Novak Djokovic's Drop Shot

by: Ed McGrogan | July 16, 2009

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The world’s No. 3 player takes a break from pounding two-handed backhands to hit a delicate one-handed drop shot.

1. Players who hit two-handed backhands usually don’t find the one-handed backhand drop shot to be a natural stroke. Djokovic shows that he’s an exception. He stands well inside the baseline as he approaches this short ball, the perfect kind on which to attempt a drop shot. While you can’t see it here, Djokovic typically waits to release his left hand off the racquet until the last second, which will better disguise his intentions. His preparation is perfect: a firm one-handed backhand grip, a healthy knee bend, eyes on the ball, and his racquet head up. Notice the V shape formed by his racquet and hitting arm. When the racquet is in this position, you can carve under and across the ball, generating backspin and sidespin.

2. As Djokovic hits the ball, his left arm moves backward to help him maintain his balance. He swings with his arm, not his wrist (you can still see a hint of the V shape from the first picture). The drop shot requires touch, but touch, like power, depends on proper weight transfer into the ball. Look at Djokovic’s feet: His left foot is now off the ground and his weight is moving forward. Many recreational players not only don’t move forward as they hit the ball, but often fall backward. Another benefit of stepping into your drop shot is increased disguise. Djokovic easily could have hit a full slice backhand here. If your opponent can’t immediately read your drop shot, you’re more likely to hit a winner.

3. Djokovic follows through across his body rather than toward his target, which reduces pace, increases the height of his shot, and adds spin. The height is significant here because he hits this ball inside out, over the high part of the net. While that may seem risky, it’s common for a drop shot, as it gives your opponent—who may be behind the baseline and in the other corner of the court—more distance to run. All of Djokovic’s weight rests on his right foot, and his left arm is farther back than in Picture 2. The counterbalancing movements of his arms are particularly important, but they’re often difficult for players with two-handed backhands. On the two-hander, your arms move forward together. Sometimes it takes a little extra practice to get the hang of moving your arms in opposite directions.

4. Djokovic’s right knee is nearly straight now and his momentum is toward the net. His arms are at shoulder height and his back is upright. His shoulders have rotated from their initial sideways position, but not asmuch as they would on a backhand drive. Now that the shot is finished, it’s time for Djokovic to get moving. If you hit a good drop shot, don’t stand there and admire it. Follow it to the net, with your steps tracing the path of the ball. Even if your opponent gets to the shot, you’ll be in position for a winning volley.
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