For players with anything other than the ultimate level of mobility around the court, one of the recurring nightmares which prevents them getting a night’s sleep must be the thought of facing a player blessed with a good drop shot. This shot may be one of the most frustrating to face when playing an opponent who knows how to hit it. If hit correctly and at the right time, a drop shot is unplayable.
The idea behind the shot is that it is hit with little pace just over the net. On passing over the net, it will literally â€œdropâ€ just inside the opponent’s court and pretty much stop dead. Even if it does bounce a little, the angle of the shot required to get it back will be beyond all but the most gifted opponent.
The key to hitting the perfect drop shot is believed to be â€œsoft handsâ€, which entails slackening one’s grip on the racket at exactly the moment of impact, allowing the racquet to absorb more of the force of the shot and take much of the pace off the ball. This in turn means the bounce on the other side of the net will be lower.
Frequently, a drop shot will be played on the volley, known as a â€œdrop volleyâ€. Although this shot existed long before his time in the game, John McEnroe is believed to have turned it into an art form, making him arguably the greatest serve-volley player of all time.
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While the four ‘Major’ Grand Slam tournaments punctuate the tennis calendar as the most prestigious tournaments, the vast majority of a professional players’ schedule is taken up by slightly lesser-known tournaments: the Masters 1000 events.
Men and women both player Masters events, though not always at the same venue at the same tournament (for example, the men play the Rome Masters around March, while the women play in May). To win a Masters event is to earn 1,000 points towards the world ranking of a player, almost immediately guaranteeing them a top-10 ranking within the game.
There are 11 Masters events per year for both men and women, all worth 1,000 points. Attendance is compulsory at these events for any professional, though it is possible to miss up to three of the Masters if you satisfy certain conditions such as longevity in the game or player age. Masters tournaments are played on two of the major professional surfaces, with long stints in Northern America known as the hard court season and a European stint in the spring referred to as the clay court season.
Bizarrely, there is no Masters 1000 event played on grass despite it being home to perhaps the most recognisable tennis tournament. Along with the Grand Slam Wimbledon, there are other tournaments played on grass in the tennis calendar but none that qualify as a Masters 1000. Most of the Masters events are played on hard court, with just the Rome Masters, Monte Carlo Masters and Madrid Masters played on clay.
Although his list of career titles may be shorter than his contemporary and American compatriot Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi is still in many people’s eyes one of the most remarkable players ever to pick up a tennis racket. Believed by many with the knowledge to comment to have had the best return of service that has ever been seen in the game, Agassi is unique among male tennis players in having won a career Golden Slam â€“ that is, all of the Grand Slam titles plus an Olympic gold, won in 1996 at the Atlanta games.
In an interesting quirk, Agassi is married to the only female player to have won a calendar Golden Slam, Steffi Graf, who won the Olympic gold in 1988 in Seoul. Agassi won a total of eight Slam titles in his career, and but for much publicized battles with injury and weight gain may have won more. Considered to be a highly talented player who could have won more if he had had the same mentality as Pete Sampras, Agassi is nevertheless more popular than Sampras and believed to be the more naturally talented player.
An anecdote about Agassi’s early career sums up his abilities. When his father sent him to the tennis academy run by Nick Bolletieri in Florida, he agreed for Andre to stay for three months as that was all the family could afford. Ten minutes into his first practice session Bolletieri, considered by many to be the greatest coach of young talent tennis has ever seen, called Agassi Sr and told him to take his check back, because Agassi had more talent than any player he had ever seen.