It feels like a beautifully executed backstabbing when you get the opportunity to hit an aggressive fiery feather ball at your opponent, and instead, tame the raw power of your racket into a controlling trick that often leaves players with a look of despair on their faces.
There’s almost no worse feeling than losing points to this technique because it’s as if your opponent is striking from the shadows. As if they’re constantly one step ahead of you.
That’s the power of the badminton drop shot – one of the most elegant and technically involved shots in badminton.
It’s control focused. It’s deceptive. It’s finesse-heavy and one of the few shots you can strike with enough power to disguise it as a smash while sending the shuttlecock short and slow instead.
What a devious weapon.
In the following, I’ll unfold a series of different deceptive strikes that all branch out in one way or another as a variation of the drop shot.
It’s a technique that sparks the wildest fantasy of control-focused players, but there’s a lot to love about the drop shot, no matter your preferred playing style.
Let’s see how you can cause a series of problems for your opponent that make them lose their focus in frustration.
What is a drop shot in badminton?
Its purpose is to slow the shuttle down (compared to other shots) and make it drop onto different parts of the court, sending other players into awkward stances and stumbling in their footwork.
That’s what Tai Tzu Ying does here, forcing Carolina Marin into a deep forward lunge, and at the end of the rally, she drops again for a winning point.
The other important component of this shot that can make it super effective is its deceptive and tricky nature. The setup is the exact same as going in for a clear or a smash, up until the very last second, where instead of sending the shuttle to the rear court, you drop it to the front.
It’s a shot every badminton player should know.
However, don’t be discouraged by the technical demand of this strike.
Most players learn the basic forehand drop shot in badminton pretty fast, and once you know this, you can start perfecting the technique to hit more advanced and devastating drops.
The basic drop shot badminton technique
Generally speaking, badminton drop shots are a way to make the shuttle dive right after it flies over the net. Not because you’re hitting with power at a downward angle (like a smash) but because the shuttle loses speed and drops dead in its curve.
Successful drops make the shuttle dive steeper towards the end of its trajectory, and you typically distinguish between fast and slow drops.
A fast drop shot has a slightly longer trajectory and will often land closer to the opponent’s mid-court, in a quicker and more direct downward curve.
A slow drop shot has a shorter trajectory and drops significantly towards the end and plays right to the front court.
The difference between the two depends on speed, trajectory, and the area on your opponent’s court they target.
There’s a big variety of drop shot techniques and roughly speaking there are two main categories – overhead drops and net drops.
We’ll start by looking at the badminton overhead drop shot that branches out from the basic drop and it can be played in both forehand and backhand versions.
The forehand version is the most typical one so that’s where we’ll start.
As mentioned earlier, the setup is the same as how you’d get ready for a smash or clear.
You’ll typically have your side to the net with both arms up, rotating your hips into the shot, but instead of following through in your striking, you slow down the movement before you make contact with the shuttle.
This is the base technique for all overhead drop shots in the forehand.
Even though it’s “basic”, this technique is super important and many professional players still use the basic drop to mix up their rallies.
Here’s an example from Anders Antonsen where he uses it as a variation to keep pushing the shuttle to his opponent’s backhand.
Once you have a good basic drop technique, you can evolve your game with more advanced drop shots (excluding net drops, which we’ll get to later).
Badminton overhead drop shot: the mystery of shadow striking
Staying with overhead drop shots in the forehand, you’ll typically encounter four variations that evolve from the basic drop.
The slice drop (straight and cross-court)
The next step to make you a drop-shot badminton warrior is adding a heavier dose of the ingredients that are at the essence of the shot, namely trickery and finesse.
Remember, the whole point of the drop shot in badminton is to make your opponent think you’re going to hit a smash or a clear.
This is where “slicing” enters the picture as the next branch on the skill tree that will let you hit steeper and more unsuspecting drop shots.
Slicing the shuttle is pretty much exactly how it sounds. Instead of hitting the shuttle with the racket facing straight on, you aim sideways on the shuttle and slice down like you’re chopping it in half.
This is often a fast drop with a more direct downward trajectory, and you can make it very difficult to read whether you’ll hit the shuttle straight down the line of your position or cross court with this technique.
The technical finesse in this shot depends entirely on how much you angle your racket to slice the shuttle. The more you slice, the more speed you take out of the shuttle, and you can regulate this to make it drop closer or further from the net.
What’s so wonderful about the deception of the shot is that you can hit with a lot of speed and power and still make it drop – which makes it extra tricky because to your opponent, it looks like a fast shuttle at first, but it loses speed quickly and drops instead.
Here’s how you slice a drop shot.
When to play/not play
Slice drops are very effective when you mix them into an aggressive attacking rally where you’ve pushed your opponent to the rear court by smashing or clearing previous shuttles and suddenly decide to drop.
However, make sure this isn’t the only combination you use.
