In tennis, there are a variety of shots you can use to keep the ball in the game. Whether you want to play competitively or just for fun, fully understanding the different types of tennis shots can be both useful and educational.
It can also provide you with a foundation for understanding which tennis strokes and shots you would like to improve. That way, when you’re out on the court with a friend or a tennis coach, you can make the most of your time.
Types of base tennis strokes
The types of tennis shots most commonly associated with tennis are forehand and backhand. Ground strokes are usually delivered standing a few meters from the baseline as a forehand or a backhand.
Forehand and backhand top-spin
Forehand and backhand are usually the first shots a player will learn. A forehand will be hit with the dominant hand and arm (right if right-handed and left if left-handed), while a backhand will be hit with two hands for a two-handed backhand or with one hand (which is still the dominant hand) for a one-handed backhand.
Most players will use one of the three forehand grips in tennis: eastern, semi-western or western. Each grip has advantages and disadvantages. However, today, the semi-western forehand grip is the most common.
A double-handed backhand is usually held by the dominant hand with a continental grip and the other hand above the dominant hand on the handle. A one-handed backhand is usually an inverted eastern grip.
A typical forehand and backhand have topspin, where the player brushes the top of a tennis ball to generate spin. This allows players to hit the ball more aggressively while ensuring that the ball falls back onto the court and also with a higher bounce.
In a rally, players can hit some variations of their forehand and backhand, i.e. in the middle of the court, at the crossroads or along the line.
Flat forehand and backhand
A flat forehand or backhand is one in which the player simply does not apply much spin to his shot.
Players with an eastern forehand grip can usually hit this shot more effectively as the angle of their racket is less prone to spin. However, players with a semi-western or western grip may have difficulty “flattening” the ball because the angle of the tennis racket is prone to generate topspin.
On the backhand side, most players usually don’t have much trouble flattening the ball when using a one- or two-handed backhand.
A player will hit a forehand or a flat backhand when he doesn’t want to give his opponent as much time to react. With a topspin backhand shot, the ball hits the court and bounces up and over to his opponent, typically giving him more time to respond. However, flat shots with little topspin don’t bounce high, they almost slide down the court, especially on grass courts.
A flat floor shot is usually harder to hit while keeping the shot within the limits of the tennis court, as there is not much topspin. As a result, most players hit flat strokes in moderation.
Sliced forehand and backhand
A sliced forehand or backhand is essentially the opposite of a topspin shot. Instead of brushing the tennis ball, a “slice shot” is hit by brushing under the tennis ball and creating a backspin.
Players hit the forehand and backhand shot with one hand, usually with a continental grip or a slight variation of this grip that borders on the east.
The slice stroke can be very effective in quickly changing the pace of a play to throw off the opponent. It is often hit as a defensive shot when a player has little time to react, or when a player is on the run. Also, on a tennis court such as a grass court, the slice works very well as the ball bounces much less on this surface.
Reverse crossed forehand
An inverted forehand is a popular tennis shot that occurs when a player runs around his backhand and hits a cross forehand. Typically, this shot is hit by a player with a strong forehand to take control of the point or by players who have a weaker backhand and prefer to hit a forehand.
Parallel inverted forehand
Similar to a crossover forehand, a player hits an inside out forehand when running around his backhand. However, instead of hitting the cross forehand as you would with an inverted cross forehand, you hit the forehand in parallel.
In tennis, a volley is a shot that a player hits without letting the ball bounce on his side of the court. Usually, the player is at or near the net when he hits the ball.
The main purpose of approaching the net and taking a volley is to take control of the point and allow himself to hit at a greater angle, thus closing the point quickly.
Forehand and backhand volleys
Similar to right-hand volleys, right-hand volleys are hit with the dominant hand, on the right side of your body if you are right-handed and on the left side of your body if you are left-handed.
Backhand volleys are hit with the dominant hand on the left side of the body if you are right-handed and on the right side of the body if you are left-handed.
On volleys, a continental grip is maintained, resulting in a neutral racket face designed to easily deflect balls to the opponent. This type of grip helps ensure the ball can reach the top of the net without sending it too far.
