What Is A Lob In Tennis & How To Lob?

tennis lob

Want to hit a tennis lob? Or, tired of getting lobbed?

If you are one of the above, this article is for you!

When a player is on top in a rally, they will be looking for a way to finish the point. If their opponent is quick and consistent, and thus hard to hit the ball past, they may prefer to move to the net and hit a volley in order to put even more pressure on. There is an answer to this aggressive tactic, however, namely the lob

The idea of the lob is very simple: if a player approaches the net, there is a lot of open court behind them. A lob is a high shot, which is intended to go over the player’s head and land in the court behind them. It can be very effective, even at professional level, where players like Andy Murray have made good use of it.

Why Are Lobs Important In Tennis?

By moving to the net, a player can cut down the angles available to their opponent. The net player can block a large proportion of the court and, if their technique is good, will be able to hit telling volleys from many shots which would otherwise have been more than acceptable. 

The lob redresses the balance by giving a fairly simple option to the player at the back of the court. They may not be able to hit through the player at the net, but they can go over them. 

The lob is particularly important when a player is on the defensive in a rally, and their opponent has moved to the net to try to finish the point. In this situation, the player on the baseline is unlikely to be able to set him/her self to hit an accurate passing shot, but a lob requires less precision, and has the added bonus of allowing the defending player a little more time to recover their position.

How Do You Play A Lob In Tennis?

There are two basic types of lob which can be effective at a good standard of tennis. 

Topspin Lob

The attacking version is normally played with topspin. If one player is at the net and their opponent is behind the baseline, if the latter player is well set they can hit an aggressive high topspin shot, out of the reach of the net player. In this scenario, the net player knows that they must stretch or jump and hit the ball before it goes over them, because they will have no chance of chasing back to retrieve it. 

Flat Lob/ Sliced Lob

Sometimes, however, the player behind the baseline will be on the defensive and struggling to retrieve the volleyer’s shots. In this event, they will hit a flat or sliced lob which is slower than the topspin version and easier to smash or chase back for, but if played well will keep them in the point and allow them time to recover their position.

Tennis Lob Shot Technique

To hit a topspin lob, you will use a similar technique to that which you normally use for a topspin forehand, generating plenty of racket-head speed to impart the necessary spin. 

The main difference between the lob and the forehand groundstroke is that for the lob, at the last second, you will lean back, placing more of your weight on the back foot, producing an upward trajectory. If you do this well, the net player will only be able to identify that you are going to hit a lob at the last moment.

For a flat or sliced lob, you may be in an awkward or stretched position, but the key is to hit smoothly through the ball and not to jab at it. If you hit the shot smoothly, with a little slice for control, then with practice it is possible to develop extremely good depth control

The length and height of this shot are crucial, as if it is too low or too short it will be relatively easy for the volleyer to deal with.

How Do Tennis Players Avoid Lobs?

If you are determined to rush to the net at every opportunity, it is not possible to avoid being lobbed. Nonetheless, if you only come in after you have hit a deep, well-placed approach shot, it is likely that any lobs you have to deal with will not be too testing. The only way to completely avoid being lobbed is to only come to the net for what you are certain will be an easy finishing shot.

What Is An Overhead In Tennis?

The overhead, or smash, is very similar to the serve, except that it is played in the middle of a rally with a slightly more compact action. Combined with good footwork, a strong overhead will allow you to deal with most lobs by hitting a powerful and well-placed shot which is likely to win you the point. If you intend to move to the net a significant amount, working on your overhead will substantially increase your chances of winning any net points.

How To Return A Lob In Tennis

The best way of returning a lob is to hit a strong overhead. This will probably win you the point. However, if a flat or sliced lob goes over your head, you will still have time to retrieve it. There are two ways of returning a lob which you have chased back to the baseline. The percentage option is to reply in kind with a defensive lob, which may need to be played with your back to the court. This is relatively straightforward to execute, but it can be tricky to find a good length. 

The crowd-pleasing choice is to play the shot known as a ‘hot-dog’ or ‘tweener’, where you face the back of the court with one foot either side of the ball and hit the ball between your legs. More adept players can produce a flat drive or a counter-lob this way: less adept players may wish to avoid the stroke due to the risk of injury!


Key points about lob shot in tennis:

– A lob is an effective way of dealing with an opponent’s move to the net

– If you are comfortably set, hit an attacking, topspin lob

– If you are on the defensive you will need to hit a flat or sliced lob

– To deal with lobs from your opponent, develop a strong overhead

– If a flat or slice lob goes over you, you can chase back and play a counter-lob or hot-dog/tweener

Are you a net-player or a lobber? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

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