Mastering the Drop Shot in Tennis: A Tactical Game-Changer

By Lin
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The drop shot in tennis is a strategic game-changer that catches opponents off-guard and shifts the match’s momentum.

In this article, we’ll dive into the art of the drop shot, exploring its nuances, benefits, and techniques. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced player, mastering this shot can give you a significant edge on the court.

Table of Contents

Keep reading to find out more.

What Is A Drop Shot In Tennis?

A drop shot in tennis is a stroke used to score easy points throughout a match. A player hits the ball softly over the net to land short in the opponent’s court, not giving them enough time to return it.

Here’s an example of what this looks like:

Professional players like Novak Djokovic are known to use this stroke by surprise, often winning entire matches with it. Of course, you don’t want to only use drop shots when playing tennis, as they prevent volleys and a ‘fair’ chance for your opponent to return the ball.

They are, however, a nice trick shot to play during a competitive match, as not many players can sense they’re coming.

How To Hit A Drop Shot

For those wanting to learn drop shots, doing this is easier than you’d think. First, it’s worth mentioning that the forehand and backhand drop shot is in the same family as the forehand/backhand chip return, volley, and slice.

So, if you have a good backhand slice, you should be able to master a drop shot quickly.

The Drop Shot Grip

To begin, you want to use a Continental grip on your racket when hitting a drop shot, forehand, or backhand, and swing from high to low.

Next, shorten your backswing, helping you to hit the ball softly. This will create an almost immediate second bounce once the ball is over the net. Something else to remember is that you should come under and slightly across the ball so that it spins backward and sideways.

Wait until your opponent is far enough away from the net that they cannot reach your drop shot return in time. This is the perfect way to end a rally.

Disguising Your Drop Shot

One of the only ways to properly hit a drop shot is by disguising it. Your opponent should not know you’re about to do this, and they should be well behind the net when you hit one. We recommend pretending you’re about to hit a normal topspin groundstroke.

When doing that, switch quickly from your forehand grip to a continental grip for the drop shot. This will be too sudden for the opponent to realize, scoring you the point.

Here is a helpful tutorial on doing this:


Always try to ensure you use very little backswing and create an underspin when the ball rotates backward (in the opposite direction to the direction of flight). That is how you master the drop shot.

Remember, the more backswing you apply to your drop shot, the less likely it is to do what it should: double bounce fast enough that your opponent cannot reach it for a return.

To summarize, here are key points to remember when playing a drop shot:

  • Use a Continental grip
  • Take a shorter backswing, and swing your racket through a cupping motion underneath the ball.
  • Fake a groundstroke to disguise your drop shot.
  • Only use the drop shot when needed: don’t overdo it.

The Placement Of A Drop Shot In Tennis

Alcaraz Dropshot Placement in Miami 2022

The ideal drop shot placement is near the net on the opponent’s side, forcing them to cover a shorter distance and making it harder to retrieve the ball. Another guideline is to ensure the ball doesn’t bounce beyond the opponent’s service box in two bounces.

How To Defend Yourself Against A Drop Shot

One of the easiest ways to defend yourself against a drop shot in tennis is knowing it’s coming. Generally, a player wants to watch for a sudden switch in racket grip and your opponent’s stance.

Recognizing A Drop Shot

Many professionals mention that there is a distinct way to know if a player is about to use a drop shot, mainly focused on your opponent’s backswing. For example, if the opponent’s take-back is high, it will be a drop shot. Moreover, when a player is about to hit a slice, they will almost always use a lower swing.

The higher the swing, the more chances of a drop shot happening. After all, the point of hitting one is to have it double bounce before you can run over to it: so avoid moving too far from the net if you notice these signs.

Returning A Drop Shot

Now that you know what a drop shot set-up looks like, it’s time to return the ball. Most times, returning a drop shot takes agility and a low swing, as the ball won’t bounce high off the ground once over the net.

We recommend playing the ball deep up the line, essentially allowing you to cover the net better. One of the mistakes players make is being too far away from the net at the time of a drop shot: resulting in a lost point.

Another way to return a drop shot is to play it short. That means you will create a counter-drop shot, which would do the same thing to your opponent. You will make a return the opposing player can’t return, ideally right next to the net.

When To Use A Drop Shot In Tennis

For players considering a drop shot in their next match, there are some instances when we’d recommended doing this.

  1. Your opponent is out of position. This mainly occurs in rallies, as the opponent is tired and slowing down.
  2. After you’ve been hitting with power, using the drop shot after multiple spells of rallies can be a shock.
  3. Whenever you want to approach the net: the drop shot is the perfect way to force your opponent to play at the net/up close.

When Not To Use A Drop Shot In Tennis

Although playing a drop shot can score a much-needed point, there are times when it’s inappropriate.

  1. When you are out of position: if you are slowing down, tired, or not in position, using a drop shot can and will backfire.
  2. Overusing the drop shot can cause your opponent to predict it, making it useless. This is a surprise stroke: keep it that way.

One of the reasons this shot is so controversial is that some players overuse it. Yes, scoring a point or two using a drop-shot strategy is fine, although nobody will like this for every game stroke.

How To Practice Your Drop Shot

If you want to practice your drop shot before a match, we recommend using a tennis ball machine. Doing this will simulate an opposing player hitting a regular ball across the net, allowing you to return with the lethal drop shot.

This video helps perfect Carlos Alcaraz’s iconic forehand drop shot, so we recommend watching it:

Considering that Alcaraz often tricks his opponents into thinking he’s returning the ball as a forehand blast, his drop shot technique has become one of the more commonly practiced in the game.

However, you want to focus on underspin, even creating backspin as you improve your drop shot. The lower your trajectory over the net: the better. Hit the ball high to low.

Tip: most players have an easier time hitting a backhand drop shot over a forehand. You have to have control over your wrist to hit a forehand drop shot, so this is a more advanced stroke.

Which Pro Tennis Player Has The Best Drop Shot?

Photo Credit: Mike Lawrence/USTA

Regarding the professional tennis player with the best drop shot, Carlos Alcaraz holds this title. As we said above, he goes with a forehand drop shot, often making this an impossible stroke for his opponents to realize.

According to the ATP, players deploy about 0.85 rally-ending forehand drop shots and 1.05 rally-ending backhand drop shots per match. That said, only 51.5% of players score points off the forehand drop shot, and just 39.7% score using a backhand drop shot.

Carlos Alcaraz, however, employs a forehand drop shot 2.83 times per match, with an impressive win rate of 67.7%. His backhand drop shot has a win rate of 52.1%, and he uses it 1.34 times per match on average.

In Conclusion

Mastering the drop shot in tennis gives players an advantage by adding versatility and surprise to their game.

By learning the technique, disguising the shot, and using it strategically, players can outsmart their opponents and improve their overall performance. The drop shot, when used wisely in combination with other shots, becomes a valuable weapon for gaining an edge on the court.

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Editor of All Points Tennis and a huge Roger Federer fan, I've spent countless hours studying his moves, especially his forehand and one-handed backhand. I also love writing about all the technical stuff like rackets and strings. I'm super pumped to share my insights with fellow tennis lovers here.