Do I need a better drop shot?

By Bob Maison

Coaching blogs now tend to give stuff sexier names to make it seem new. So hit it hard cross court becomes “use aggressive lines” However, the basic principles of the game remain much the same and it’s important for the Coach to continually return to the basics - Analysis of a recent Cambs league game has reminded me how short most rallies are. In this match the average was around 5 shots and a rally of 8 shots was a surprise. However, data from a recent world tour event between the current two best female players recorded the average number of shots as 9. The maximum was 36 and I assume plenty in the 20’s- so there must have been loads around 5-6 shots. This means only 2-3 shots each, whether its world tour or Cambs league!  For Male players add 1-2 shots more! So in the context of each rally the opening 1 or 2 two shots are critical. A good serve puts pressure on an opponent; a poor return and there should be an easy put away. Now with PAR, a poor serve and a good return and the opponent is in control. I am also reminded of some performance data we collected on regional juniors some years ago - if the serve hits the side wall the server won 66% of the rallies. If they then followed a side wall serve with a drive or volley which hit the back wall (going past their opponent) the win % was 85%!!! 2 good quality shots - 85% of rallies won!!!! All three pieces of data highlight the same thing- the quality of your first two shots is crucial. The consistency of both can be improved massively by regular practice and this is far better done by 10 minutes or so every time you go to the courts rather than one special practice session once per week. Using wall and or floor targets is important as is keeping a record of your “scores” and trying to improve etc each time you practice. Now comes the other important area which you share with the players on the world tour - Keeping your focus is vital. Actually it’s more a case of focus, play the rally, relax, deep breath; re-set focus, go again. So what are we focussing on - it’s executing those 2-3 shots to the best of your ability. Serve to hit the side wall. Returns to go high straight or cross court or attacked if it’s a poor serve. Drives/ volleys to hit the back wall rather than land short or mid court More importantly it’s what we shouldn’t focus on but do - What’s the score? Can I win this game? This will be great if I win? This will be a disaster if I lose? This marker is rubbish, these bloody courts are noisy, I’m sure this girl is playing double bounces - all sound familiar??? Most players who are keen to improve will have the ability to psych themselves up for the start of the game/match and will make a good start , maybe 3-4 points ahead. Then it’s very common (at least it was for me) to start thinking how well you were playing etc and 4-0 quickly became 4-4!! Re-setting and regaining focus becomes more and more important the higher level that you play at. In fact this ability is almost certainly one of the major factors determining which level you DO play at! But even what might seem a relatively small improvement in your ability to re-set and re-focus can turn 4-4 into 4-3 and then maybe 6-3, 6-4, 7-4 etc. Your improving focus allows you to keep your nose in front. So practice and consistency of your opening shots is vital and so is your ability to re-set your concentration on the execution of those shots rather than thinking about other things- like winning! Regular practice is a fairly obvious thing for most of us; the irony that the more we think about “winning” then the more likely that thought will hold us back - is far less obvious Practice your skills; practice your re-sets - easy to suggest; far from easy to achieve (otherwise everyone would do it) So, do I need a better drop shot? It might help if you’re first 2 shots are good ; but certainly not if your first shots are poor I was going to end with good luck, but maybe it should be - “Good practice” Bob M  

By Christopher Thorpe
Posts: 2
very interesting and helpful