The Drop Shot
This is the second installment of our video series for techniques used to play on clay. To be a truly effective clay-court player you need to develop a drop shot, but this shot is woefully misunderstood. The drop shot is an integral part of tennis strategy, particularly when playing on clay or Har-Tru. This second of a four-part series--when, where, and how to hit the drop shot--discusses the "when". We hope you like it and find it instructional. Play the Clay, Learn to Win and Play for Life!
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Lessons From Roland Garros
It’s June. With summer nearing, there’s a scene occurring with increasing frequency on tennis courts all over America that makes me wince. Young women are being fed balls and encouraged to strike their groundstrokes harder and harder. I doubt they’re learning how to take pace off the ball. Sadly, when they do practice volleys they are often standing in all sorts of positions, quite often as close as two feet from the net rather than from near the service line where they would be forced to gain proficiency with their feet and legs. And don’t get me started on how they’re being taught to serve – both technically and tactically.
Click photo: Perhaps the best one-two combination in the women's game, Samantha Stosur's wicked serve and forehand.
So what lessons will instructors, students and even tennis parents learn from this year’s French Open women’s final between Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur? At one level there is the staggering news value of Schiavone’s improbable run to the title. Never in the history of women’s tennis in the Open era has there been such an unlikely Grand Slam champion. So one lesson is the tale of a persistent and passionate 29-year-old who struck gold.
But what about the enduring lesson to be gained from both finalists? Working for Tennis Channel at Roland Garros, I sat in our broadcast booth helping commentators Ted Robinson and Martina Navratilova for both women’s semis. Navratilova and I were struck by the contrast in playing styles between Schiavone, Stosur and their respective opponents, Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic. On the one hand, Dementieva and Jankovic are contemporary success stories. Each has spent significant portions of her career in the top five. Then there were the newcomers. Schiavone had never reached a Slam semi. Stosur was in her second.
But also note how Dementieva and Jankovic have each constantly hit the ceiling. Their games at heart have been issued to them rather than created, predicated on that most base study technique of rote, selective application of athleticism and a narrow understanding of the tennis alphabet. Each comes to net only off the heels of an approach shot so deep and powerful that my 81-year-old mother could likely field the incoming passing shot. And when it comes to serves, each has struggled her entire career with everything from the motion to the toss to the very concept. Ah, if only tennis matches were played like the baseline games each no doubt played for thousands of hours in her formative years.
Click photo: Francesca Schiavone is a rarity in the modern game, she mixes spins and speeds and has an elegant one-handed backhand.
Schiavone and Stosur have built their games entirely differently – and I hope and pray that somewhere out their instructors, students and parents are taking notice. Schiavone has long been adept at creative disruption, a shotmaker who for this two-week stretch learned to harness some of her desire to hit winners – at least to a point. Best of all, she played with texture, varying spin, angle, depth, height – all in the name of keeping the opponent in doubt.
Though more straightforward in style, her game hinged on her massive topspin forehand, Stosur is also an all-court player, graced with as simple, smooth and effective a service motion as any player could ask for. Once she took charge of Jankovic, the Serb was utterly imprisoned, unable to do anything more than keep driving balls back and hope Stosur would begin to miss more. It didn’t happen. At least on this semifinal day, it was gratifying to see the initiators rather than the reactors emerge triumphant.
No question, these kind of playing styles take longer to develop. The baseliners usually come with the batteries included, ready to grind away. In American tennis, the demand for immediate success – often fueled by parents with multiple agendas and coaches who care more about today’s dollar than long-term growth – has given us dozens of mini-Dementievas. But why not encourage more of what Schiavone, Stosur and Justine Henin do? Why not devote more time to the serve, not just as a point starter but as a way to create a point?
If the women’s finalists at Roland Garros validated the notion of all-court tennis as a sustainable approach to long-term growth, the duo who made it that far on the men’s side demonstrated once again just how much physicality it takes to play contemporary tennis. Rafael Nadal, of course, is a marvel, sublimely tenacious and gracious – but as we’ve seen, also constantly asking things of himself by persistently looking to enhance his game. Robin Soderling repeatedly struck the ball so hard off both sides that he made Roger Federer look extremely passive. Players like Soderling and the man he beat in the semis, Tomas Berdych, personify the direction of the men’s game – bigger, stronger, faster, a trend that’s been going on since the ‘90s.
As I write this I realize that there’s in some ways a stylistic affinity between the grinding baseline games of say, Soderling and Berdych and the women I just took to task, Dementieva and Jankovic. So am I being fair? What’s the difference? Why not demand male versions of Schiavone? OK, I will. Note to instructors: teach your male students to drop shot like Jurgen Melzer, play more doubles like Nadal – and most of all, devote ample time to the serve. It’s that single stroke that makes Soderling and Berdych quite different from Dementieva and Jankovic. Better technique inspires increased deployment.
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Roger Federer and the One-Handed Backhand
For anybody who wants to hit a one-handed topspin backhand, there can be no better role model than Roger Federer. In this in depth video analysis, Christophe Delavaut focuses on the common threads of roger's swing. These are the parts of his stroke duplicated by all great players. Incorporate these common threads into your own swing and you too can be hitting topspin like the pros.
Warm up for Success
What's your pre-match ritual? Or are you like most of us – do you rush on to the court a few minutes before the match and wing it? Most people think the match begins when the first ball of the first point is struck. But for CSU Bakersfield Women's Head Coach, Dan McCain, the match begins before you even walk out on the court. The right pre-match habits and a better awareness of your surroundings can give yourself the best chance to compete well.
In this week’s doubles tactic, Alan Margot looks at the “Defense” concept of playing back with your partner when receiving serve and the situations that go with it. And he has some great examples to share with you which he shot at the Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA. So what are some of the reasons why you’d want to play back with your partner? Alan gives you a few to consider.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Marion Bartoli's Backhand
Marion Bartoli had an outstanding 2007 Wimbledon reaching the finals and losing to the essentially unbeatable (at that moment) Venus Williams. She continues to make her mark on the WTA tour, but like so many other young players in their mid twenties, Bartoli is still looking for a break out performance in yet another Grand Slam event. With a two handed style reminiscent of Monica Seles, Marion hugs the baseline, drives the ball off both wings, and is one of the best ball strikers on the tour, but for better or worse, her serve and movement up to this point are average rather than exemplary. New this issue, Marion Bartoli's backhand.
TennisOne Writers Store
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