Slice drop at other opportunities where you get a chance to return a high shuttle and mix between straight and cross slices – if your rhythm gets too similar other players will quickly suspect your love for sending drop shots, and you lose its deceptive effect.
Here’s an example where you can see Yuta Watanabe play a slice drop with speed and power and still slow the shuttle down and drop.
The reverse slice drop (straight and cross-court)
With the next evolution, you really have to balance your mental focus to disguise that you’re about to hit a drop while getting into some advanced racket finesse.
The big difference from a “regular slice” is that you hit the shuttle on the other side by rotating your wrist.
Instead of slicing through with your racket swing in one direction, right before contact, you twist your wrist and arm, so you end up slicing in the opposite direction.
When to play/not play
The reverse slice is exceptional for hitting unsuspected cross attacks when you’re not in your ideal forehand position.
Because it’s a forehand strike when your opponent played the shuttle more toward your backhand, it’s going to look like you’re attempting to smash it straight down the line.
Here’s an example where Kento Momota uses it for the ultimate deception. Notice he uses it right after playing a smash to make it even less obvious that he’ll reverse slice.
The reverse slice is too technical to play on a whim. You can easily hit the shuttle out of the court if you don’t have the proper rotation in your wrist to come onto the right side of the shuttle, so the best way to start is by trying this technique out on lifts and clears where you have a lot of time to concentrate.
The loopy drop
We’re now branching out into the most deceptive types of overhead forehand drop shots in badminton.
A loopy drop shot is an incredibly short and slow drop that starts at a high trajectory and comes down very steep, dropping dead over the net to the very front of your opponent’s court.
It’s very hard to disguise without the proper technique because you hit it from a very low angle that’s awkward when you withdraw your racket speed and aim your strike up, in a controlled slow swing at the last second.
What you end up with is a shot that sucks the speed out of the shuttle almost like a net drop (more on that later).
Outside of the hyper-controlled technique required in a loopy drop shot, the crazy part is that you can play this from the rear court, making it seem even more like you’re about to clear or smash.
Here’s the loopy drop
When to play/not play
The loopy drop is an effective weapon after your opponent clears or positions themselves on the rear court because it pushes them to come up and defend on the net and either lift the shuttle back or try and return it awkwardly.
However, it’s a very slow and high trajectory drop that requires perfect timing.
If you play it when your opponent is ready in a forward attacking stance or already positioned themselves towards the frontcourt – it can become disastrous since they can quickly get to the net and smash it down for a win.
The stop drop
The final evolution of overhead forehand drop shots is the stop drop – the ultimate smash deception.
Again this is a slow drop but with a short trajectory to the front of the court.
It can easily be mistaken for a basic drop because you hit it similarly straight on with the racket without any wrist movement or slicing.
The difference is that you start very fast to make it look like a powerful smash – then only a moment before you’re about to contact the shuttle, you slow down the movement so rapidly that you nearly come to a “freeze” before hitting the shuttle.
The movement to start fast, then freeze the shot midway into a slow motion through your swing, is highly advanced.
You can think about it the same way you would a smash where you react as if someone screams “ABORT MISSION!” right before you’re about to make contact with the shuttle.
When to play/not play
One of the best times to play this drop is when your opponent lifts the shuttle back at you.
It’s ideal when you come up on a lift because most players will go down in a low defensive stance, expecting a powerful smash – and since you want it to keep this illusion right until the last second this will often catch your opponent completely off guard.
In the video clip at the beginning of the article, it’s a stop drop that wins the point.
As with the other very technical and deceptive drop shots (the reverse slice and loopy drop), you don’t want to overuse it.
Since this is also a slow and short drop you want to be aware of your opponent’s placement and avoid hitting a drop like this if they’re able to reach it by simply lunging forward.
Backhand overhead drop shot: convenient, challenging, and devastatingly tricky
Moving away from the forehand variation, the final overhead drop is played from your backhand.
It’s a great tool to have when you want to reach a clear that you didn’t anticipate and avoid sending a shuttle back that’s easy to attack.
Backhand drops often feel difficult because you have your back to the net, peeking over your shoulder to target the shuttle. Once you learn the technique they’re great for catching and returning shuttles where you’re rushing to the back corner of your backhand.
To conclude all the variations of the overhead drop shot in badminton, there’s a final shot that I’ll briefly mention and you can decide for yourself if it’s something you want to try out.
The backhand overhead reverse drop shot: the most difficult shot in badminton
Very few players can perform this shot in the heat of battle and it requires flawless technique and an insane amount of practice. I don’t recommend focusing on this until you cycle other variations into your repertoire.
But if you can pull this off, you can trick your opponent in a way that’s nearly impossible to read.
Check out the technique here if you’re curious.
