Today at the junior camp we worked on drop shots. Instead of going over some drills and condition games for drop shots, I'm going to talk about some of the most common technical errors I see with drop shots.
1. Too big of a swing. This includes backswing and/or follow through. A drop shot should have a shorter backswing and follow through. I know this can change as you are trying to disguise your shot. If this is the case make sure it is from the correct area of the court and even still I wouldn't have a full backswing or decelerating and hitting a drop will be too difficult and will probably result in being hit too hard or making an error. I like to disguise my drop not right from the front and not near the T, so in between these areas when you have some time to set up early and potentially delay your swing. If you are around the middle of the court/the T area and your opponent is behind you there is no need to disguise your drop shot as you already have an opening. Just take your space and hit a good aggressive drop shot.
2. Follow through goes across the ball. When you hit any shot you want to follow through to the target. This is even more important for a touch shot such as a drop shot. Keep your racquet face open to your target and you will hit it more consistently.
3. Hitting up on the drop. I see some people trying to hit the ball softly and the ball goes upwards off of their racquets. The only time you should do this is when the ball is below the height of the tin, and if this is the case a drop is a risky shot as it is. So if you're striking the ball above the height of the tin hit it on a flatter line so it gets to the front wall quicker.
4. Dropping the racquet head only. When you hit most shots in squash you want to drop your hand/grip to the height you are hitting the ball. This is the same for drop shots. If you are hitting a ball that is say at the height of your knees you should get your hand/grip to that height so you can line up your drop and you will hit it flatter and be more consistent yet again. If you only drop the racquet head and not your grip/hand you will have to pop up on your swing and you will be unable to follow through to your target.
5. Hitting the ball as it drops. Some people just don't seem to notice that the gal is on the way down as they drop it. I like to think of the tin as a net in tennis, badminton, or volleyball. The higher you hit the ball from the better angle you have to hit down over the tin/net! So next time you're practicing your drops try and hit them at the peak of the bounce. This gives you a better angle and you can strike the ball more aggressively. This also implies for people that tend to wait for the ball to come to them. When you do this it gives your opponent more time to get back in position and also means you will be hitting the drop flat footed without any forward momentum.
6. Standing upright. Some people play drops from a very casual upright position. This is fine when the ball is waist height or above, but when the ball is lower you should bend your knees and lower your hips to meet the ball at the height of the bounce. This will enable you to better line up your shot and follow through to your target. This also means you are taking your space and are closer to the T.
7. Too much margin for error. This is kind of a mental and tactical error as well. Sometimes when your opponent is right out of the point it is good to give yourself a big margin as you don't need to flirt with the tin at all. But other times people lose confidence in their drops and you can almost tell they are thinking, 'don't hit tin' as they drop. This is why I like to spend lots of time working on the short game and using positive talk to reinforce playing the right shot at the right time, regardless of what the result is. Especially in practice I believe there should be errors. If you hit 30 or 40 drops in a row without a mistake you are hitting the ball too high over the tin.
8. Too small of a margin for error. The opposite seems to happen even more often. This happens when people are fatigued or are playing someone fast and are worried that their opponent will get it. If your opponent is really quick you still have to play a drop in the right situation, just keep it tight to the side wall and try and follow it up with a volley if possible. It's funny how many unforced errors the threat of speed creates. Speed also creates a lot of indecision and makes people hit the ball without any real conviction.
9. Taking your eye off the ball. This tends to happen most on the forehand side. Some people look up to see where their shot is going before they actually make contact with the ball. Keep your eye focused on the ball the entire time. If you are having trouble doing this try and pick up the yellow dots the next time you're practicing your drops.
There are a couple of other faults I see in drops. One is people trying to cut the ball too much or not enough. Knowing which drops to slice and which to hit flatter is important and maybe a whole other post altogether. I recommend not taking all of the tips onto the court next time with you. Maybe focus on 1 or 2 if you are doing a solo practice or a drill session. A ball machine or a feeder is a great way to groove the mechanics of your drop shot. I always like to think short and simple when it comes to the drop shot swing. Watch some of the top players and pay attention to their technique on drop shots and you will see most of these apply. The best players can improvise when they have to, but to play the percentages and their best, most consistent drop they will follow through to their target, get to the height of the ball, hit it higher on the bounce, and will strike the ball flat or down aggressively and confidently.