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TECH Talk: How Ons Jabeur’s drop shot is going to be a killer on clay
The Tunisian is off to a great start at Roland Garros, and her drop shot is a big part of that.
Published Jun 01, 2023
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Oh, the drop shot. The most double-edged shot there is in tennis. On one hand, the player executing it is over the moon, and on the other, the player running to save the point is cursing in no fewer than 25 languages.
As fans, the drop shot is a heart-stopping moment. You can hear the gasps as they watch with excitement if the execution was a success.
And while most players are reluctant to rely on variety, Ons Jabeur embraces the change of pace more often than not.
Admired for her kind heart, the two-time Grand Slam finalist has found tremendous success because of her completely unique style of play, and her drop shot is a cornerstone of interruptive game.
First and foremost, the drop shot is most successful with the continental grip. For players who have a slight variation, it would be the same grip used for volleys and slices. The continental grip is the ability to open the face of the racquet and swing under the ball.
Swinging under the ball creates a backspin that cuts through the pace of the topspin and changes the rally entirely. In order to execute a drop shot, this swing must be short to make sure you are also interrupting the depth the ball will travel back.
"I thought my dropshot was good, and then there's Ons," Bianca Andreescu said after advancing at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
The more variety in a player’s game, the better. With a reliable drop shot comes a game style that is adaptable to every point situation. Push the opponent to the back of the court with high, heavy balls and then hit them with a drop shot; the rally turned into slapping balls at 100mph back and forth, so throw off the opponent with an extreme change of pace; the opponent threw out the first drop shot and isn’t expecting one back, so do it anyway.
I think they do it at very good times, and they disguise it very well. I think those are the two keys to hitting great dropshots, and they also have that little side-spin too. Bianca Andreescu
But wait, there’s more. Not only does the drop shot disrupt the physical game during the point, but it also brings a new edge to the mental game.
Both sides of the net are looking for patterns so that they can remain comfortable even in the most crucial points. With only a down the line backhand to look out for from time to time, there’s no real sign of trouble, for example.
But throw in a drop shot here and there during different situations and suddenly the player, no matter how comfortable they feel, are questioning in the back of their minds whether to expect a drop shot. The concern alone could make them creep forward in the court, making it easy to hit behind them—or actually hit a drop shot and convince them that they are correct to be fearful.
The bottom line? There are good times and bad times to use the drop shot. Capitalize on this variation when the court position is either neutral or offensive, and stay clear on the defense.
Developing and executing a successful drop shot is an asset for every tennis player’s game. Mastering this will take time as the feel of the shot needs to be developed, but once it’s there, the opportunities are endless.
Take it from someone who didn’t embrace it until college tennis: The drop shot can be the make-or-break part of both the mental and physical game.