Pro Tips for Specialty Shot Success

January 26, 2021

Part of the fun of tennis is the wide variety of tactical shots available to players. 

Once you’re comfortable with the basics like serves, returns, forehands and backhands it’s exciting to work on adding specialty shots to your arsenal. While these are more difficult to master and may not be considered “essential” to regular play, each shot helps you become a stronger and more strategic player, especially on the offensive front. 

To help elevate your execution, CA’s tennis pros joined forces to share their best tips on a number of specialty shots. Check out their expert advice below!

 

Slice backhand

Tips from Danny Ahn:

  • Have a continental grip. Start with your racket in a high position, around your shoulder turned to the backhand side. 
  • The swing is from high to low, unlike the conventional low to high on a standard groundstroke shot. Since we’re using the continental grip and the racket face is open, it is okay to swing from high to low. 
  • The important thing throughout the swing is to keep your wrist firm and not drop your racket head, as it will result in a slice that is dumped into the net. Use your shoulder and elbow to swing from high to low in a diagonal direction in order to give the ball slice/underspin to keep the low and skidding through the court. 

Tips from Arun Pant:

  • A deep aggressive slice is a great way to give yourself time to get to the net compared to an approach shot drive. Remember to keep your take back short, contact point at a 45 degree angle and to lead with your feet. That will help drive the ball low and deep.

 

Drop shot 

Tips from Danny Ahn:

  • A drop shot is when you hit the ball so it just barely lands over the net.  It’s easier to attempt when in an offensive position, inside the baseline, as opposed to being behind it.
  • Preparation is exactly the same as the slice but at the last second, instead of hitting through the ball, you will have to open up the racket face and go underneath the ball to absorb the pace and to give it backspin. 
  • Be careful not to open up the racket face too much or hit through the ball too much, which will result in a floater and the opponent will have an opportunity to put that ball away. 
  • The drop shot is all about feel and playing around with how much you have to open up your racket face in order to control the shot to go over the net and drop shot.

Tips from Norma Baker: 

  • Embrace a slow, relaxed swing from high to low swing path.
  • Gently absorb the ball with a slightly open racquet face, try not to hit over the net, but if you do as close to the net as possible.  
  • Practice by playing mini tennis.

Tips from Arash Hanif:

  • To make this work, you will need a regular drop shot but with (quite literally), a slight twist to the Eastern forehand grip. The goal is to get the ball to bounce multiple times within the service box for it to be effective.  

 

“Having an effective slice backhand and dropshot in your arsenal can be a huge weapon, as both shots have the exact same take back but at the last second, the execution is slightly different. This gives a great disguise and will throw your opponent off, as they will be guessing what shot to expect from your backhand wing. Most players tend to use these two shots out of desperation, but using it offensively, on your terms will open up a lot more options and win you points easily.” -Danny Ahn

Drop shot angle volley

Tips from Jonathan Vissering:

  • The drop volley can be used when your opponent/s are deep. You move in and when volleying use a catching motion to absorb the incoming speed of the ball while angling the racquet face towards the sharp sidelines of the court. 
  • The harder the ball comes, the easier it is to hit short and win the point. Both shots require light feet and hands as well as excellent focus on the ball.

 

Overhead

Tips from Arun Pant:

  • This is a shot that is hit above the player’s head in a serve-like motion. It’s a powerful shot that can end the point when well-executed. 
  • Many players struggle with overheads because the movement may not be appropriate. Make sure you turn your shoulders so you can do a crossover step to back up. It is safer and quicker than backpedaling. You will then be in a better position to put the ball away!

 

Swinging volley

Tips from Anna Pomyatinskaya:

  • This is a great attack shot that puts pressure on your opponents. 
  • It is most useful when the ball is too low to hit an overhead and too high to hit a finishing volley. 
  • Conveniently hit with a forehand or backhand grip without the need to change your swing path from a typical forehand or backhand. 
  • This form allows you to put more strength in your shot out of the air, while the non-continental grips provide spin to keep the ball in the court. 

 

Return chip lob 

Tips from Anna Pomyatinskaya:

  • This is a defensive type of a return of the serve. It’s particularly useful against fast and angled-out serves.
  • Use a continental grip to create a “wall” against the ball to create a lob using the power from the serve. 
  • This can be valuable in doubles, when the opponent is aggressive at the net and you need time to recover and build the point.

Drive volley 

Tips from Lyndall Jordan:

  • This is a volley that uses the longest swing path of all the volleys and is used ideally for shots that are slower and a few feet over the net. 
  • It is a very aggressive shot to use on the slower balls at the net.

 

Top spin lob 

Tips from Jonathan Vissering:

  • The topspin lob should be used when your opponent/s are at the net and you want to loop the ball over them. 
  • The key to the shot is the follow through in which you brush both under and around the ball. Even if the shot isn’t as deep as you might want, the dipping nature will make your opponents shot difficult. 

 

Master your technique at CA

CA offers a variety of year-round tennis and pickleball programs to suit every interest and competitive level. There are more than two dozen outdoor tennis courts, six outdoor pickleball courts and 10 indoor tennis courts. Learn more here.

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