For me, the counter drop was one of few shots I could really attack with during the early part of my career. Alongside the early volley either short or long, I used the counter drop to really stretch the court and make my opponent work hard physically.
Hitting a regular drop or volley drop would cause me problems against the very best players. My positioning was very side-on to the ball, which means I was too far forward allowing easy access for my opponent to retrieve the drop. Also, my execution of the shots were not good enough – I hit very flat with little cut so the ball would come back too far off the front wall. From both shots I was then prone to being put under pressure by none other than the counter drop!
To really excel at the counter drop there a few technical things that you have to be able to do. Move quickly to the front, stay low, hit in front of your body on both sides and finally, have another shot option from the same position and/or swing.
Movement – on noticing the opportunity to move to the front and counter drop your opponent, you have to get there quickly and with control. I would recommend staying slightly lower than normal so you and racquet head are down near where the ball is going to be. Be prepared to use either leg to land at the striking position, as speed is crucial to make the counter work well.
Technique – I was never able to hold and flick very effectively so unless you are capable of this, your racquet head is best to be low and with minimal backswing. The reason for this is the regular counter drop is taken early and by the very nature of countering your opponent’s drop, the ball is very low to the ground. The follow through for the counter is vital for the consistency of the shot so it is very important to be able to release the racquet head towards the target.
All the best examples of wonderful counter drop players show them staying low, hitting early in relation to their body and following through to the target. All the while, the players stay still to allow this to happen.
Finally, for me the last piece of the jigsaw for the counter drop was having another shot option form the same position. The most effective alternative shot was always the lob as my opponent had to cover the whole diagonal of the court and would likely have to volley the lob otherwise be in a tough position in the back corner, adding more stress to their movement.
On my forehand I had more options due to being stronger physically on that side. I could counter, lob, flick cross court and also punch a straight drive if the ball was sitting just high enough and I got onto the ball early. On my backhand I was fairly much restricted to the counter or the lob – I therefore had to make sure either shot was of the highest quality, as my opponent would be expecting only those two outcomes.
As always, I urge you to understand what you are capable of in these positions and then create your game around those parameters. I would have loved to be able to hold the ball and do all the myriad of shots Jonathon Power could do in the front backhand corner, but I would have just made life harder for myself with poor execution.
The counter drop is so effective if played well and at the right time, make sure it is part of your game and see the improvement right away.