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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Third Shot Drop with Sarah

I previously posted about controlling the pace of the game with an article from Prem Carnot. That post, Third Shot Drop, was a written description of the shot. Now we will go deeper into the technique of the third shot drop with a Sarah Ansboury video called Basic Third Shot Drop -- Building A Solid Foundation.

I always tell attendees at my clinics that the third shot drop is the single most difficult shot to learn, but the shot is so important that it must be part of every player's repertoire. Sarah states the same thing and concludes that the practice needed to gain confidence in the shot is worth it.

Keeping the title of the video in mind, Sarah emphasizes 3 keys easily remembered as the 3 Ps - Preparation, Pace, and Placement. 
  • Preparation is doing everything to get ready for the shot, including getting into the ready position, getting positioned to hit the ball in her neutral zone, moving her feet, staying on her toes, and performing a split step.
  • Pace of the third shot drop means hitting a soft shot rather than driving the ball.
  • Placement of the shot means thinking of where the shot should be targeted - down the line, into the middle or crosscourt.
Just as Prem wrote, Sarah recommends hitting the ball on its downward arc after it bounces. Many players make the shot as the ball is rising by short-hopping the ball. This can be effective in that it allows the player to more quickly move forward and gain more ground toward the kitchen line. However, Sarah (and Prem) point out that there is more energy in the ball at that point and your shot must dissipate that energy in order to attain the right arc. The ball is losing energy as it drops and is more easily hit with the softness needed. The energy level of a falling ball is also more consistent, thereby making your shot more consistent.

Sarah's technique is drop her paddle foot back so she can drop her body and extend her arm for the swing from her shoulder. There is very little backswing and there is no wrist. Note that her technique has the paddle pointing downward rather than parallel to the playing surface with a wrinkled wrist that I normally recommend. She says that this allows her hit the shot more consistently. It is certainly something I will practice.

Sarah describes the shot as "pushing" the ball or "carrying" the ball to the target. While different terminology from Prem's "scooping", the concept is the same.

The final section of the video is demonstration of a drill to practice the third shot drop and earning your way to the net. With your partner positioned at the kitchen line across the net, start the drill at the baseline. Hit a drop shot, move forward a couple of steps, split step into the ready position and hit another drop shot, and continue until hitting several dinks at the kitchen line. This looks like a great 2-person drill in which a lot can be accomplished in 20 minutes.

Sarah does not discuss the arc of the ball in the video,but her demonstration sections show a definite arc with the apex on her side of the court. In the comment section, Sarah states "Depending on where you are on your side of the court, back line, mid court etc. will depend on the height.  The most important thing about the apex is you want it high and on your side of the net so when it starts dropping it will be able to drop closer into the net on your opponents side. You can compare that to shooting a basketball or even better a softball pitch. To find what height works best for you, you could simply put your paddle down and just toss the ball with your dominant hand to practice the motion and find the height that works for you. Once you can consistently toss the ball where you want in the kitchen pick up your paddle and practice the same motion. I hope this helps!" and adds "i forgot to put in there that most likely your apex should be between 6-7 ft." That also aligns with Prem's advice.


  1. Great video Sarah. Thank you for sharing. Practice, practice, practice...

  2. What is the best way to return a ball that has a lot of back spin. I play with group of people that return the serve with a ton of back spin, and I find it hard to return it on the third drop shot. It goes into the net or I pop it up to high and get it slammed back in my face.