13 May 2013


This is a great compilation showing the executional skills of one of the purest and classiest players, at least racket technique-wise speaking. Back in the days when he was world #1 Darwish used to exercise these shots on his top-player rivals, these days we can rather admire them against the slightly lower ranked players, like Ryan Cuskelly and Saurav Ghosal in the below examples. Throughout the 3 year existence of this blog we have been talking a few times about the Karim Darwish drops and his exemplary racket preparation, but let's see again, based on the below rallies, the main features of his amazing technique.

1) the forehand drop at 0:12
I love to talk about this shot and I think everybody should aim to hit it like that. The amazing thing about this shot is that he mixes up racket-head speed and touch. How does he achieve that? It's simpler to show than to explain but I will give it a try: first of all Darwish menaces for his compact standards with a relative high backswing, then he approaches the ball with his racket in a 'caressing' way; I mean he is not cutting the ball straight up-down but simultaneously also from inwards to outwards. It is also key to observe that, whilst executing this 'caressing' movement, he advances a lot more his wrist than the head of the racket. In a normal drive it is the opposite, the head of the racket is making more distance in the air than your wrist. In the case of the drop shot, in order to achieve that extra cut, Darwish does the opposite: the wrist is almost in front of the head of the racket at the moment of impact.

2) the return into the nick at 0:25
Many players can return the ball into the nick when they receive a poor service. But only a few can do that when the service hits first the sidewall. Darwish used to be a master of this solution even if dares to use it a lot less frequently than in the old times. Not sure how to teach this one, but I guess the compact racket-preparation helps for sure.

3) the forehand cross-drop flick at 0:38
again a Darwish special, probably learned from the great Jonathon Power (I think in general it is way underestimated how much Darwish must have learned by observing Power's technique back in the days). Basically it's a similar set-up as in the case of the first straight forehand drop: relatively high (but still compact) racket-preparation (menacing to hit a deep hard drive) but in this case he adds the 'hold' which makes his opponent guess for a straight drop, and as soon as the opponent commits for this straight drop he flicks his wrist for a cross-drop. 

4) the backhand drop at 0:57
as on the forehand, quick and high, menacing racket-preparation and then the soft touch. Observe that, in opposition to some coaching canons, he is not taking the ball early on the top of the bounce but in between the top of the bounce and the descending of the ball. When the ball is over its top bounce, it decelerates and allows you to control your shot a lot more. If you observe the best drop shot players (Darwish, Ramy Ashour, Willstrop, Shabana...), you will see that 95% of the times the drop shot is played after the top of the bounce.

5) the backhand cross-drop flick at 1:17
hard to teach this one. You need to be a top athlete I suppose to have the core strength the execute this shot on the run with such balance and control. There was no time for a hold, but still observe that instead of rushing his shot he was again waiting that the ball exceeds the top of its bounce.

6) the backhand trickle-boast at 1:34
again a Darwish classic, he used to employ this shot more frequently in the past. The trickle-boast is probably the shot that supposes the most that you are also a severe and solid drive-hitter from any position of the court (also when you are late on the ball or on the backfoot). Darwish is very steady length hitter, hehence his opponents have to expect all the time the severe straight drive; and when they do so, he employs the trickle-boast. Observe that even here he takes the ball late, after the top-bounce. 
By the way, let's also mention that Darwish's exceptional executional skills are founded by a very solid basic technique. Darwish is not Ramy, he will not go for shots 'out of nothing' (well, even Ramy doesn't do that too often if you watch carefully); watch the video again and you will see that almost always there is a very solid basic drive that gives him the opening to show then with his next shot his executional skills.