If you have been in a few tennis rallies, you will have probably had a boring back and forth that ended with you under- or over-hitting the ball.
This often occurs because of inadequate preparation. One of Federer’s secrets to success is his incredible FOOTWORK and PREPARATION before a shot. If you will watch his footwork, you will see that Federer is constantly bouncing, and thus always ready to move into position. This allows him to get into position ahead of the ball, to line up a driving shot.
In general, if a player gets a chance to hit a shot with enough time, a DRIVE shot with less topspin, a clean contact, and a follow through forward and into the court is usually the preferred shot, to get more power. The drive is Federer’s treasured shot. The reason he is able to hit so many of them in a match is his FOOTWORK and PREPARATION.
Take a look at this video to see how Federer moves to prepare for a shot:
He is constantly bouncing on the balls of his feet, allowing him to get into position ahead of a shot, so he can prepare for a solid drive.
To hit a drive, prepare adequately, get in position, and make clean contact with the ball in the CENTER OF YOUR RACKET. Place your weight on your front foot. If you use a CONTINENTAL or EASTERN grip, follow through over your shoulder. If you use a SEMI-WESTERN grip, follow through across the body, but still maintain a swing that begins underneath the ball and ends above it. The emphasis is on hitting THROUGH THE BALL.
THE HEAVY TOPSPIN SHOT:
But not every shot gives enough time to prepare for a solid drive shot. Often, if a player is on the run, to catch a ball on either side or behind the player, or stuck in a long rally where neither player has a clear advantage, a heavy TOPSPIN SHOT without much pace is the best option. On the forehand side, this can take the form of a “reverse forehand” with a follow through above the head.
Here, Roger Federer uses a reverse forehand to get back into the point:
The topspin shot is a good option while on the run because it can give you more time to recover, force the opponent to handle an unexpected bounce, and change a defensive position into an offensive one .
Here, Rafael Nadal uses a reverse forehand to move from defense to offense in a point:
A heavy topspin shot will actually speed up when it hits the ground, whereas a drive shot reaches maximum speed before it hits the ground. In a rally full of drives, the change of PACE and SPIN that the heavy topspin shot provides can throw an opponent out of a rhythm.
The heavy topspin shot is probably the SINGLE GREATEST ADVANTAGE that Rafael Nadal holds over other players. He is intelligent in its use, and often finishes a point with a drive, but uses the heavy topspin shot to turn defensive or neutral rallies into offensive opportunites or forced errors from his opponent.
To hit a heavy topspin shot, place the weight more on the back foot. Use a SEMI-WESTERN or WESTERN grip and FLICK YOUR WRIST on the ball. Follow through as you like, as long as you swing from LOW TO HIGH – it is crucial to the brushing up the back of the ball to generate the spin. In general, you should not step forward after a heavy topspin shot; all of your momentum should be transferred UPWARD. Don’t be afraid to lob the ball, the topspin on it will drop it in for a deep, heavy shot.
THE DROP SHOT:
While Novak Djokovich also relies on the heavy topspin shot in neutral rallies to change pace, one shot that Djokovich favors more than many other pros is the DROP SHOT. It is often unexpected, and unless an opponent is really on the balls of their feet, they will miss the opportunity to return anything but the weakest kind of shot.
Here is Djokovich using the drop shot with precision:
This is especially useful in a long, neutral rally, where the opponent is hitting predictably. This is also useful if you are playing a baseliner – draw them up to the net where they are weakest. Many players under-utilize this shot, because they have not practiced it, but it is relatively easy and allows you to control the rally.
Djokovich explains a key to hitting the drop shot is MAKING CONTACT OUT IN FRONT. The drop shot is usually hit with a SLICE MOTION, putting underspin. Unlike a regular slice, resist the urge to hit through the ball. Instead, make a more extreme “CHOP” at the ball, from high to low. This will give it the spin to FLOAT over the net, then DROP immediately after crossing. One thing that is crucial to the drop shot is HEIGHT. Do not lob the ball, but the HIGHER you hit the drop shot, the SHORTER in the court it will drop.
Use these three shots to vary up the pace in your rallies, and a whole new level to your play – the MENTAL GAME.