We can all learn how to hit the drop shot better by observing the master of this shot—Carlos Alcaraz—in action. Alcaraz has recently skyrocketed up the rankings to reach #1 in the world and his dropshot has become a consistent and effective weapon that he uses to tire opponents and keep them off balance.
There is a funny drop shot story that I like to tell my students and their parents:
I personally love the drop shot and have tried to teach it to many of my students. Over the years, however, I have noticed a lot of pushback from kids and their parents who haven’t believed in the shot and don’t see the value in practicing it. I’ve tried for years to convince juniors and parents to consider the dropshot as a valuable tool—but the resistance has persisted.
Well now—with the rise of Alcaraz—I no longer have to try and convince anybody about the effectiveness of the drop shot; ironically, rather, juniors and parents are frequently seeking me out to help them with the drop shot. Alcaraz has simply made the drop shot cool again, and he has demonstrated the shot’s effectiveness at the highest levels of the game. Alcaraz has single-handedly shifted the perspective on the use of the drop shot and captured the creative minds of tennis players around the world.
Here are eight keys to hitting the drop shot like Alcaraz:
1. No grip change or imperceptible grip change to maximize disguise
I have conferred with Alcaraz’s team at Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy and they believe that one of the reasons that Carlos is so effective with his drop shot, especially on the forehand side, is because he has little to no grip change. No grip change means the shot is unreadable.
2. Execute the drop shot when receiving slow to medium balls—rarely on very fast incoming balls
Watch carefully and you will see that Carlos typically attempts a drop shot on slow to medium balls rather than fast balls. This improves his control of the shot.
3. Utilize forehand inside out drop shot pattern
Alcaraz utilizes an unusual and surprising pattern where he often aims the forehand drop shot inside out. This catches the opponent off guard and is very effective.
4. Develop the surprise forehand inside in drop shot
In addition to his go-to inside out pattern, Alcaraz has a good inside in drop shot ready to go if the opponent is handling the inside out favorite.
5. Stay away from the edges of the court
Watch the way Alcaraz aims his drop shot with margin, typically away from the sidelines. Sometimes he will be very aggressive and locate the drop shot near the line, but more often than not he aims the ball with safety. That’s a good lesson for everyone. Too many players try to make the drop shot too good and often miss in the alley as a consequence.
6. Use the classic backhand down the line drop shot
Alcaraz has an excellent backhand down the line drop shot that he disguises very well. Like Djokovic and other good two handed players, Alcaraz uses maximum disguise and no grip change with his backhand drop shot. The down the line backhand drop shot is the first pattern I teach players who are learning to experiment with the drop shot. It’s fundamental.
7. Use the drop shot as an approach
The drop shot can make a fantastic entry to the net; it is an underrated approach shot. After executing the drop shot, the player can move in to the midcourt or net and play a volley rather than groundstroke on the subsequent ball. A great strategy is to float to the midcourt after the drop shot and look to execute a volley lob over the opponent’s head.
8. Understand the court geometry to optimize the drop shot but sometimes break the rules
In general, the best strategy is for the player to use the drop shot when he or she is inside the court. That’s standard practice. But the best drop shot players bend and sometimes break the rules. I have had some top ranked players who occasionally drop shot successfully moving backwards and also on the run wide for example. While it’s riskier, with risk sometimes comes great reward because the opponent will not expect a drop shot in those situations.
It’s such a breath of fresh air to see Alcaraz on the big stage playing creative drop shots. It’s a shot that adds a lot of fun and excitement to a match. I hope these eight keys help you develop your drop shot skill and effectiveness.
Chris Lewit is a former number one for Cornell and pro circuit player. He is a high-performance coach, educator, and the author of two best-selling books: The Secrets of Spanish Tennis and The Tennis Technique Bible. He has coached numerous top 10 nationally-ranked players and is known for his expertise in building the foundations of young prodigies. Chris is currently working towards an advanced degree in Kinesiology/Exercise Science with a focus on Biomechanics. Chris coaches in NYC and year-round at his high performance tennis academy in Manchester, VT, where players can live and train the Spanish Way full-time or short-term. He may be reached by phone at (914) 462-2912, e-mail Chris@chrislewit.com or visit ChrisLewit.com.