In some cases, youngsters and beginner tennis players will be encouraged to hit their backhand volleys with both hands for better support although this is not recommended.
Players can hit a half-volley as well as a forehand or a backhand in volley-like situations: either on approach to the net or while at the net.
In short, a half-volley is a shot where you cannot get to the ball to hit a volley before it bounces, and you don’t have enough time to hit a complete groundstroke. As a result, you let the ball bounce and then quickly block or deflect it to the other side of the court.
In most cases, it is preferable to hit a volley while the ball is in the air or a groundstroke after the ball bounces. However, there are always times when you can’t reach the volley and don’t have time to prepare for a hit at the net, making a half-volley a fantastic option.
Half-volleys can be hit as a forehand or a backhand using a continental grip.
Your friend the serve
The serve is the shot that begins each point, which the players hit.
In either case, a player has two opportunities – the first and second serve – to hit the ball in the service box on the opposite side of the tennis court.
Serves are performed with a continental grip, which allows players to hit a variety of different types, including flat, kick and bounce serves. Although the younger players usually start with a classic forehand grip as it is difficult to make that sharp turn of the wrist for the younger ones.
A flat serve is one that is hit with minimal, if any, spin. The biggest advantage of a flat serve is the ability to hit the ball with a lot of pace, or speed, which gives your opponent very little time to react.
Because players apply little spin to the ball, flat serves are more difficult to hit on the serve box. As a result, this is a shot that is hit only on a player’s first serve to ensure that he can hit a more reliable serve, such as a kickserve, on the second serve.
To hit a kick serve, players generate a significant amount of topspin when they hit the ball and turn their wrist on contact. This action ensures that the ball travels high over the net and falls into the service box because of the topspin.
The topspin is an excellent option because, with practice, most players can learn to hit this shot on the court almost every time. In addition to consistency, the kick is also a weapon for many players who can generate enough spin on the ball, causing the ball to “step” on the ground when it lands in the service box with a much higher bounce.
An effective kick makes the ball bounce much higher than the ideal height for a forehand or a backhand. Most players will usually want to return the ball when it bounces at waist level, so anything above this height starts to be harder to hit.
As a result, your opponent is forced to either step forward and return the ball quickly from the bounce or step back to give himself enough time to hit a return to a more appropriate height.
The kick serve is high security, so it is a frequent shot used by players on their second serve to make sure the ball is in play.
Players hit a sliced serve by hitting the outer edge – the right side of the ball for right-handed players and the left side of the ball for left-handed players – to produce a lateral spin that slides when it hits the court and bounces in the direction of the spin.
The cut-off serve can be extremely effective, especially when hitting from a distance or towards a player’s body. When hitting too wide in the deuce box, the player is forced to the side of the court, thus opening up the co0urt for an inbound shot.
When hitting toward the player’s body, a slice serve can make it extremely difficult to hit a forehand or a backhand, which can “freeze” a player who is guessing which way he is going to hit or could not prepare quickly enough.
The return of the serve
A serve return is a player’s response to his opponent’s serve. As a result, he hits the return while standing on the right side of the court, or on the left side of the court when facing the net.
The return can be given in different ways. However, it usually involves hitting a forehand or a backhand from your opponent’s serve, which presents a unique set of challenges where the ball travels quickly, often leaving you little time to react. Also, it is not always easy to read the type of serve nor the direction in which the opponent is going to hit.
With the rest, preparation is key, and in many cases, the goal is simply to keep the ball in play or neutralize the point without preparing your opponent for an easy break-in shot.
Special types of tennis shots
There are many special types of tennis strokes, which are hit in specific situations when the above-mentioned shots are not ideal or may be difficult to execute.
As the name suggests, you will make an approach shot as you approach the net, making it perfect for the transition from the baseline.
Approach shots can be hit with a forehand or a backhand, and usually occur when the opposing player hits the ball short on the court, allowing you to enter and move forward and into the ball.
The approach shot can be effective because it puts pressure on your opponent. If executed effectively, it allows you to take control of the point and close it while at the net with a winner.
The “passing shot” is one that players hit when their opponent is at the net, and try to hit the ball without the opponent touching it.
