Thursday, April 26, 2018

The worst shots to get and how to hit them

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Whether you're a seasoned USTA player or just playing recreational tennis, there's always that type of player or a particular shot that will drive you nutso, to the point of thinking you suck at tennis and should just quit. This isn't true. You just need a better plan of attack, so with these tips when that dreaded shot comes again your body will just react.

Heavy Topspin 

What you get - Shots that pop off the court with so much spin your straining to reach them or struggling to return the ball with the same amount of power.

What you do - Catch it early or back up. Have you ever noticed pros on TV standing behind the baseline when rallying with their opponent? Many a time players stay back with heavy topspin hitters to gauge the depth and direction of the ball. You don't want to catch the ball over and over at its high point--your shoulder will fall off. Another option is cutting the heavy topspin shot off while on the rise. I was taught this when struggling to return a heavy topspin serve, and not only did it work, but I got up to the net that much quicker!

Rafa Nadal races to scoop up a drop shot in the 2010 US
Drop Shot

What you get - A ball that drops short over the net, or worse a ball that dinks the top of the net onto your side of the court.

What you do - I have a love/hate relationship with this shot. If you're not hitting deep enough or have a few unlucky breaks, opponents love to throw in a good drop shot. I love them because I love the challenge of getting to the ball, but the reason why they are just the WORST to hit is because its an easy shot to blow. We either try to do too much with the shot or we rush into it while sprinting for the ball. If you can take just the slightest moment to slow down then you'll have control of the shot and can place it where you want (push it deep or lob). If you're rushing in or the ball is too close to the net, then your only option might be to scoop it back.

Slicey Dicey

What you get - You set up for your shot only to watch it veer away from you so instead of hitting a solid return, you're chasing down the ball or rimming it. Or, you ARE able to set up for the shot but because of the heavy backspin it 'dies' on your racquet.

What you do - I love to throw in a slice to throw off my opponent, but to be on the receiving end is not so fun. If there's a lot of spin, the ball will begin curving on its way over so you can anticipate where its going to land by split-stepping before you set up to hit. Split-stepping will give you that extra moment to prepare for a shot, so if you're not doing it already ask your coach to help you practice it. If the slice isn't as dicey (or you're at the net) then sometimes all you need to do is strongly push the ball back. When you return with something too fancy (or my fave--slice a slice), many a times it will end up a dud. Simple is best.

Justine Henin can only awkwardly block the shot in this
body jam.
Body Shot

What you get - A ball that comes right at your face, body or feet.

What you do - 1) You can get the hell out of the way--it might go out! 2) If you don't already have your racquet out in front of you in ready position, then its time to start doing so. But, how would you like to not only block the ball back, but block back a thoughtful shot (lob for instance). Next time you have your racquet up in ready position prep it for a backhand, because guess what? Your racquet is already in place for a defensive block and you won't feel as jammed up.


What you get - Whether its a floater coming to you at the net or the baseline, a ball with no pace is just the worst! This is especially true when you suddenly get a floater in the midst of all these fast-paced shots, since you'll either go for the kill shot and blow it out, or panic and dump it in the net.

What you do - In case you haven't noticed, footwork counts for a lot. When you have a floater coming at you, you have more time to get your feet into position so take advantage of taking that extra step needed to attack the ball. Also, a ball with no pace will need that extra oomph in return so try brushing up on the ball more or slice it back.

Without a doubt, the most important skill-set in majority of these tricky shots is footwork, patience, fast hands and then practice, practice, practice. One thing is for sure, these shots might be among the worst to get but it'll feel pretty sweet when you're able to hit them effectively.


  1. Hi Kristianne Bontempo,
    I also love to throw in a slice to throw off my opponent, but to be on the receiving end is not so fun.

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