Passing Shot Solution: The Drop Volley
The ATP & WTA Tours first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open, has completed its first week. Among the 16 players left in each draw are some of the hardest hitting ground strokes ever to grace the game. Players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and even that Federer guy, are fearsome off the ground. However one trend in the first week has been to counter all this heavy hitting with a clever net attack known as the drop volley. Players are using this shot when they have the opportunity to hit deep power volleys..but due to the threat of those big groundstrokes, the drop volley is very much in style Down Under!
When you're playing in hot conditions like the 100 degree farenheit day time temps of the Australian Open, net attackers are going to be under fire from some very fast moving balls. The last thing in the world a volleyer wants to do is to give these baseline monsters one more crack at full swing passing shot with 78 feet of court to hit into. ATP and WTA players attacking the net are using the drop volley at a very high rate. It's not the easiest shot to play, particularly when the passing shot speed is high. However, when executed well, it forces the baseliner off the baseline and at very least reduces the space they have to work with for a lob/pass. When done perfectly, it results in a clean winner and leaves the baseliners shaking their heads. The player who has been most effective at this shot so far is ATP #3 Roger Federer of Switzerland. Here's a few samples of his work:
For recreational players who aren't facing a Djokovic passing shot, this is still a very useful play. It provides the same benefit in the club leagues as it does on the pro tour: it takes the baseliners out of their preferred position to hit damaging replies. At the recreational level, this damaging reply is more often a lob, as the overheads at this level are typically weaker than volleys. Pro Tour players mostly relish the chance to hit overheads, so their most feared enemies are light speed passing shots. Either way, whether it's week 2 of the Australian Open, or your next USTA Flex League singles match, the drop volley will be an effective weapon against the power baseliners!