PARIS — There are only so many shots in tennis. And like tie widths and hemlines, they come in and out of fashion.
But at the top ranks of the sport, the drop shot is having a moment, thanks in part to its deft deployment by two players who have vaulted into the top 10 in recent months — Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who has been hailed as “the drop-shot queen,” and Spain’s 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who is regarded as tennis royalty-in-waiting.
Once dismissed by 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer as “a panic shot,” the drop shot can be a shrewd offensive tactic — a way to win a point and, over time, demoralize an opponent caught hopelessly out of position when a spin-slathered ball, flicked in an instant, barely clears the net, plops to the court and dies.
As tennis shots go, the drop shot is more a chess move than a power play.
When expertly executed, as Alcaraz has multiple times in his march to the French Open’s fourth round, it is a thing of heartless beauty — a chef’s kiss on the red clay of Roland Garros.
Its resurgence on the pro tour is the result of a few trends.