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Gaining Control of Your Lobs
By John W. Naprstek, Sr.

A lob is a much neglected, little used offensive and defensive tennis stroke except with "Oldsters" whose mobility has waned. Very few players have the lob in their regular repertoire of strokes but once one learns to control the stroke and gain confidence they will often see their lobs become gems for both offence and defense!

A lob is a ball that has been hit upward with a high arc of perhaps 20 to even 30 or 45 feet in the air. They are intended to be placed very deep near the opponent's baseline. One can hit lobs that bounce so high that opponents aren't able to back up or turn around quickly enough to return them. But even when one is able to make a return, your lob has gained you valuable time needed to acquire a good center court position or to be waiting at the net to block away a sharply angled winner.

When attempting to execute a lob, a great majority of players simply jerk their racquet up and pop the ball with little or no follow through; therefore the ball is only in contact with their strings a very short time. This type of effort gives little control of distance or placement.

Unfortunately, thousands of players seldom or never practice hitting lobs or returning lobs with lobs. So when they get the occasional inspiration that a lob will be the only possible way to be able to make a return from the position they've been forced into, the result is usually a disaster.

Soon many players become discouraged and think "I'll just forget about lobbing."

Let us utilize your older, well developed, DEPENDABLE FOREHAND to aid you in learning how to execute an accurate, reliable lob! All of us have hit thousands, if not several hundred thousand forehand strokes, so your forehand can be used as the basis of a good beginning to gain control your lobs.

Orient yourself sideways to the spot where you would like your lob to land. Start with your right knee bent slightly more than your left knee and your trunk tipped back so that your racquet head is now down to or even behind your right ankle area. Gradually move your racquet head out wide at a slow pace while rotating your body up into the shot, but do not swing upward hard or you will loose control. After much practice you gradually will learn how much power to use to achieve the desired deep placements of your lobs.

Be sure to maintain a firm grip with a locked wrist throughout your slow upward stroke, keeping the extension of the arm and racquet head out to ones side just as when you are hitting a forehand. You should be orienting your racquet face perpendicular to the path of the descending ball while moving upwards along the path of the descending ball so that your contact point is out wide of your body, preferably near shoulder height, and continuing with a good long follow through.

The stroke should be a long, slow paced steady stroke with a good long follow through reaching upward and across above head high.

As a puff of wind may unexpectedly change your desired point of contact, keep transferring your weight back and forth with feet moving in wee tiny steps so you will be able to quickly move to attain the "ideal position to make your contact." Most important: remember to begin to swing your racquet head out wide from your back foot area as if you are extending a wing!

It certainly is a very low percentage shot if you choose to return a lob with a ground stroke. Your opponent has ample time to close to the net and that makes it possible for them to easily block your return with a sharply angled winner. Your percentage of success drops further the deeper you are forced behind the baseline to make an even longer ground stroke return.

After returning a lob with one of you own you also have gained the time needed to recover to a good defensive position. You will then usually be able to execute your next shot "in balance," rather than stretching way out to produce a "hope for" shot.

After much lobbing practice one will have gained a good deal of control so you will have become adept at consistently placing them in the last 3 or 4 feet of your opponents court even if you find yourself in a contorted position while retreating away from the net!

You can also gradually add topspin by inducing a low to high path into your stroke. This will produce more topspin which will more accurately retain the path you intend for your shot to take.

Very High Lobbing

Take advantage of the reduction of the window of opportunity for your opponent by lobbing excessively high. The higher one drives a lob the closer to perpendicular becomes the path of both your descending lob and then the following bounce.

Whether your opponent attempts to make contact with such a ball on the fly or on the bounce, the "Window of Opportunity" of being able to strike either such ball on any part of the sweet spot has become very short. A ball coming down from close to the perpendicular passes completely through ones sweet spot in less than a second. Compare that to mistiming the usual ground stroke... on a ground stroke, one can drop the ball inside the opponent's court even they make contact anywhere from off the back hip to maybe more than a foot or so in front of ones right hip. The best choice is to return a deep lob with another lob (if you have the ability to do so) which in turn gives you time to regain a good defensive position.

I began hitting lobs 60 to 70 feet high decades ago and regularly win points by adding heavy topspin. These shots are rarely ever sent back because seldom do opponents seem to expect them to bounce so high over their heads! However, don't drive lobs to this lofty height when your opponent is very highly ranked as they will love to eat you up by driving overheads right back past you.

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