If you’ve seen or played against someone who has a good drop shot – you know, the kind that just clears the net and either bounces backward or stops dead – it can be a devastating experience.

Wouldn’t you just love to be able to return the favor? Well, with a little practice and understanding some basics, this can be a great addition to your tennis toolbox.

Most often, recreational and club players take too much of a hard, chopping swing-slice, along with running through the ball. The thought is the heavier slice creates more backspin to make the ball stop, and you’re usually on the run when trying to execute this shot.

Although both of these points can be true, if you try what I’ve just described I think you’ll find most of your balls will land (if in the court) too far from the net to be effective.

Another common error made is trying this shot from too deep in the court. Even the best pros have a very low percentage of success hitting a dropper from the backcourt.

So, how do you do this and turn it into a reliable weapon?

First, you’ll need to practice (either with a hitting partner, ball machine, or take a lesson from your pro) hitting balls from around the service lines after they bounce, keeping your hand-grip, wrist, and forearm relaxed and allowing the racquet to absorb the pace of the ball.

Meet the ball with a smooth, relaxed, high-to-low motion. This will allow for more consistency and still put enough backspin on the ball to be effective.

The real key here is consistency. While building on making this a reliable shot, work on getting it to bounce on the other side of the net three times before it reaches the opponent’s service line.

An effective drop shot is just that – think “drop-dead” – not one that’s a sitter for your opponent to easily knock off.

Next, as with all your shots, work on moving to the ball while maintaining balance and then stopping your momentum before contacting the ball. This will keep you from running through your shot, thus keeping the ball under control and in the court.

Finally, learn when it’s best to try this shot: most often it’s when you’re moving into or are already at the net and your opponent is hanging on the baseline or out of position to get to your “drop-dead” dropper.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio & Youth Tennis Coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton/Hilton Head Island area.