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Why have drop shots become popular at the French Open?

Written by Shahid Decide
| Mumbai |

October 4, 2020 11:36:53 pm


Austria’s Dominic Thiem performs a shot towards France’s Hugo Gaston within the fourth spherical match of the French Open. (AP Photograph)

For a Grand Slam identified for its baseline slugfests, it’s the fragile dinks over the online which have caught the attention on the French Open this yr. The drop shot – a excessive danger slice –has grow to be the go-to shot to alter the tempo and arrange a winner on the rescheduled Roland Garros. In his first spherical match towards Mikael Ymer, World No 1 Novak Djokovic performed the drop shot 25 instances. 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 on the drop shot has elevated per match, as a good few components have aided the temptation of enjoying the misleading shot.

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

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

The explanation this turns into excessive danger is that the shot must have a low web clearance, which implies that there’s a likelihood it could crash into the online. On the identical time, if the shot is over-hit barely, it presents the opponent a innocent quick ball completely within the slot that may be simply put away for a winner.

It additionally must be performed on the proper time, when the opponent is deep behind the baseline. In any other case there’s a likelihood the opponent will attain the ball in time to play an efficient return.

Why does it work effectively tactically?

“The explanation (Djokovic has tried drop pictures so typically) is he hits (in any respect regular instances) with nice depth and tempo,” explains former doubles World No 1 Mark Knowles, a three-time males’s doubles Grand Slam champion who’s presently in Paris on commentary-duty.

“In case you’re pushing your opponent deep and realising that they’re persevering with to retreat additional and additional behind the baseline, it’s an efficient shot to make use of then. In case you suppose how laborious Novak hits it on each wings, most gamers wish to give themselves somewhat extra room to counteract, so that they transfer again. After which for those who play the drop shot, it’s very efficient.”

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

“I believe it’s a terrific selection shot,” Djokovic mentioned after beating Ymer. “I believe it’s essential tactically to have it and to make use of it on the proper time so that you could preserve your opponent all the time guessing what the subsequent shot is. I could have performed too many right this moment, I agree. Possibly I exceeded what I ought to have performed. However I believe it labored effectively within the moments after I wanted to get the purpose I did.”

Is the drop shot uncommon to the French Open?

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

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

“It’s a terrific change of tempo as a result of these guys hit with nice energy,” Knowles says. “Anyway, quite a lot of gamers right this moment wrestle with the north-south (up and down) motion – coming ahead sooner within the rally than they’d have appreciated. It’s a extremely good technique to make use of.”

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

How are the situations serving to the drop shot?

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

“The situations are actually heavy,” Knowles says. “There was some dialogue that the balls are a bit heavier this yr, but it surely’s laborious to inform as a result of the situations are so much completely different than what it will have been like within the spring. We’ve had tons of rain, so the clay is absolutely clumpy and sluggish due to the moisture.”

Because of the situations, the clay tends to stay to the ball when it bounces, making the ball heavier. Consequently, a participant would wish 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 so as to get the dear split-second. On the identical time although, transferring backwards makes it that rather more troublesome to spring ahead to retrieve a drop shot when all of the sudden summoned.

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

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

Extra clay added means a better quantity of cushioning on the floor. And the better the cushioning leads to the heavier ball staying low on the bounce – best for the drop shot.

“I believe in these situations the ball is bouncing tremendous low, so it’s even more durable to get it again,” mentioned 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko after her win over second seed Karolina Pliskova within the second spherical.

“(The drop shot is) helpful as a result of the bounce is way decrease as a result of it’s a lot colder this yr.”

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