The one shot tennis players will never stop trying on the Roland Garros clay

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PARIS — Eventually 12 months’s French Open, amid the gloom and chilly, one factor shone extra brightly than the rest: the drop shot.

In French, it is referred to as l’amorti, (the literal translation of which implies “cushioning”), and in the course of the cooler, autumn circumstances of the 2020 pandemic-altered Roland Garros, it was the shot of alternative for a lot of gamers.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic used it expertly en path to a males’s last conflict, as did Iga Swiatek on her technique to profitable the ladies’s title. Hugo Gaston, the proficient Frenchman, hit an unbelievable 54 drop photographs in his fourth-round match in opposition to Dominic Thiem. He hit almost simply as many in beating Stan Wawrinka the spherical earlier than.

“His drop photographs are from one other planet,” Thiem mentioned. “I used to be sprinting like 400 instances to the online.”

However in 2021, with the Slam’s return to its conventional late spring, early-summer slot, albeit every week later than initially deliberate, the drop shot is probably not fairly as efficient because it was eight months in the past.

It’s a helpful shot to have within the armory on any floor, however, on clay, it is notably harmful. Not solely does the tender floor make the ball bounce decrease than on a tough courtroom, however altering route is much more troublesome for gamers to chase it on the slippery clay, making it more durable for opponents to run the ball down.

“Final 12 months, the gamers have been caught in that clay-court mode, hanging out a bit of bit additional behind the baseline, however I feel they did not understand their photographs should not as efficient from again right here,” three-time Roland-Garros champion and present Eurosport TV analyst Mats Wilander informed ESPN. “They weren’t in a position to hit by their opponents from means behind the baseline. That is why the drop shot was so efficient.

“Now, all of the sudden, everyone’s photographs are going to have a bit of extra spin. It should be a lot, a lot more durable to hit an efficient drop shot from one other meter again on a ball that bounces possibly 20 centimeters larger than it did in September.”

When Thiem heard Gaston had been given a wild card into the principle draw for this 12 months’s French Open, the Austrian allowed himself a smile. “It is a good reminiscence,” he informed ESPN. “It was a particular match again then, nice environment. I used to be bodily actually, actually match again then.”

On Tuesday, although, Gaston went the identical means as Thiem, dropping within the first spherical to fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Not in the identical type as eight months in the past, Gaston tried to play a extra typical sport, however his drop photographs weren’t as efficient. In response to stats supplier Infosys, Gaston made 13 drop-shot makes an attempt, however solely gained two factors.

When Gaston was crafting drop shot after drop shot in opposition to Thiem underneath a lot totally different circumstances (the occasion was held Sept. 27-Oct. 11), the ball was dying within the chilly, heavy clay. Within the heat sunshine throughout this 12 months’s occasion, the ball has been sitting up only a bit extra, making it a riskier shot.

That does not imply the shot is being prevented in 2021. Hit properly, it may be an outright winner, or arrange a participant to hit a winner on their subsequent shot as soon as their opponent scrambles to get the ball again into play. It may additionally put doubt into the thoughts of an opponent, making them begin to anticipate the drop shot, as an alternative leaving them susceptible to being pulled out of place by a regulation shot.

“Hitting a drop shot [is] all the time an possibility,” mentioned Roger Federer, who used to explain it as a “panic shot” earlier in his profession. Infosys stats confirmed Federer hit eight drop photographs in his first-round victory in opposition to Denis Istomin and gained the purpose each time. Serena Williams solely hit two in her opener versus Irina-Camelia Begu, however gained them each.

No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas mentioned he would proceed to make use of the drop shot this 12 months.

“It is all the time a great tactic [on clay],” he mentioned. “Clay is clay. It is perhaps barely faster, sooner, however the drop shot goes to stay.”

For Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, maybe essentially the most prolific exponent of the drop shot on the ladies’s tour, she says the change within the climate does make a distinction, however not sufficient to cease her from utilizing the shot when she believes it’s proper.

“I’ve received to say, drop photographs on clay, they’re all the time good,” she mentioned. “It is all the time higher [on clay] than on exhausting courtroom. However, final 12 months — when it was heavy, the balls have been heavier, and the climate was totally different — it was significantly better to do a drop shot. I haven’t got to depend on drop photographs on a regular basis, [even though] it is wonderful to win the purpose like that.”

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