pretty much the direct opposite of the one above!
Defensive lobs are very helpful when your opponent has you on the run and on the ropes. If you’re being stretched back and forth all over the court, throw up a lob to help get yourself back in the rally.
If struck well, your opponent will need to track back to their baseline, giving you enough of an opportunity to position yourself back towards the centre of your side of the court.
Forehand lobs are good to hit when on the run and will allow you some variety in terms of power. They also offer the greatest amount of options for last minute decisions, as you only need to drop your arm low and flick up to try for it.
Two-handed backhand lobs are great, as long as you’ve got a stable base from which to hit them from. Hitting two-handed backhands on the run is tough and will require you to plant your feet properly before hitting.
But if you successfully do that, you’ll find that you have more control on the height level you’re going for due to that extra hand on the racket doing the extra lifting.
As with most one-handed backhand variations, this shot is a bit trickier to successfully pull off than its two-handed counterpart.
This will require more of a flicking motion than an actual fully structured swing at the ball. The less stability on the racket means that your timing will need to be top-notch if you’re going to master this shot. We also suggest the closed stand for this as well.
If you can manage to hit an open stance one-handed backhand lob, well… You probably don’t need to be reading this list, to be honest!
How to Lob in Tennis: 6.5 Easy Steps
So you can really hit a lob from anywhere on the court to be honest!
For example, if you’re in the midst of a quick-fire volley exchange with your opponent, you may try to catch them off-guard with a flick lob up and over their heads.
But a lot of the time, you will be stationed at the back of the court with your opponent up at the net. If they’ve hit an approach shot and look to be moving into the net, you best be ready. Alternatively, if you’ve hit a drop shot to draw them into the net deliberately, you REALLY best be ready. You’ve set them up and now you need to finish them!
In any case though, 99 percent of the time, your opponent will be camped at the net with you attempting to get the better of them from somewhere on the baseline.
If you already have a natural forehand and backhand grip, you can RELAX! We’re not going to ask you to learn some fancy new way of holding the racket. You can use whatever grip you already use for both your forehand and backhand.
In case you’ve somehow arrived at this article having never actually found a good forehand or backhand grip, most players use either the Eastern or Semi-Western forehand grip and a combination of the Continental and Semi-Western for the two-handed backhand. One-handed backhands are regularly struck with an Eastern grip.
When learning how to lob in tennis, preparation is of paramount importance.
The good thing is, the process for prepping is relatively straightforward, as most of the key moments are going to be very similar to your regular groundstrokes.
To begin with, you’ll likely be in your ready position with both your feet facing the net having just taken a split-step as your opponent has hit the ball.
As soon as you see them ghosting into the net and you’ve made the calculated decision that the lob is your best option, you’ll need to adjust your grip to suit your backhand or forehand as you would do normally.
Start to turn your shoulders away from the ball. Place your legs in their regular places, one out in front depending on which side you’re swinging from. You’re going to be bringing the racket back behind your body as you would do with your normal backswing preparation.
Take your normal concise looped swing with the racket behind you and get ready to propel the racket back forwards. Your arm should be extended behind you, ready to whip through the ball when you’re ready.
Bend your knees as you do so. This is going to help for leverage and allow you to cut underneath the ball easier.
You want to bring the racket a little lower on the backswing. If you were going to go for a regular topspin shot, you’d look to be striking right through the shot. Instead, you want to be ready to scoop skywards.
Try to use your non-racket hand to stabilize yourself before you swing.
With both the one-handed and two-handed variations, bring your racket back in its regular swing behind your body and ready your feet.
With the two-handed, you’ll be able to hold the racket steady as you drop it low to bring under the ball. The one-hander is a bit more of a task but you’ll still be able to hold the throat of the racket with your free hand to help hold it in the ready position.
Similar to the forehand backswing, get bending those knees! No one ever hit a successful lob with dead straight legs!
5. Follow through
And here’s the all or nothing moment of truth! This – as with all the shots we’ve covered on this website – is all down to timing and practice.
Let the ball come towards you. You’ll have your eye on it at all times. This is a precision shot and requires a careful amount of touch and power.
When the ball slightly out to your side but still in front of you, you’re going to swing forward and open that racket face up. This is going to allow you to angle the ball skywards if you hit it well.
Rotate your body forwards and bring the racket up, under and through the ball, keeping that racket face open and steady at all times throughout the swing path.
You’ll transition your weight from the back foot to your front foot as you swing through the ball. You’ll be aiming to follow the line of the ball as you complete your swing by bringing the racket up and down on the other side of your body.
6. Now what?!…
You’ve hit your lob! It’s going skywards. It’s looking at landing in! You’ve won the point! YAAAAAY!…
But wait. Have you?!
Make sure. There’s no doubt that your opponent is already racing back towards their baseline to try and flick the ball back into play. With any luck, they won’t be able to but what if they do?!
You’ll need to be ready.
A lot of players move into the net when they’ve hit a successful lob that their opponents are going to struggle to get back. This allows them to easily volley or smash away any attempt that their opponents make to continue the rally. This is absolutely something to consider.
Regardless if you choose to move into the net to take up a dominant position, you’ll still be looking at taking a split-step when your opponent hits the ball. Always. Split-step. Always.
6.5. A Few Quick Added Pointers
As you get better and better at lobbing, you’ll notice that the more topspin you get on the lob, the more difficulty your opponent has in returning it back over the net. It also offers that bit more control on your shot and raises the percentage chance of landing the ball within the confines of the court.
To add topspin, close the racket face sharply as you swipe up the back of the ball. It’s going to be a more extreme angle you’re hitting through the ball with, so you may well need to drop the racket head that slightly lower before swinging forward.
You know how we mentioned defensive lobs up at the beginning of this article?
Well, slicing the ball is going to come in handy when trying to hit those hard-to-reach balls. If you find yourself pushed back and forth across the court, try cutting underneath the ball to angle it skywards with some underspin.
As a result of this, the ball will stay in the air longer and give you more opportunities to reposition yourself on the court easier. Of course, the downside of this is that it also offers your opponent more time to get ready for either an overhead smash, a volley put-away, or at the very least, a powerful forehand or backhand.
But hey, if it helps extend the rally even by one or two shots, it’s been a success, right?
Did you catch all that?
We know it’s a lot of information to take in on what is a fairly straightforward shot. Due to the easy nature of using your forehand and backhand grips, you can think of the lob as a variation of those shots if it helps you accept it more easily!
In today’s modern tennis world, it’s easy to get bogged down in the importance of heavy baseline rally exchanged. You turn up at the majority of tennis courts and you see players emulating the professionals by trying to hit with as much power as possible.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that but we here at Mind the Racket can’t stress enough how important it is to bolster your shot armory with as much variety as possible. There are no downsides to learning how to lob in tennis.
Notable professionals we would suggest watching with fabulous lobs would be Andy Murray and Agnieszka Radwanska, both players who are somewhat lacking in power compared to their biggest rivals but relied on touch throughout the majority of their careers.
And so with that said, we’ll leave you to practice.
See you out there on the courts!