Passing shots tend to put a lot of pressure on a player to make a great shot, which can force many players to go for too much. However, execute well, and you will put the same pressure on your opponent while you have the opportunity to leave him disoriented at the net.
Players can hit a lob in several different situations. First, when a player approaches the net, there is a tendency to get ahead of him. To some extent, getting close to the net allows players to cut off the angles that their opponent can hit, which can make it more difficult for them to pass.
However, by getting too close, your opponent presents you with an opportunity to lob them. A lob is simply a forehand or backhand that is hit well above the opponent’s head to land on the back of the court, towards the baseline.
In this case, if they have enough preparation, many players will choose to hit the lob with a certain amount of topspin with their typical forehand or backhand grip. Otherwise, players will use the continental grip to send the ball over their opponent’s head.
Lobs can be a great shot to hit in defensive scenarios. For example, if your opponent forces you to go to the side of the court and you have to chase the ball, the balloon can be a great shot to keep the tennis ball in play.
Your opponent is likely to go to the net in this situation, so a high balloon can give you some time to get back to the court and also force your opponent to hit at least one more shot to close the point.
Similarly, if your opponent is at the net and hits an aggressive shot at you, it can often be difficult to react quickly. As a result, the balloon can be a great tactic to quickly block the ball back into play, which also allows you to prepare for the next shot you hit.
Smash tennis shot
The smash is a tennis shot that players usually hit from a lob. If you move towards the net and press your opponent, you will often find that they will hit a lob.
Because the shot can be difficult to execute, you’ll find that many of them fall right on your head when you’re at the net.
In this case, you will have the opportunity to hit a smash, which is essentially a slightly modified version of your serve while you are moving at the net.
As with the serve, you will hit above your head using the continental grip.
Drop shot tennis stroke
The drop shot is a more advanced shot that players hit when their opponent is on the baseline. Drop shots are difficult to execute because they often require the element of surprise and superior ball control, commonly known as “touch”.
A likely scenario for a drop shot is if you are in a rally with your opponent, and you find him a little unbalanced after taking one of his shots.
If you recognize this, you may choose to carefully slice the ball over the net with as little power as possible to ensure that it only clears the net and falls a few meters from it, so that your opponent does not have time to run forward and put the ball into play.
Chip and charge
The “chip and charge” is a specialty of the return of the service in which you enter the court when returning the ball. Players like Roger Federer are fans of this hit on most of his serve returns.
How is it done? Well, using a continental grip, you cut the ball back to the opposite side of the court, while simultaneously moving to the net to prepare for a winning volley.
If executed well, the “chip and charge” can be a great combination to quickly pressure your opponent right after the serve and position yourself to take control of the point at the net.
However, if executed poorly, the punch can also prepare your opponent for an easy passing shot.
Put away shot
A put away shot is not a particular technical form of hitting. Instead, it refers to hitting the ball beyond your opponent when you are at the net.
If you make a great approach shot, pushing your opponent to the side of the court, and he returns a typical shot, then you will want to “put away” the volley to the other side of the court so he does not have the opportunity to make another shot.
A “Winner” is an expression used to describe any shot that has been successfully taken on the opposite side of the court, out of your opponent’s reach.
A successful passing shot is a winner, an overhead shot that your opponent cannot reach is a winner, and a forehand shot that crosses the court or goes over the line that your opponent cannot reach is also a winner.
Tweener tennis shot
I’ve saved the willy for last because players usually hit it for its entertainment value rather than its effectiveness.
A tweener is considered to be any shot between the legs. However, most people think that a real “tweener” is a shot from a high lob.
In this situation, the player needs to run for the ball as he moves away from the net. To hit a tweener, the player will let the ball bounce in front of him. Then, as the ball falls back onto the court, they get perfectly in front of the ball so that it reaches the height just below their knees so that they can hit between their legs and send the ball flying through their legs and back over the other side of the court.
If it sounds hard, and it is. Few players can do it well under pressure. However, there have been some incredible tweeners hit by professionals during competition.
I hope you liked the article and that you have now learned all the types of tennis shots that exist in tennis. If you want to see how well each of these strokes is performed by professional tennis players check out this official ATP page.