tennis skills

Coaches’ Corner: Spice Up Your Game With Two Specialty Shots

The Ivan Lendl IJTA, one of the world’s premiere tennis academies, has taken up residence in our “Coaches’ Corner” series to dish out instructional tips and on court analyses straight from the Academy’s top coaches and directors.

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By Rob Castorri, Executive Director of  Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy

At Ivan Lendl International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island, we spend a significant amount of time training a variety of shots including groundstrokes, serves, returns, volleys, overhead and so on. The two most underrated ones in the game are the drop shot and topspin lob. When executed properly, both are excellent weapons to use against your opponent, no matter the style of play.

Drop Shot

  • When your opponent is behind the baseline, this presents an ideal opportunity to hit a drop shot and keep your opponent on their toes.
  • When approaching the net, mix in a drop shot approach instead of a consistently strong, deep ball. This keeps your opponent off-balance.
  • If forced to hit a low ball, the drop volley is a great way to respond. Instead of returning their low shot back to their baseline, the drop volley causes your opponent to dash up to the net and into a difficult spot on the court if they are able to get to it.

Topspin Lob

  • The most common use of the topspin is when your opponent is at the net. It can also be used to change the tempo of a backcourt rally.  It gives the opponent a difficult shot and maybe a bit out of their comfort zone.  Be on the lookout for a weak return.
  • Instead of hitting a passing shot, the other option to consider is a topspin lob. The look of hitting a typical topspin passing shot is identical to hitting a topspin lob until the last moment. Just before your racquet begins moving towards the ball, drop it lower for the lob. The speed of the racquet is similar so it can be disguised. Before your opponent realizes, the lob is spinning in a high arc over their head and doesn’t give them much time to react. This creates uncertainty the next time they come to net. It will also create more openings to hit easier passing shots as the match continues.

Add these two specialty shots to your menu to keep your opponent on their toes and increase your chances of being successful in a match.

About Rob CastorriRob Castorri Headshot

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Rob Castorri has been involved in tennis for over 30 years as a professional player, coach, club manager and event promoter. He turned pro in 1978 and won 18 national team and doubles championships, and achieved a No.1 ranking in Florida’s Men’s Open Division. Castorri has notable victories over players such as Boris Becker, Pat Dupre and Harold Solomon.

As Executive Director, Castorri oversees program development, instruction and operations for Ivan Lendl IJTA. He previously served as President of the Georgia Professional Tennis Association and has managed tennis clubs across the U.S. At the Wimbledon Championships, Castorri has organized the annual media tennis event for the last 16 years.

Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Ivan Lendl’s desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. The staff subscribes to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.

For more information:, 888.936.5327.


By Bob Stockton

A slight controversy arose Friday night at the “Hit for Haiti” charity match Friday night at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., during the match pitting Roger Federer and Pete Sampras against Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal.

After Sampras did an impersonation of Agassi – walking pigeon toed on the baseline – Agassi responded by doing an impersonation of Sampras by pulling out both the pockets of his tennis pants and saying that he doesn’t have any money. The barb was in reference to Agassi stating in his book OPEN that Sampras had a reputation for being a very bad tipper.

The public claim in the book irked Sampras, who earlier this year revealed in a conference call to promote an exhibition appearance at the SAP Open in San Jose that he was upset with Agassi and planned to speak to him man-on-man about it. Later in February in San Jose, Sampras said he and Agassi had worked it out. It was fine, no ill feelings,” Sampras said last month. “I know Andre likes to push the envelope, with everything he does, but with me, I thought we were above all that. He chose to be open and honest about everything, and I was a little surprised he went down that road.”

Following Agassi’s tipping joke Friday, there seemed to be an uncomfortable feeling and awkwardness that continued into the post-match on-court interviews.

The tricky thing about these exhibitions and charity matches is that they tend to showcase what the participants are not (comedians) more than what they are (excellent tennis players). Players should focus more on entertaining fans with their tennis skills, not with their wit or attempts at humor. Would it not have been more riveting to see these four players go at full force rather than try to get laughs? Agassi, the wittiest of the four men’s champions competing Friday night, tried a little too hard to create another laugh. This is a situation that many other people have found themselves in the past, whether on a public stage or in private moments. Agassi stepped over the line. It happens often, as documented with famous people and people’s everyday normal lives. I am sure Agassi regrets what he said.

An appropriate response from Sampras – that would have ended the awkwardness immediately – should have been “The only tip that matters tonight is the one we are trying to get for Haiti.”

The event raised $1 million of the American Red Cross that will be used to help people in the Haiti, devastated last month by a deadly earthquake that killed over 200,000 people.