Using the RIGHT Lob to Set Up a Point
David Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
Lobs historically have been used as defensive tactics for the majority of recreational players. And, for many 3.0 or 3.5 level players, hitting the lob is just their basic groundstroke trajectory!
In many cases, the lob can be tantamount to suicide if done at the wrong time from the wrong position. A short lob, when you or your partner is close to the net, can risk life and limb! However, there are times that certain lobs are not only safer to hit, but can be offensive and essential to manufacturing winning points.
Click photo: A well placed lob in the deuce court, over a right-handed opponent can often set up an easy put-away.
Use the service return lob on the deuce court when playing right-handed opponents. Lobbing down the line on the deuce court against a right-handed net opponent tends to fly over the backhand side of their body. That is, if you hit this lob short, most players will end up with only a high backhand volley or a more difficult backhand overhead. Unless your opponent can hit an ‘around the head’ overhead, (common in badminton, uncommon in tennis!), you are seldom going to get killed with an opponent's backhand volley or overhead.
A good lob on this side has several additional advantages. First, if you clear the net opponent, the lob will be a high-bouncing ball that the server must move over to get. If the server is indeed right-handed, they will have to attempt to hit this high-bouncing ball with a backhand from deep in their own court. This shot for the vast majority of players is seldom offensive or effective. Most players will be moving back somewhat to hit this shot after the ball has come down after the high bounce. This gives you plenty of time to advance on the net and take an offensive stance in anticipation of the weak reply.
Because your lob has forced your opponents to switch, many times this creates confusion for them. In addition, many times, the opponents’ net man may switch correctly, but move to the wrong place, usually staying too close to the net. This leaves a large gap between the server retrieving the lob and his net partner for the lobbing team to exploit with the ensuing overhead or high volley.
One of the most obvious responses that players attempt off a good lob is a lob back. While this, for most players, is probably the correct response, few players can hit an effective lob off this type of shot. Thus, if you are the team that lobbed first, don’t move too close to the net. Give yourself the opportunity to answer the reply lob that will most likely be coming!
When to Use this lob?
Click photo: Even at the pro level, a lob can quickly turn a defensive situation into an offensive one.
While the lob can be effective in defensive situations, (for example blocking a big serve), it is a very good offensive shot when your opponent has hit a softer second serve. Because the net man is usually playing more defensively when his partner hits a soft second serve, (expecting a hard hit ball or protecting their alley), you can attack such soft second serves with a fairly easy lob over this player. Unless your net opponent backs up early anticipating a lob, the shot is effective. It becomes that much more effective if you can back up your ability to lob with good drop shots, too! In fact, if the net player has seen you lob a time or two, they will have the tendency to be heading back as you move to return the serve. This is a great time to drop shot if the server is not coming in because his net partner is leaning or moving back instead of being able to run over and cover the drop shot.
In a typical 3.0 or 3.5 level match, your opponents won’t often get to the net behind second serves. Your ability to execute a decent drop shot, (it doesn’t usually have to be that great, either!), makes your opponent guard against you forcing him to charge the net. After a few lobs, hitting a drop shot has that much more effect. (And vice versa!)
Have fun watching your opponents look helpless! Lob them when you can in this situation and look for a great chance to hit an easy overhead, volley, or, under the best of circumstances, no shot at all! (Your opponent may simply miss retrieving your lob altogether!)
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