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Drop one short like Novak Djokovic


Originally published on: 16/12/10 12:30

‘Drop one short like Novak Djokovic’ featured in the November 2010 issue of tennishead magazine. For more details on how to subscribe, click here.

Objectives: Keep it hidden
Disguise and balance are the keys to a successful drop shot. Keep your weight central – not leaning either forwards or backwards – as it enables you to control the racket head, which is essential as this is a feel shot. The earlier you make your mind up to play the drop shot, the more disguise you can craft into the swing. Be sure to turn your shoulders so your opponent can’t see you opening the racket face.

Tactics: Drop it when you’re hot
The most effective time to play the drop shot is when you are in charge of the point. Your opponent will be slightly on their heels and probably dropping back a bit deeper behind the baseline. From this position the chances are that their first step will be less effective as they try to chase the ball down, and they will have more ground to cover to reach it.

Djokovic sets up for his backhand drop shot in just as he would a normal drive, leaning into the shot as though he will drive through it. An opponent would not know what he was thinking at this stage.

Key point: That is a shorter takeback than Djokovic would use for a backhand drive, indicating he has already decided to play the drop shot

Novak’s left hand starts to slide up the racket as the racket face begins to open. His right leg is across his body to centre his balance turn his shoulders, which also obstructs the opponent’s view of his racket, adding to the disguise.

The racket head is above his shoulders as he is going to chop down on the ball and impart backspin so it won’t travel too far after the bounce. He is leaning into the shot to help generate the racket speed for the spin.


Novak cuts down the back of the ball with an open racket face to create the flight he wants for the drop shot. The ball is played just in front of the right leg, close enough to him so he can really ‘feel’ the shot.

Key point: Look how balanced Djokovic is right now. The left hand goes back to maintain his balance through the contact point.

As he hits down on the ball he stands up to counteract his forward momentum, ensuring perfect balance – essential to a good drop shot. Only now will the opponent know he is hitting a drop shot and not a slice.

Golden rule: Concentrate on starting the swing with the racket head higher than the ball, coming down on it and sliding the racket face across the ball to impart the maximum amount of spin.

His eyes track the ball. That perfect balance means he is ready to react if the opponent tracks the drop shot down. His follow-through has come across his body: this swing pattern increases the amount of spin he imparts on the ball.

Key point: Note how the racket head has moved down rather than forward. This prevents the shot looping high as it crosses the net and bouncing up nicely for his opponent.



Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.