A lob is one of the strangest shots in the game but also a great crowd-pleaser. A tennis lob is simply when the ball is struck underneath the very base (or at no more than 45 degrees from the ground) and sent into the air, without much speed, to land at the back of the opponent’s half of the court and bounce just inside their base-line. It is a strange shot because it can be used both offensively and defensively, the difference being not one of technique but of player positioning.
When lobbing the ball, it is struck on the underside of the ball’s surface. It is hit with much less power than any other stroke in the game but the technique of watching the ball at all times and following through with as much power as you want the ball to have, are the same.
Once the ball is struck, the follow-through brings the racket up into the air and over the opposite shoulder, as though the player were slinging the ball behind them. Ideally the ball will be struck when the player is motionless but this isn’t always possible, especially with a defensive lob.
The Offensive Lob is usually used when the player’s opponent is near to the net, in a position where they hope to volley the ball without it bouncing. The player about to lob the ball, will strike it on its underside with either backspin or topspin, depending on their preference and where their opponent is positioned.
The ball then rises high into the air travelling over the head of the opponent and then dips and drops behind them. The opponent is then forced to run backwards or perhaps even turn and run in order to get behind the ball to return it. If the shot is a success then the opponent will not be able to reach the ball to return it. The lob shot is quite a gamble since the opponent may well reach it and return the ball with even more power.
Here is a clip of a successful offensive lob
The Defensive Lob is quite different in terms of purpose but identical in terms of technique. With this shot the player about to lob the ball is likely to be in a bad position on the court, meaning they have been forced far onto one side of the court or perhaps off balance. They are also very likely to be moving when they try to lob the ball.
Either way the player will then use a defensive lob in order to give them more time to readjust and return to a more useful position on the court. In lobbing the ball high into the air, wherever their opponent is positioned, it gives them the vital seconds in which they can return to the middle of the court. The downside to this choice of shot is that their opponent is then presented with a weak and slow ball that they could easily return at speed and with precision.