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The Beginner's Guide to Tennis: The Different Types of Tennis Shots

By Edited Jul 12, 2015 2 4

Tennis is a wonderful social sport that is easy to learn, difficult to master. I will discuss the different types of shots in tennis, how they are used, and when they are used. There are eight basic types of shots in tennis: the forehand, backhand, serve, volley, half-volley, overhead, drop shot and lob.

The Forehand

The forehand is the most commonly used type of shot. The forehand stroke is hit with the wrist facing forward. If you are right-handed, the stroke begins on the right side. As the racket makes contact with the ball, thus hitting the ball, the racket finishes on the left side. If you are left-handed, the reverse applies.

Roger Federer
There are various types of grips that players use to perform a forehand shot. The popularity of certain grips fluctuates throughout time. The main grips are the western, semi-western, eastern and continental.

The western grip is considered a more extreme grip that is typically used by more advanced players to hit high shops with a lot of topspin, a technique that allows players to put greater power into their shots while controlling the ball. This grip is not recommended for beginners because it is difficult to hit the ball at the right angle upon impact. The semi-western grip in between the western and eastern grip, and is used by players who want to put some topspin into their shots. The eastern grip is more conventional and is easier to hit the ball upon impact compared to the previous two mentioned grips. The continental grip is beneficial for executing a variety of shots, including the volley, overhead, serve and other ground strokes. However, a disadvantage is that it is difficult to produce power and topspin compared to other grips.

A few players use the two-handed grip for the forehand. However, this is usually reserved for the backhand stroke. A benefit of the two-handed forehand is greater power. However, it is not normally recommended because it is difficult to switch from forehand to backhand shots.

The Backhand

The backhand is the shot you normally use when the ball is on the opposite side of where you hit with your forehand. If you are right-handed, the racket begins from your lower right side. Upon impact with the ball, your racket continues and finishes to the left. The opposite applies if you are left-handed. Backhands are more difficult to master than the forehand.

Backhands can be done one-handed or two-handed. Backhand shots are often performed two-handed since it gives added strength to the shot than a one-handed backhand. A benefit of the one-handed backhand is that you can reach farther than if you had used a two-handed backhand.

The Serve

A serve is the shot that you use to start off the game. Unlike the forehand and backhand, this shot is

Tim Henman
 performed from high to low as opposed to low to high. The serve is used to begin a point during matches. To begin, you first toss the ball high up in the air, then reach out with your racket and hit the ball into the service box diagonally without the ball hitting the net. There is the option of hitting the serve underhand. However, most players hit the ball using an overhand shot to maximize power and make it more difficult for the opponent to return the shot. The various types of serves include a flat serve, topspin serve, slice serve and kick serve. Each of these have varying degrees of spin and require different angles to hit the ball. If the player hits a serve that has sufficient spin, the ball can bounce in the opposite direction from its original path, making it very difficult for the opponent to return the serve. A serve that is not touched by the opponent is called an “ace” shot.

The Volley

Justine Henin Hardenne
The volley shot is a shot that is served mid-air before the ball has a chance to hit the ground. It is normally served at the net. You can serve a volley shot using your forehand or your backhand. Good form includes “punching” the racket towards the ball while stepping forward with your opposite foot to provide added power. Although volleys require great control due to the increased power of the tennis ball, they can be effective because they give the opposite a smaller time frame to respond to the shot.

The Half-Volley

The half-volley shot is similar to the volley, except it is performed right after the ball bounces on the ground. This shot is also generally performed near the net. Although this shot does not provide as much power to the shot compared to a volley, it requires greater reaction time on behalf of both players in the tennis match.

The Lob

A lob shot is hit from low to high with the intent of making the ball rise high up in the air before falling deep into the opponent’s side of the court. This shot is slower than other shots, but can be effectively used as a defence mechanism to a fast shot from an opponent. It can also be used offensively to place the tennis ball where the opponent is not standing. For example, since volleys are normally performed at the net, you can perform a lob to make it harder for the opponent to have to retrieve the tennis ball.

The Overhead

The overhead smash works similarly to a serve, except that it is used during the match as opposed to beginning the match. This shot is typically used to finish the point by hitting the ball with great impact. The overhead is a strong response to a lob shot since a high tennis ball allows the overhead to be performed at a greater height, providing greater bounce and power to the shot.

The Drop Shot

Finally, a drop shot is a shot where the tennis ball is hit so that it just goes over the net. The ball’s path is low and short. The drop shot is a perfect response to a player that is far away from the net, since the player is forced to run right up near to the net to retrieve the tennis ball. It can also be used as a response to a player hitting volleys since the drop shot does not allow the player to hit the ball with impact.


These different types of shots in tennis shows that tennis is a complex game that has a steep learning curve. However, once you are able to master the basics, tennis is a very rewarding game that you can play for life.



Apr 1, 2012 6:42pm
My husband comes from a tennis playing family; and when we met, I'd never watched a tennis match, let alone played the game! It's interesting that 20 years later, the game we've grown to enjoy together is golf. Nice article!
Apr 1, 2012 7:50pm
thanks! Get him to teach you tennis :)
Apr 2, 2012 9:40pm
very nice guide
Sep 28, 2012 2:55pm
Great introduction for newbies to the game - especially since they may not be familiar with shots like the lob and the drop shot.
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