The Long Drop
I’m a big fan of this shot and it’s become much more popular in the last few years when you watch the top events on PSA TV. You do not have to be the most skillful player in the World for this to be effective. It serves much more purpose than the single shot itself.
By this I mean; the shot gives you options, and whenever you have options it adds doubt to your opponent. As soon as your opponent feels doubt in their mind every one of your shots has more impact.
Technically; you need to push the shot toward the front wall in a straight line, not too soft, not too hard. You do not want to loop it by hitting too soft. Straight line is the key.
Tactics are the main reason to play this shot.
If you occasionally play a long drop eg. from the back of the court on the backhand side, this shows your opponent a different option. Usually a player will have 3 options from the back corner; a straight drive being by far the most expected shot, a cross-court drive and a boast. If you can add a straight drop shot to the mix, all of a sudden your opponent has to consider covering that too. The impact of this is quite great. If your opponent generally knows to expect a straight or cross court drive they will often position themselves slightly behind the ‘T’. Even if you play a boast to catch them out from time to time, they stand a decent chance of getting the ball back as the boast has to come off two or three walls, with the pace on the ball slowing slightly after each contact with the wall. Less pace means your opponent has more time to reach the ball, so, due to the nature of a boast, it can often be difficult to hit it as a winner unless it is played to perfection.
The beauty of the straight drop is the ball travels in a straight line, so doesn’t contact any walls to slow it down, therefore if played well your opponent will have to react very quickly to reach the ball. The straight drop also runs parallel to the side wall, so even if your opponent does reach the ball you have the security of the side wall, so your opponents shot is hampered which restricts their options (whereas the boast bounces in the open court, and does not run along the side wall. If your opponent reaches your boast they are not hampered by the side wall so they have a choice of options for their shot, which makes your job to return their shot infinitely harder).
As I said earlier, this shot adds more than just trying to hit a winner. You should aim to play this shot 3 or 4 times a game, and even if it’s a bit higher than you wanted it doesn’t matter too much. Yes, if it’s higher than desired it will not be a winner, but the greater picture is the doubt it adds. Every single time you are in the back corner you opponent will consider that you might play this drop, which means when you hit a basic drive their reaction will be slightly slower. In their mind they must be prepared to move forwards to the drop, so each time they have to move to the back to fetch your drive, they do so after a slight forward lean, which will slow down their time to reach your shot. It is also a tiring movement – to lean forwards then push back, over and over again, will eat away at their legs, so over the course of a game, 2 games, or a match, your opponent will do more work. You cannot underestimate what effect this constant lean forwards then push back will have on your opponents’ levels of fatigue.
When you become really confident you can start to show the long drop with a short swing in order to draw your opponent forward, then push in a straight drive. This will really eat away at your opponents legs much quicker, making them lean forward heavily then push back… but is becoming a more advanced skill. Initially keep it simple. Deception is over-rated; shot quality and shot selection are far more important.
To conclude: Play the long drop occasionally. Don’t be discouraged if your opponent gets your drop back, there’s a bigger picture than hitting a one-off winner; it will make your basic drives more effective. It will slightly slow down your opponent to every shot and over time will tire your opponent out more than if you don’t play it.
Warning: Don’t over-use it. Less is more!
James Willstrop uses this shot well. Every time he is in the backhand back corner he has options. 90% of the time he hits a straight drive but there is doubt in his opponents mind every single shot, just in-case he plays the straight drop.