I told my friend John, a marvelous player who passed away recently, that I thought the most important thing in hitting a drop shot was “Weight”….in other words, get your weight into the shot, so your soft hands are concentrating on taking power off, and directing, the ball. John nodded, seeing my point. But then he topped me.
”I think the most important factor in hitting the dropper is HEIGHT,” he said. And as usual, he was right.
A lot of people miss drop shots, because they think the most important aspect of the shot is to skim the net with the ball, figuring that the lower the height at which the ball peaks, the more difficult it will be for the opponent to get to it before the second bounce. But think about it. If you hit the ball at a low trajectory (initially dangerous because you may catch the net), the opponent will see that the ball will be short, and will hustle in immediately. Also, the trajectory of the ball will make it bounce low, but forward, perhaps reaching almost to mid court.
On the other hand, if you concentrate on lifting the ball higher, peaking maybe THREE OR FOUR FEET ABOVE, BUT WELL IN FRONT OF, the net, the opponent, not realizing that you took the pace off the ball, will initially read a deep shot, and will not immediately rush the net. This trajectory will also allow the ball to drop much closer to the net, which is the most difficult factor for the opponent, since he has to apply the brakes quickly for fear of running into the net, and must still hit a difficult, controlled return into a safe spot. Spin, of course is the killer.
The best droppers seem to have a mix of side and back spin.
If you incorporate a slice shot as part of your game, the dropper should look like it was going to be a hard slice. Even after it comes off the racquet, your follow-through combined with the appropriate height above the net will give the impression that it is a deep slice or an approach shot. Drop shots should catch the opponent by surprise.
They are usually best when struck from inside, or just at, the baseline. They are a great way to break up a long rally, when the opponent is already a little winded or in a groove. Hit them to the opposite side of the court from where the opponent is…..although the inside-out forehand drop is deadly (for those who have the Jim Courier-type, inside-out forehand weapon). Follow the dropper in toward the net (in case he drops it back!), stopping just on the net side of the service line, anticipating a ball you can lob-volley (or even lob half-volley) over the charging opponent.
Drop shots are like body blows. They have a way (especially when combined with lobs) of breaking the opponents spirit, and wearing him out. They earn you invisible points, because they can cause an opponent to lean in every time he hits a short ball, worried about your potential dropper, and mess up his next ground stroke due to poor footwork.
To summarize, think WEIGHT as you approach a shot you want to drop (GET your weight into the shot, use quick short steps, like you are preparing to hit a drive), think HEIGHT as you stroke the shot, making sure to follow through high and clear the net. Follow the lob in past the service line and anticipate a lob-volley. You can win a point on a poorly executed dropper that clears the net and goes too deep, You lose the point every time if your stroke hits the net and bounces back.