Contact Us

An overview of different types of shots in tennis

In tennis, there is a wide variety of shots that you can use to keep the ball in play. Check out here an overview of different types of shots in tennis.

Arkya Mitra
Last updated: 20.09.2021
Different types of shots in tennis

In tennis, there is a wide variety of shots that you can use to keep the ball in play. Whether you want to play competitively or just for fun, gaining a full understanding of the different types of tennis shots can be helpful and informative.


It can also provide you a framework for understanding which strokes and tennis shots you might want to work on improving. This way, when you step out on the court with a friend or tennis instructor, you can get the most out of your time.



The first type of tennis shot, and perhaps the one most commonly associated with tennis, is the groundstroke. Groundstrokes are typically hit standing a few feet from the baseline as a forehand or backhand.


Topspin forehand and backhand

The forehand and backhand are usually the first strokes that a player will learn. You’ll hit a forehand with your dominant hand and arm (right if you’re right-handed and left if you’re left-handed), while a backhand is hit either with two hands for a two-handed backhand or with one hand (still your dominant hand) for a one-handed backhand.


Most players will use one of three forehand tennis grips: eastern, semi-western or western. Each grip has advantages and disadvantages. However, these days, the semi-western forehand grip is the most common.


A double-handed backhand is commonly held with the dominant hand holding a continental grip and your other hand above your dominant hand on the handle. A one-handed backhand is usually one held with a reverse eastern grip.


A typical forehand and backhand have topspin, where the player brushes up and over the top of a tennis ball to generate spin. Doing so allows players to hit the ball more aggressively while ensuring that the ball drops back into the court.


Flat forehand and backhand

A flat forehand or backhand is one in which the player simply does not apply much topspin to their shot.


Players with an eastern forehand grip can usually hit this shot more effectively since the angle of their racquet is less conducive to spin. In contrast, players with a semi-western or western grip can have a difficult time “flattening out” the ball because the angle of the tennis racquet is conducive to generating topspin.

On the backhand side, most players usually won’t have much trouble flattening out the ball when using a one- or two-handed backhand.



In tennis, a volley is a shot that a player hits without letting the ball bounce on their side of the court. Typically, the player is at or approaching the net when they hit the ball.


The main purpose of coming to the net and volleying is to take control of the point and allow yourself to hit at more of an angle, thus closing out the point.


Forehand and Backhand volleys

Similar to forehand groundstrokes, forehand volleys are hit with your dominant hand – to the right side of your body if you’re right-handed and to the left side of your body if you’re left-handed.

Backhand volleys are hit with your dominant hand on the left side of your body if you’re right-handed and the right side of your body if you’re left-handed.


With volleys, you hold a continental grip, which results in a neutral racquet face designed to deflect balls back to your opponent easily. This type of grip helps ensure the ball can make it over the top of the net while not sending it too long.


Half volley

Players can hit a half volley as both a forehand or a backhand in similar situations that a volley would be hit: either as you approach the net or while you’re at the net.

In essence, a half volley is a shot where you can’t get to the ball to hit a volley before it bounces, and you don’t have enough time to hit a full groundstroke. As a result, you let the ball bounce and then quickly block or deflect it back to the other side of the court.



The serve is the shot that starts every point, which players hit from either the deuce court, standing to the right side of the center mark when facing the net at the baseline or the ad court, standing to the left side of the center mark.

In either case, a player has two opportunities – the first and second serves – to hit the ball into the service box on the opposite side of the court.


Flat serve

A flat serve is one that is hit with minimal, if any, spin. The biggest advantage of a flat serve is the ability to hit the ball with a lot of pace, or speed, which gives your opponent very little time to react.

Because players apply little spin to the ball, flat serves are harder to hit into the service box. As a result, this is typically a shot that is hit only on a player’s first serve to ensure they can hit a more reliable serve, such as a kick serve, on the second serve.


Kick serve

To hit a kick serve, players generate a significant amount of topspin by hitting up on the ball and snapping their wrist when making contact. This action ensures the ball travels high over the net and drops into the service box due to the topspin.

An effective kick serve sends the ball bouncing at a height that is well above the height that is ideal for a forehand or backhand. Most players will typically want to return the ball when it bounces at about waist high, so anything above this height starts to become more challenging to hit.

As a result, your opponent is either forced to step forward and return the ball quickly off the bounce or to step back to give themselves enough time to hit a return at a more appropriate height.


Return of serve

A return is a player’s reply to their opponent’s serve. As a result, you’ll hit the return standing on the deuce (right) side of the court, or ad (left) side of the court when facing the net.

The return can come in different forms. However, it typically involves hitting a forehand or backhand off of your opponent’s serve, which presents a unique set of challenges in that the ball is traveling quickly, often leaving you little time to react. Also, it’s not always easy to read the type of serve or the direction your opponent is going to hit.


Drop shot

The drop shot is a more advanced shot that players hit when their opponent is at the baseline. Drop shots are difficult to execute because they often require the element of surprise and superior control over the ball, commonly referred to as “touch.”

One likely scenario for a drop shot is if you’re in a rally with your opponent, and you find them a little off-balance after hitting one of their shots.

Chase Your Sport

Stay up-to-date on the latest sports news, stats, expert analysis and trends, including cricket, football, wrestling, tennis, basketball, Formula One and more. Find previews, schedules, results of upcoming events, and fantasy tips on Chase Your Sport.