#22 Drop Shots


Backhand down the line is the #1 option.

 2013 London: Roger Federer def. Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3 

Richard Gasquet loves to stand way, way back. So let’s warm the drop shot up.

We all play opponents who like to play far back and it’s hard to hit through them because of their court position and it’s hard to hit around them because they run so well.

The perfect weapon is the drop shot.

Because of Gasquet’s typically deep court position Federer hit six drop shots in the match and won every one.

The key here is not to overuse it – keep it as a surprise play and you not only get to win the point, you get to alter your opponent’s mindset and court position in your favor in subsequent points.

Having a dependable drop shot can get you out of a lot of holes.

 2013 Wimbledon Final: Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 

 There were 14 dropshots, including 11 in the 3rd set,  in the Wimbledon final – that’s a lot!

Djokovic went to the drop shot early in the 3rd set to throw a monkey wrench into the match as he was down two sets to love.  Djokovic ultimately over-used the dropshot by hitting it 10 times after having a lot of success with it early on.

Djokovic was doing all he could to get back into the third set of the final and won 4/4 of his drop shots in the space of four games early in the third set to get back into the match but lost the last five in a row because Murray the surprise element was gone and Murray anticipated it coming. Djokovic did well to employ a new game plan since Murray was winning the battle of the baseline. He should just have not used it as much as he did.

Only three drop shots were hit in the first two sets as both players preferred to trade blows from the back of the court.

  • Djokovic hit 10 dropshots for the match, all off the backhand side.
  • Nine of the 10 were hit straight down the line to Murray’s forehand.
  • Djokovic only won 4/10 but the four he won were within eight points at the beginning of the 3rd set that helped him win four games in a row – going from a break down at 0-2 to a break up at 4-2.

Djokovic lost the first dropshot he hit in the opening game of the third but the string of four he won started with Murray serving at 2-1 30-30. Murray returned it with another dropshot but Djokovic sped in and hit a backhand cross court passing shot to get to break point.

On the next point Murray hit another drop shot and followed it in but missed a backhand volley just wide. Two big points, three total dropshots, and Djokovic was right back in the third set.

Serving at 1-2 0-15, Djokovic hit his next successful dropshot that Murray didn’t even attempt to run down as he was standing well back behind the baseline on fresh grass behind the worn patch.

Two points later and Djokovic was at it again and Murray missed a forehand crosscourt into the net. The opening point of the next game with Murray serving at 2-3 featured another Djokovic dropshot that Murray put into the net going down the line. The dropshots had the added benefit of tiring Murray from the extra running and moving him closer to the baseline in ensuing points but most importantly it gave the match a whole new completion which Djokovic desperately needed being down two sets to love and a break in the third.

A key component of dropshots are the element of surprise. With Djokovic hitting so many, and being so successful with it, Murray was now on full alert and Djokovic would lose the next five he hit for the remainder of the third set.

With Murray serving for the match at 5-4 15-0 Djokovic would hit his last dropshot – a high floater that Murray easily ran down and hit for a winner that drew thunderous applause from the crowd as he moved to within two points of the title.

Murray only won one of four dropshots he hit for the match as he far preferred to trade ground strokes from the back of the court, where he hit 10 forehand and nine backhand winners.

 2013 Istanbul: Victoria Azarenka def. Sara Errani 7-6 (4), 6-4 

Azarenka is a power baseliner. Hard to do that off a drop shot. 

Sara Errani was the underdog and had to play a match that involved guerilla tactics as much as possible to upset her higher ranked opponent. Errani suffered a right calf strain during the match so running and playing defense became a very tough tactic to employ.

Azarenka wanted a hard-hitting battle from the back of the court so Errani did everything in her power to move the battle out of her opponent’s strike zone. Importantly, she brought the battle forward with several drop shots that tipped the battle in her favor early on.

  • Errani hit her first dropshot on the second point of the match.
  • She started the second game of the match with another drop shot but ultimately got broken missing a forehand volley.
  • Errani started the third game of the match with yet another drop shot but Azarenka was there quickly for a forehand winner.
  • the Italian then used a drop shot lob combination to save game point a few points later.

Dropshots have an infectious nature and it was now Azarenka’s turn, hitting two unsuccessful drop shots into the net later in the set. True to form, Errani hits another dropshot on breakpoint and Azarenka missed a running backhand to fall behind 4-2.

Errani’s game plan was working like a charm and Azarenka was getting pulled all over the court instead of employing her powerful stand-and-deliver strategy on top of the baseline. Errani’s calf muscle strain would play a major part in the final score but Errani played very smart tennis using the drop shots against her big hitting opponent to have a real chance in the match.

 2014 Indian Wells Semi: Agnieszka Radwanska def. Simona Halep 6-3, 6-4 

Once again, the primary focus of hitting drop shots is not all about winning the point.

It’s about disrupting your opponent’s mind and game in the following points.

  • Radwanska hit 6 drop shots and only won two of those points.
  • It made Halep play a little closer to the baseline, slightly out of her comfort zone.
  • Radwanska didn’t want a slugging baseline match and drop shots helped. Radwanska also came forward to hit 7 forehand volley winners for the match.

 Madrid Final: Rafael Nadal def. Roger Federer 6-4, 7-6 (5) 

Roger Federer hit nine drop shots trying to exploit Rafael Nadal’s deep court position.

Federer was successful with the tactic, winning 7/9 (78%) points attempting it throughout the match. The main thing fr Federer was that if Nadal had to respect the drop shot then he must play closer to the baseline to cover it – which suits Federer.

Federer did well hitting his drop shots early in the point robbing Nadal of time to construct the rally in his favor,  but Federer only started the tactic serving at 1-1 in the 2nd set.

Second Set Tie Breaker 

Federer lost two points going for drop shots, but ironically it was his decision to hit one of them that cost him the 2nd set tiebreaker.  Leading 4-2, he clocked a forehand return off Nadal’s 2nd serve and got a weak ball back. The percentages say hit a big forehand approach at this time – but he opted instead for a drop shot that landed half way up the net.

Drop shots typically are much harder to hit when the score is tight as the extra scoreboard pressure makes the shot a lot tougher to execute.

If Federer hits a normal approach, it is probably a winner and he leads 5-2 serving – and we are most likely going to a 3rd set.

Go Do This

Backhand down the line work best. You get automatic disguise.

Hit it with a continental grip. Much easier than trying to adjust with the angle of the racquet as you hit it.

Be standing inside the baseline when you attempt it.

The second bounce is the important one. Plenty of backspin to stop the ball.

Avoid doing it when the score adds more pressure to the shot. It’s probably going in the net.

Absolutely best time to hit it is into the wind. 

Don’t overuse it. It’s primarily a surprise tactic.