The badminton net drop: a jab for net battles
Now we get to the other main category of drop shots, which has pretty much no resemblance to overhead drops whatsoever, and everything from here on revolves entirely around exchanges close to the net.
A net drop in badminton is something every badminton player needs to have a decent grasp on because without it you’re likely to lose most net battles you get into – and quite fittingly, this shot is almost always the instigator of a net battle.
A standard badminton net drop is typically in a forehand grip and unlike any overhead drops, there’s no deception to it.
Forehand net drop
You hit a standard net drop by extending your racket arm while holding your racket flat and horizontal, almost as if you’re offering a tray with tapas or hors d’oeuvres to the shuttle.
Before that image takes hold in your mind, it looks like this.
You lean forward in a lunge and push through the shuttle by tapping or “guiding” it to make it bounce right over the net (sometimes hitting the net cord) and drop straight down at a 90-degree angle.
Backhand net drop
Again there’s not a lot of movement or trickery going on and the main difference in a backhand net drop is that your racket arm’s elbow is up with the racket facing down. There’s no need to twist or flick your wrist as it would just add too much power and send the shuttle higher instead of a drop.
Advanced net drops in badminton
If you already master the basic net drop, you can get more advanced by adding a net spin.
One way is to hit the shuttle on the side as you push through it – this is the In-To-Out-Spin.
The other way is an Out-To-In-Spin. Here you bring your racket forward in the same style as your standard net drop, but instead of holding it out horizontally, you only do that at the last second, twisting your wrist to hit the shuttle almost like a horizontal slice that makes it spin out.
Returning net drops with an added spin is significantly harder and most of the time this technique will provoke a lift from your opponent as they’ll be afraid to return the shuttle into the net instead.
This way, you can get ready to attack the shuttle with a smash (or perhaps one of the deceptive drops in this article).
Then there’s the dead net drop.
There are a lot of individual distinctions about this being a different net drop. Essentially, it’s the same as a standard net drop only executed with such a light finesse that the shuttle rolls over the net cord making it super difficult to return.
See the three advanced net drops here.
Finally, at the highest levels, you have cross-net drops.
The main difference here is that you start to add movement and rotation in your forearm and wrist to guide the shuttle to the side at the last moment.
This is the only real deceptive and surprising shot in the net drop category because you look like you’re returning a standard net drop, and instead rotate at the last second to hit the shuttle on the side.
Defense against badminton drop shots: shielding against the unknown
We already established that effective drop shots are powerful weapons, and tough to defend against if you’re facing an opponent who’s excellent at it – but you can limit their effectiveness with timing and readiness.
Three things help your defense against drop shots.
Since most drop shots are to the front of the court, you can practice getting into a defensive or forward-attacking stance.
The defensive stance is especially great against net drops and cross drops, while the forward attacking is great for lunging up to catch other drop variations from the back.
Of course, being in a ready stance will enable you to react and catch them sometimes, but if you’re facing an opponent skilled in drop shots this won’t be enough.
This is probably the biggest factor in having a solid defense against drop shots – specifically your split step footwork.
Excellent split steps allow you to move around the court in rapid explosive movements, which can bring you from the rear court to the front court (the target area for a drop shot) in milliseconds.
- Reading and predicting strikes (to the best of your ability)
This sometimes feels a little wishy-washy because most of this comes from experience.
It’s particularly hard because of the deceptive nature of drop shots, but every time there’s an option for a clear, smash, or drop, there’ll be subtle hints on which one to expect.
In a clear, most players tend to look more relaxed in their skipping movement backward, and most of the time, they’ll only jump a little because a clear doesn’t require as much technique. If you see someone casually skipping backward to hit the shuttle, they’ll likely hit a clear.
In a smash, players tend to be very focused on the shuttle in their backward movement and will often come up in a jump with both legs stretched out for maximum height.
Overhead drop shots are obviously the tricky ones, so whenever you don’t detect a clear or a smash assume it’s a drop.
One way to defend against overhead drops is to counter with a net drop because it’s one of the easier ways to return a shuttle that’s under the net.
For example, in this clip, Kento Momota expects a drop from Viktor Axelsen and defends it effortlessly with a net drop that forces Axelsen to lift.
Every opponent will be different, and if you play someone skilled at disguising their drop shots, the best way to defend against these is to anticipate them based on how your previous rallies went.
- Drop shots are all about deception, control, and technical finesse – you’ll need to practice these base ingredients often as this is the only thing that will unlock the more fun and advanced versions
- Drop shots are most powerful when they’re hard to read – their effectiveness almost entirely relies on your ability to maintain the illusion that you’ll play another shot instead
- It’s important to mix them in with other strikes to make it hard for your opponent to read – disguise them between with attacking clears and smashes but don’t use them too often as you become too easy to read
- Your best defense against skilled drop shot players is to focus on your stances and footwork – also try to take note of how often they drop during each rally and use that to uncover their rhythm
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