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Beware the deft drop shot of tennis’ hottest new star!

Carlos Alcaraz struck 50 drop shots en route to winning the Miami Open presented by Itau recently, winning a staggering 70 per cent (35/50) of them. It was a stunning display of off-pace strategy that perfectly complemented the 18-year-old’s powerful groundstrokes that sizzled at times more than 100 mph through the Miami heat. As he embarks on the European clay-court season, expect him to continue his dual-threat tactic.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Alcaraz’s 50 Miami drop shots identified that the Spaniard got off to a near-perfect start in his first four matches, winning 18 of his first 19 drop shots, including winning 16 in a row. The following breakdown uncovers his prowess with the drop shot against his six Miami opponents.

 

Alcaraz Drop Shots Per Match

Forehand vs. Backhand
Most players prefer their primary drop shot to come from the backhand wing, as they can hide the change of grip behind their back to disguise their intentions better. Alcaraz is a different animal. His preferred drop shot came from his forehand side in Miami, where he hit 30, winning an impressive 73% (22) of them. He hit 20 drop shots from his backhand, winning 65% (13/20).

The reason the Alcaraz forehand works so well as a drop shot is that it typically follows a crushing forehand groundstroke that pushes the opponent well back behind the baseline onto the back foot. The Spaniard then lines up for a repeat blow and cleverly changes to a drop shot at the last second with perfect disguise.

The opponent expects a rocket and instead finds themselves chasing a feather.

Alcaraz hit 18 clean drop shot winners in Miami, with 13 coming from his forehand side. He only made seven drop shot errors in the net, with five coming from a backhand and two from a forehand.

Serving vs. Receiving
Alcaraz was twice as likely to employ a stealthy drop shot when serving over receiving.

  • Drop Shots When Serving = 34
  • Drop Shots When Receiving = 16

Alcaraz won 74 per cent (25/34) when he hit a drop shot when serving and 63 per cent (10/16) when he hit a drop shot when returning. It appears the serve, just like the power forehand, provides a hidden “assist” for the success of the drop shot.

Big Moments
Alcaraz’s only three-set match was a 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over Kecmanovic in the quarters. Alcaraz went to the drop shot 10 times in the deciding third set, winning six. He doubled down on the drop shot in the third set tie-break, winning three of four, including two forehand drop shots that were clean winners.

The only match where the drop shot proved ineffective was in the final against Ruud, where Alcaraz only won 36 per cent (4/11). It’s not a stretch to imagine Ruud was ready for it since Alcaraz had won an impressive 79 per cent (31/39) with drop shots in his first five matches.

Alcaraz’s thunderous groundstrokes always impress. Then you discover his dexterous ability to drop shot, especially in significant moments of a match. With Alcaraz, the threat of baseline power always puts a surprise drop shot squarely on the table.


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