A common misconception when it comes to drop shots is that they need to be played very softly, this isn't always the case.
In fact, if you're taking the ball in short, I'd even go as far as to say you want to play your drops with a bit of extra pace much more often than not.
In this blog post, I'll be explaining my reasons why...
Just a short disclaimer to start with: there are of course instances when it might be best to play your drop shot very softly. The first one that springs to mind is when playing a counter drop shot.
If your opponent has played a drop shot, chances are that they'll be starting to move back towards the T as you move in to retrieve their drop.
If you're going to play a counter drop shot in this case, the further the ball dies in the front corner the better since your opponent will have to change directions again and will have a long way to move back into the front corner and retrieve your counter drop.
You'll also be much closer to the front wall and your risk of making an error is lower, you should be able to softly play your counter just above the tin without much worry.
However, if you're the instigator of attacking the ball by playing it short, this is when I believe you should add a little bit of pace to your drop shot. By this, I don't mean hitting the ball hard (like a mid-court kill shot), but rather just cutting your drop shot in with a bit more pace and purpose than usual.
Adding cut is an important feature of this shot as it helps the ball spin downward and ultimately bounce twice and die faster, but you can still cut a ball in softly, I'm talking about hitting your drop a little bit harder at the same time.
Whether it's a volley drop or the ball has bounced first, it can be a great asset to have in your arsenal, but why is it effective?
Well, first off, I believe it's actually lower risk. Let's say you play a very soft drop shot, it needs to be very accurate since your opponent will have more time to react to the drop and move into the front corner as it floats through the air.
If it's loose or it bounces up, your opponent now has the chance to attack. But, if you take that ball early and cut it into the front fast, it's going to reach the front wall and propel in a downward direction pretty fast.
You can see a rough example of what I mean in the video below...
Your opponent will have to scramble a bit to get there before it bounces twice, even if you don't hit it that low down on the front wall.
This also closely relates to another benefit, and that's that it encourages you to take the ball earlier.
Again, let's say you're going to go for a soft drop, it needs to be very accurate and calculated, if the ball has bounced first, chances are you will need to give yourself plenty of time and wait until the ball is at its highest point before taking it.
If you're going to take it into the front with pace, it actually helps if the ball isn't at the top of the bounce yet, you can use the momentum and convert the pace of your opponent's shot to cut down on the ball hard. I don't quite mean a half volley, but just a small fraction of time before the highest point of the bounce.
If you're taking the ball early and dropping it with a sharp bit of cut, your opponent will not have long to react, regardless of where the ball ends up landing, it will get there far quicker.
Ultimately, if you take the ball in short with pace, your opponent is going to have to be on their toes and ready to react at all times, plus there's the added bonus that you can use a very similar swing when hitting the ball to the back of the court, which adds some real deception to your drop shot when you choose to play it.
When it comes to practicing this shot, you can do it in plenty of different drills. If you're hitting solo, you can just feed yourself from a variety of angles and paces and then just repeatedly try stepping in early and chopping the ball down into the front corner.
If you're lucky enough to have a training partner, then you can take turns feeding for each other with one player on the T playing the drop shots and the other player can mix up the feeding with some boasts, some high shots to volley, and even some loose feeds more towards the centre of the court.
Once you get a little more confident with adding pace to your drop shots, you could try out a conditioned game with your partner in which you get two points if you win the point on a drop shot and three points if it's a volley drop. This will encourage you to play the shot more often.
With regards to target, you don't need to aim for the nick every time, it's actually a little easier to try to get the ball to cling tight to the side wall. If you aim for the nick, you run the risk of the ball bouncing back out towards the middle, allowing your opponent to get into a strong position.
Anyway, I hope this blog post was somewhat helpful! I guess the take-home message is that it can be a really powerful weapon to be able to add pace to your drop shots. It really piles pressure on your opponent and helps you dictate the pace and maintain your own position on court.