It’s one thing to hit a drop shot standing close to the net. It’s quite another to execute it from the baseline. That takes extraordinary touch, and even more than that— guts.
Dustin Brown does it all the time. In fact he does everything. He has an extraordinary drop volley, drop half volley and drop shot from the baseline. Using a casual slight-of-hand as his only disguise, the dreadlocked star sends his opponent scrambling forward. Most often he follows his magic in. Next he either lobs, passes or angles, leaving the other guy with nothing more to do than smile sarcastically.
But there’s one player on the ATP Tour who’s nonplussed by this kind of thing— he goes by the name Sir Andy Murray.
When Murray scrambles, there’s a certain sound he makes. We all know it. It’s a grunt that says: “You’ve really pained me. You’re putting me out making me reach for this ball.” What follows is usually a drop volley of his own, a deft lob or some other smart shot for a winner.
In Round 2 on Centre Court at Wimbledon, Brown’s audacious drop shot squares off against the pluckiness of Murray— someone who has the guts to not only run down a drop shot— but to do something about it. Which tennis skill wins this battle? Let’s look at some numbers.
Brown’s Use of Drop Shots
In Brown’s 4-set match with Joao Sousa, he played a drop shot a stunning 48 times. On 20% of the points, Sousa had to deal with that. Harrowing. Was it successful for Brown? You bet. Brown won the point when a drop shot was employed 26 times. It’s a success rate of 57% when using the drop shot, which is more than anybody needs to be successful in this sport.
Naturally Brown won the match. Interestingly, it took awhile for Brown to find his rhythm when using it. He committed several unforced errors and got passed a few times on his way to losing the first set. Brown apparently has a high tolerance for messing up that shot, and his opponent got weary and frustrated with the prospect of the drop shot on any given point. Brown used it liberally in the final 3 sets on his way to victory.
What Kind of Drop Shots?
Not all drop shots are created equal. Of Brown’s 48 drop shots, 26 were from the back of the court, in the area of the baseline. The remaining 22 were volley or half volley drop shots. On 2 amazing points, Brown employed both— a drop shot from the baseline, a move in… and a drop shot volley to win the point.
What About Murray?
Much to his fans’ delight, Andy Murray is also known to employ the drop shot quite skillfully, but he’s better known for running them down. This Wimbledon, however, Murray’s dealing with a hip injury. Will it imperil him? Will it slow him down?
In the first round, he faced trick shot artist Alexander Bublik, who certainly can and does use underspin to drop the ball short. Murray and his hip were tested. In his decisive 3-set victory over the Russian, Murray was forced to come forward and run down 22 drop shots. Was he successful?
Yes he was! In fact, Boris Becker, who was commentating for the match, questioned why Murray would bother to run down so many, fearing he might hurt his hip even more. Giving his all on every point is the only game Murray knows. Of the 22 rundowns, Murray came out the winner 14 times. That’s a dominating success rate of 64%. For what it’s worth, Murray himself employed some kind of drop shot 16 times and won 10 of them.
Think there will be a few drop shots in this appetizing Centre Court matchup? No doubt. The only questions are who will come out ahead in this equation.
Even if the home crowd favorite and defending champion displays enough fortitude to win the drop shot encounter, all the running could rough him up sufficiently for the rest of the fortnight.