“This is the tennis of the future!” I’ve never forgotten those words by Louis Borfiga, who led Tennis Canada’s elite development program. That was back in September 2019, the day after Bianca Andreescu won the US Open.
As you may have guessed, he was referring to Bianca’s style of play, which would ultimately constitute a key turning point in women’s tennis: a creative game that merges power and subtlety with big crosscourt backhands, slice forehands, high baseline shots with heavy topspin and, above all, sudden drop shots.
Because creativity means variety.
In addition to Bianca, other players—many of which are (or were) regulars in the higher echelons of the rankings—have also adopted the style, including the current and former No.1s Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty and late bloomer Ons Jabeur, Tunisia’s unofficial minister of happiness, who’s been in the Top 10 since October 2021 and the Top 5 since June 2022.
Besides being among the most universally liked players on the Tour, the 29-year-old knows how to use her weapons to absolutely infuriate her rivals.
Read also: Equal Footing on the WTA
For all the aforementioned players, the drop shot is just one of their many options, but none use it as often as Jabeur, the first Arab woman and the first African woman to compete in a Grand Slam singles final (Wimbledon 2022).
Tritely denounced as a cheap shot by many, the drop shot is actually a shrewd means of attack that’s as subtle as it is lethal.
In addition to her standard set of munitions, Ons has a few tricks up her sleeve, including one requiring quick reflexes and dexterity that many players produce quite frequently, much to our delight. The tweener is a spectacular defensive move, and one that Jabeur unleashed during the Charleston Open final, which she won 7-6(6), 6-4 over Belinda Bencic on April 9.
But beyond those fancy skills, her mastery of the drop shot and extensive use of it to surprise and mystify her opponents (and also enrage and exhaust them) play a big part in her success.
The beauty and effectiveness of the drop shot—which, by the way, isn’t new—lies in the fact that it forces the opponent to sprint to the ball. Even if she manages to get to it, she often has her hands tied and can’t make the next shot. The end result for her is frustration and fatigue.
Last July, fans uploaded this video tribute to their drop shot god:
As far as Ons’ exhaustive arsenal, it also includes speed and the ability to read her opponents’ drop shots and convert their defensive plays into winning counterattacks.
A perfect illustration is this WTA Shot of the Month by Jabeur against Marketa Vondrousova in Indian Wells.
It’s no surprise that Ons has spent the past two years improving her results, ranking and bank balance.
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Her triumph in Charleston boosted her up to World No.4. Because she got her 2022 season off to a slow start compared to her stellar performances in the second half of the year, she could climb to No.2—a spot she held for four months from September 2022 and January 2023.
And perhaps even put pressure on the World No.1, who’s seven years her junior.
TENNIS, BUT MAKE IT RETRO
Trends die only to be resurrected later, since nostalgia has always paid off for clothing and accessory manufacturers. And tennis is no exception.
French fashion house Celine recently launched a collection that’s a nod to 20th century tennis apparel:
Founded in 1945 by Céline Vipiana, the ready-to-wear brand is currently owned by the uber wealthy LVMH group.
In addition to clothing, Celine designs shoes, handbags and accessories of all kinds. By the end of the last decade, there were nearly 150 Celine boutiques worldwide.
The brand’s summer 2023 Collection Tennis, which was released in early April and featured on Tennis.com, was captured in a photoshoot in St. Tropez (Celine is French, after all) but still evokes what we all consider to be the birthplace of tennis and the grass court game: the All England Club and the Wimbledon Championships.
Unsurprisingly, the items come with a hefty price tag. Otherwise, it wouldn’t really be a collection by a prestigious French fashion house, would it?
For example, this Triomphe striped cotton bouclé bracelet is US$130. For the matching terry cotton visor, add US$530.
Complete your tennis core look with this cardigan (US$2,300) or wool varsity jacket (US$3,400).
It’s a small price to pay for the very latest (tennis) fashion.
Enjoy the summer!