Most players dread the low reply from their opponent when approaching the net. This is a difficult shot but if you can handle it, your opponent is likely to be surprised and frustrated. This will force them to attempt a clean passing shot which is not a high percentage play for anyone.
The key to hitting this shot well starts with a good split-step just prior to your opponent’s forward swing. By being balanced, you will be able to react to both the direction and the low trajectory.
Next, try to keep your knees bent and hold the racquet very firm. The less your racquet moves, the better chance you will have of hitting the ball solid and firm. Watching the ball all the way through the point of contact is crucial. Pick a direction that allows the ball to cross the net close to the center strap and don’t try to be too accurate.
As you get better at these basic ideas, try to angle the racquet face just enough to get the ball slightly above the net strap—I actually try to hit the top of the net with my shot on the very low balls.
Remember that less is more—don’t try to add speed and keep the racquet as still as possible while watching it all the way in.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com) and MyHamptonsPro based in Sag Harbor, NY (http://www. myhamptonspro.com) and Tennis Professional at Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club in Tucson, AZ. For details on lessons, clinics, or coaching, contact Steve at email@example.com or call 865-300-7323