Third Shot Drop

A 5.0 Level Skill Anyone Can Develop

May 07 2024

One of the biggest gaps in strategy and technique between 4.0- and 5.0-level players is that 5.0s can execute strong fourth (and sixth) shots that keep their opponents back off the kitchen line.

They understand the importance of applying maximum pressure and never conceding the kitchen line unless absolutely necessary. Let’s discuss how you can learn from them.

First, they take the ball out of the air

Hitting balls out of the air takes time away from your opponent. This should be your first instinct. If you’re not leaning in to eliminate as much of the kitchen as possible, then you’re doing it wrong.

  • Lean in and set up early while maintaining your balance
  • Use a wrist flick to apply pace to the ball
  • Hit your shot deep–preferably at a moving target, aiming for their feet

Second, they back up to create more space

You can still apply pressure if your opponent hits a decent drop you can’t quite reach by leaning in. But it requires you to back off the kitchen line to create space. While this space lets them get closer, it also allows you to put better technique and pace on a bouncing ball.

  • Once you recognize it’s a good drop, take 1-2 small steps back and rotate your hips
  • Attack the ball at its peak after the bounce
  • Add topspin and hit to their weaker side or at their feet if they’re still moving in

Third, they avoid short-hopping the ball

It’s almost impossible to apply pressure off a short hop, and it’s also very easy to pop these balls up. Avoid taking fourths (or sixths) on a short hop at all costs.

  • Recognize the quality of the drop early
  • Set yourself up: either lean in or take steps back
  • Commit completely to whichever shot you choose

Lastly, they concede the line if they must

Sometimes, your opponent hits a great drop, and you must concede the kitchen. If this happens, your goal is to make the next ball unattackable.

  • Aim a soft-ish dink to your opponent’s weak side foot (left foot if righthanded, right foot if lefthanded)
  • Prepare to play out the rally
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