Why have drop shots become popular at the French Open?


Written by Shahid Judge
| Mumbai |

October 4, 2020 11:36:53 pm





Austria’s Dominic Thiem performs a shot in opposition to France’s Hugo Gaston in the fourth spherical match of the French Open. (AP Photo)

For a Grand Slam recognized for its baseline slugfests, it’s the delicate dinks over the internet that have caught the eye at the French Open this yr. The drop shot – a excessive threat slice –has become the go-to shot to alter the tempo and arrange a winner at the rescheduled Roland Garros. In his first spherical match in opposition to Mikael Ymer, World No 1 Novak Djokovic performed the drop shot 25 occasions. Given you want a minimal 24 factors to win a set in a match, that’s one set pocketed by simply the drops.

And it’s no coincidence that the variety of makes an attempt at the drop shot has elevated per match, as a good few elements have aided the temptation of enjoying the misleading shot.

What is a drop shot and why is it high-risk?

It is a sliced shot off both aspect (forehand or backhand) that’s performed with backspin and generally sidespin. The shot is meant to bounce near the internet on the opponent’s half and die down inside the service line.

The cause this turns into excessive threat is that the shot must have a low internet clearance, which suggests that there’s a probability it might crash into the internet. At the identical time, if the shot is over-hit barely, it presents the opponent a innocent brief ball completely in the slot that may be simply put away for a winner.

It additionally must be performed at the proper time, when the opponent is deep behind the baseline. Otherwise there’s a probability the opponent will attain the ball in time to play an efficient return.

Why does it work properly tactically?

“The reason (Djokovic has attempted drop shots so often) is he hits (at all normal times) with great depth and pace,” explains former doubles World No 1 Mark Knowles, a three-time males’s doubles Grand Slam champion who’s at the moment in Paris on commentary-duty.

“If you’re pushing your opponent deep and realising that they’re continuing to retreat further and further behind the baseline, it’s an effective shot to use then. If you think how hard Novak hits it on both wings, most players want to give themselves a little more room to counteract, so they move back. And then if you play the drop shot, it’s very effective.”

Djokovic himself, after the match, asserted that the shot is nice to make use of tactically as a shock kill.

“I think it’s a great variety shot,” Djokovic stated after beating Ymer. “I think it’s important tactically to have it and to use it at the right time so that you can keep your opponent always guessing what the next shot is. I may have played too many today, I agree. Maybe I exceeded what I should have played. But I think it worked well in the moments when I needed to get the point I did.”

Is the drop shot uncommon to the French Open?

Drop shots might be performed on any floor. But on clay courts it may be a intelligent tactic to make use of. The nature of clay courts is that the ball slows down and sits up after the bounce, that means gamers can retrieve shots simply and leads to longer rallies at the baseline. Clay courtroom specialists significantly are likely to hug the baseline and draw back from coming towards the internet.

Hence, enjoying a drop shot breaks the rhythm, shortens a rally, and attracts an opponent ahead and out of their consolation zone.

“It’s a great change of pace because these guys hit with great power,” Knowles says. “Anyway, a lot of players today struggle with the north-south (up and down) movement – coming forward sooner in the rally than they would have liked. It’s a really good strategy to employ.”

Drop shots should not alien to the French Open, however this yr circumstances have promoted their use.

How are the circumstances serving to the drop shot?

The French Open is generally held in the spring, in the May-June window. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic although, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) determined to reschedule it to final week of September, in autumn.

“The conditions are really heavy,” Knowles says. “There has been some discussion that the balls are a bit heavier this year, but it’s hard to tell because the conditions are a lot different than what it would have been like in the spring. We’ve had tons of rain, so the clay is really clumpy and slow because of the moisture.”

Due to the circumstances, the clay tends to stay to the ball when it bounces, making the ball heavier. As a end result, a participant would want to generate extra energy to play a shot from the baseline.

For that energy, you want somewhat extra time to load right into a shot, and so there’s a slight push additional behind the baseline with the intention to get the treasured split-second. At the identical time although, shifting backwards makes it that rather more tough to spring ahead to retrieve a drop shot when instantly summoned.

Has there been a rise in the quantity of clay used?

The clay courts at the French Open are lined with two millimetres of crimson brick mud (clay). This yr nevertheless, on account of the damp circumstances with the rain, ground-staff have so as to add extra clay to negate the moisture.

More clay added means a higher quantity of cushioning on the floor. And the higher the cushioning leads to the heavier ball staying low on the bounce – excellent for the drop shot.

“I think in these conditions the ball is bouncing super low, so it’s even tougher to get it back,” stated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko after her win over second seed Karolina Pliskova in the second spherical.

“(The drop shot is) useful because the bounce is much lower because it’s much colder this year.”

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