My friend Sally is a wonderful player. She and I were able to win a mixed doubles tournament a few years ago. She was the number one singles player in her high school, and went on to coach high school tennis for many years.

Sally’s game is worthy of analysis. She has a marvelous two-handed backhand that she says she developed by copying her baseball swing. She hits the ball kinda flat, sometimes with a little backspin, sometimes a little top, sometimes a pure knuckle ball. Her forehand is usually a slice shot, which she strikes by getting down low and punching the ball with heavy backspin, like a volley. She can also slap the forehand with a wristy flick that can turn into a topspin pass or a flat drive. Her serve is an inside-out twist, which stays low, and skips or stops. She places it well and varies the pace. She also lobs very well off both sides. But she is maddeningly consistent, takes the ball early, recognizes the patterns of her opponents, and disguises her shots until the last second…able to hit cross court or down the line without giving it away.

And now, she has developed the BLOOP!

Recently, I played Sally and her partner Ted a couple of times. The first time, they beat us in straight sets. The second time, we were wary of what she was doing, and we squeaked out a close first set, lost the second, and gave up a 2 break, 5-2 lead in the third set ( we had to leave the court at 5-5).

Sally has mastered the BLOOP, and it has taken her already formidable game to a new level. The Bloop is a derivative of the lob volley, the advanced shot that is so handy when all four players are at the net. To hit it, lean into the ball, and volley UP over the opponent’s head into the back of their court, sending them scurrying. The shot requires more power than you might think at first…really lean into it and follow through up by your face or higher.

The bloop is a lob volley hit from deeper in the court, sometimes off a lob itself. Let me give an example. Say you are serving, staying back, and the opponents lob your net man. Most players in this position will allow the ball to bounce, wait for the high bounce to come down, and then either lob the ball back, or try to drive it down the middle of the court. If the opponents have done the right thing and come in behind their lob, you are in a weak position. An excellent return lob may get you out of it, or a low screamer down the middle, but the percentages are in their favor. Let me give you a third option.

BLOOP the darn thing. As soon as you see their lob go up, hustle over to the place where the ball is about to bounce, and take it on a fly down by your waist (on the backhand if you served from the deuce court and are moving into the ad), and lob-volley (bloop) it right back where it came from. This maneuver will stop their advance to the net, because once they see you get to the ball quickly, they will realize you may hit an overhead, and your bloop back to three quarter court or deeper will catch them off guard. Follow it into the net, and now you have them pinned with two of you at the net, ready to hit an overhead or aggressive volley.

Sally has found another place to use the bloop. When I serve and volley from the ad court, she hits a low return, which previously I simply blocked back deep and dared her to pass or lob. Now, after returning my serve, she moves in and catches my volley on a fly, blooping it over my partner’s head, often for a clean winner. When she lobs my partner, and I run behind him to take her ball on the fly and bloop it back to her, she moves up and REBLOOPS it to the other side of the court. She gets me running back and forth, turning my aching legs into jelly, and getting me to grouse at my partner, who keeps charging the net after each bloop, not realizing her devious ways…..OW!

To hit the bloop, I use a version of the eastern forehand grip, whether I am taking it on my forehand or my backhand. I use my legs and hands to supply power and control to the shot. You don’t have to hit it as high as a normal lob, unless you are hitting it over someone’s head, just try to get it deep into the court.

The summer before last, my partner and I were driving another team crazy in a Har-Tru tournament with lobs and bloops, so they moved into the court and tried the same thing. I remember one rally where one of the opponents and I exchanged about 6 high bloop shots in a row, neither of us allowing the ball to bounce, knowing it would give away the advantage. People on the side were watching, wondering “What kind of tennis is this?” We won the point, and the match…..they ventured into our territory, but we knew the terrain, and out-foxed them.