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How to drop one short like Federer


Originally published on: 12/10/11 12:09

‘How to drop one short like Roger Federer’ featured in the September 2011 issue of tennishead magazine. For more details on how to subscribe, click here.

Shot Selection: Element of surprise
The conventional wisdom is to hit drop shots when in control of a rally. However, the absolute must for a successful drop shot is disguise which is what Roger achieves here. Even in image three, you still can’t tell he’s going to throw in a short ball. Strictly speaking, he isn’t in total control of this rally so the disguise he will create will be at its greatest – his opponent won’t be expecting a drop shot at this stage of the point.

Court Positioning: Go Central
What you do with your movement after the drop shot is almost more important than the execution. Once you’ve pulled your opponent out of position and assuming they dig the ball up, they should be scrambling around the court. If you’re in a good position – centrally in the court – you should be able to cover their reply with ease and, more often than not, be perfectly placed to finish the rally off with the next shot.

As ever, Roger is staying as close to the baseline as he can. From his takeback you can see the face of the racket is open and he’s decided he is going to hit with slice. His grip has moved a little anti-clockwise to open the face.

His final step has enabled him to move into the shot and he has timed his slide – an important way of moving on clay – to perfection so he will be stationary when he finally hits the ball, ensuring perfect balance.

Golden Rule: Never play a drop shot from behind the baseline unless you’re playing someone who moves like me! They will have too much time to see it coming. Standing on or just inside the baseline is the deepest you should be.

The racket has come from above the ball allowing him to chop down on the shot to create the spin. He has taken a fuller backswing for this shot than normal as he is deeper than you would normally want to be for this type of shot.

Only now as an opponent can you see it’s a drop shot. Roger’s fuller swing (shorter tends to make sure you don’t overhit a drop shot) enables him to impart enormous spin and to cover the required distance the ball must travel.

Key Point: See how his head is still looking at where the ball was rather than is. It’s a feature of Federer’s game how still his head is during the execution of every shot. Try to keep your eyes on the ball a fraction longer – this helps your balance and produces better results.

The left arm is parallel to his right arm which helps promote good balance throughout the stroke. He begins to stand up once the ball is on its way as he recovers his court position.

The speed of the racket is evident as he is still unable to bring it back to the ready position. The spin is so great not only will it have backspin but also sidespin, taking it just over the net but also drifting it close to the sideline too.



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.