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Drop Shots/Backspin-Slice

Q. What's the easiest way to teach the drop shot or backspin-slice?

A. Play short-court or “dink ‘em” games. This is when all of your shots need to be hit softly, with some loft, and land inside the two service boxes. This game trains movement and tracking skills, and allows players to develop feel and touch around the net.

Q. What is the difference between a "short chip" and a "drop shot?

A. A drop shot is hit softly with more loft than a short chip. It is designed to surprise, or fool, your opponent. Typically it is a shot meant to be a winner. Andre Agassi has added this shot to his bag of tricks and it became one of his most potent weapons during his run to the 2005 US Open final.

The short chip is usually employed to draw your opponent inside the baseline, or even up to the net. It is hit lower and more firmly than the drop shot. It is rarely designed to be a winning shot, but rather it is a “set up” shot for the next ball that you plan to play. Roger Federer has mastered this tantalizing shot on his backhand side.

Q. Please explain how and when to hit a drop shot, for singles and for doubles. How can I practice it on my own or what kind of drill can you do with a practice partner?

A. You should hit the drop shot when you are, at least, inside your own baseline and sense that your opponent is pretty deep on his side of the court. Also, hit it when they least expect it. Disguise is crucial.

In doubles, the drop shot is usually less effective- unless both opponents are at (or behind) the baseline. If they are situated one up- one back, then play the shot with a little more angle to assure that the net player cannot cover it.

How to hit the drop shot? Move to the ball like you are about to hit a “regular” shot. At the last moment, open your racquet face and gently loft the ball with some underspin, so that it barely clears the net and “lands gently.”

How to practice this shot? Play games of mini-tennis, where all shots must land inside the service line. Hit every ball with loft- no power shots allowed. Try to outmaneuver your opponent. During this drill/game, you will inevitably play many drop shots and, thus, gain a feel for playing them properly.

Q. I was wondering if you could explain to me how to successfully hit a drop shot, I try hitting what I think it is but most of the time it's just a slice. If I could use a drop shot comfortably it would help me immensely.

A. The key to hitting a drop shot successfully is to hit it so that your opponent can’t get to the ball on one bounce. To me, it is far more a matter of WHEN you hit the shot, then HOW you hit it. For example, if your opponent seems poised and on balance and is a step inside the baseline, you would need to hit a perfect drop shot to win the point outright. However, if they are way behind the baseline and recovering awkwardly from your last shot, then most any short ball you play with some backspin will be effective.

In terms of how you hit the shot, move to the ball like you intend to hit it with authority. This will “freeze” your opponent. At the last possible instant, open your racquet face and play the ball gently with some backspin. Again, disguise is even more important than perfect technique.

Good luck torturing your opponents with this annoying shot!

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