Tennis tips: How to respond to drop shots?

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Coach Marcin Bieniek, founder of Enjoy Tennis Blog, will explain how to expand your tennis skills with proper responses to drop shots in today’s dominance of baseline game. Marcin is currently looking for new career opportunities, so if you are interested in cooperation, you can contact him via his personal website.

Laura Siegemund of Germany ahead of her second-round match at the 2020 Prague Open

Introduction: Modern baseline game & drop shots

Tennis is a game of baseline shots, starting with serve and ending with forehands or backhands. That is why players spend most of their practice time on improving and learning new skills on the baseline. However, if you want to achieve advanced level of performance and be able to compete effectively against different styles of opponents, you need abilities in different areas of the court.

Modern game tends to be less and less surprising. There is no variety. Players use power to build advantage and force opponents to make mistakes. They rarely come to the net and don’t use slice shots as often as ten years ago. This situation is comfortable because competitors know what to expect from opponents, but it can also create problems because players are not prepared for successful answers to different shots.

Modern players start to panic when faced with a high-quality drop shot. They run and don’t understand how to respond to the ball that bounces really close to the net. They don’t feel comfortable in this area of the court and they are not aware of the tactics they can employ. For this reason, many players like to surprise their opponents with drop shots. Wisely-timed drop shots can earn easy points.

Cori Gauff of the United States in action during the first round of the 2020 Internazionali BNL d’Italia

How to respond to drop shots

To improve your response to drop shots, you have to understand your tactical possibilities in the area close to the net. Include the following skills into your practice sessions and you will be confident and prepared to win that crucial point that decides the final result of the match.

Hit counter drop shot

Proper response shouldn’t be related just to your skills but also to your opponent’s positioning. When the opponent stays behind the baseline after a drop shot, it is a good choice to try to use the same weapon which the opponent tried to use against you. Hitting a counter drop shot can be an easy winner if you surprise the opponent. If you see that the opponent is far away from the net, you can just touch the ball to make it bounce right behind the net.

Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in action during the second round at the 2020 Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Hit deep down the line

It doesn’t matter if the opponent stays behind the baseline or moves a few steps inside the court, a down-the-line response is always a great tactical decision. Placing the ball into the corner in straight line gives benefits from two perspectives:

  1. You have time to take a proper position at the net and try to hit a winning shot in the next attempt.
  2. The opponent will have a really difficult job to respond and hit an effective passing shot when you take a proper position at the net.

Hit into the opponent’s legs

Hitting the ball into the legs of the opponent is a good tactical solution when the opponent knows what to do after a drop shot and moves a few steps forward to get advantage by taking proper position inside the court. By placing the ball right before the rival, you force them to quickly react and hit the ball up. Many times they will wait with continental grip, so responding to the ball that bounces right before them will be limited to neutral or defensive half-volley. For you it means that by connecting hitting the ball into the legs and moving to the proper spot on the court you can create a simple scheme to deal effectively with your opponent’s surprising drop shot.

Petra Martic of Croatia in action during the quarterfinals at the 2020 Palermo Ladies Open

Conclusion

There are definitely more drop shots on clay-courts than on other surfaces, but good players always learn new skills to be prepared for their opponent’s versatility. By understanding and practicing different tactical responses to drop shots you start to feel more comfortable in this area and you will definitely win more points while running from baseline to the ball that bounces close to the net.

Visit our Tennis Tips page for a lot more articles by tennis coaches. There you can learn how to improve specific shots and skills, handle pressure, adapt your game to all surfaces and weather conditions, choose the best tennis racquet, and much more.

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