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The Drop Shot: French Open 2018

The Drop Shot: French Open 2018 image

In this year's French Open, the drop shot has become ubiquitous. Even pure power players like Maria Sharapova are using it occasionally. Adopting the drop shot as a part of a player's arsenal simply reflects the necessity of being able to attack all parts of the court. Pure power play does not pressure a defender to cover the front of the court.

However, with the ability to hit a good dropper fairly reliably also comes the tendency to use the drop shot as a "bailout" tactic. This happens in either of two scenarios: 1) a player has done excessive running at the baseline and is physically depleted. Rather than stick with the punishing rally, the player goes for a drop shot instead; or 2) the score is close at the end of a set and a player goes for a drop right at the start of the point. If this is not well set up by a strong serve, it will result in virtually handing a free point to one's opponent. This type of shot selection error is a form of choking and typically happens when the underdog is threatening to win a match. In this case, the player is also "bailing" on their chance to win.

The best example of this drop shot pattern was the 3rd round match between Gael Monfils and David Goffin. At 2 sets to one down, I predicted to my wife that Goffin would win. Goffin is very well acquainted with what he wants to do on the court. He has an identity and sticks with it. At several times in this match he missed a rally ball that he usually makes. He was unflappable, going right back to being himself with no hesitation. Late in the fourth set at 4-5, he saved 4 match points by playing like himself.

Monfils, on the other hand (besides sporting his "I am exhausted look"), played without clear conviction. Despite holding the 4 match points, he played more and more "bailout" drop shots as the match went late into the fourth and started the fifth set. A few of these actually worked as Goffin chose the wrong finishing shot several times in a row. Eventually however, this poorly chosen tactic got the better of him. Goffin is one of the best movers on the Tour. Would you think that the way to beat him is to use a drop on virtually every other point?

At 1-all in the 5th, the TennisChannel commentator said:"It's just so difficult to see where this one is going." Not if you're seeing what's happening!

With Goffin serving at 5-2 to close the match, Monfils broke him. At no time in that game did Monfil play a drop shot. At 3-5 Monfils wins the first point on his serve and then surrenders the 2nd point with a poor drop shot. He then goes on to lose the game, set, and match!

Lesson: the drop shot is a great weapon when used sparingly. Overuse leads to abuse. Drop shotting can be addictive - don't let this happen to you!

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