It is an exhilarating feeling to hit a ground stroke winner past your opponent at the net. Successful passing shots can play a big part in controlling the tempo of a match.

The passing shot is generally defined as a stroke hit from the base line that "passes" an opponent positioned at or near the net. There are three basic types: down-the-line, cross-court and the lob.

The down-the-line shot is the most popular, and for good reason: when hit correctly, it is a high-percentage shot that does not cross the path of the person at net. When going down the line, imagine brushing your racket head along the sideline (closest to you) and follow through toward the shot's destination. The follow-through will ensure greater control and depth on all your shots (see diagram A).

The cross-court passing shot is more difficult. You need to angle the shot halfway between the net and the service line; a high, deep cross-court attempt will be volleyed away. To avoid that, hit the outside portion of the ball, producing sidespin that will keep it low and moving away from the opponent at the net. It's not a high-percentage choice, but should eventually become part of your game.

The lob is probably the most underrated of all passing shots, yet it is the best way to discourage a net rusher. Hit this shot as you would a normal ground stroke, but open the racket face to create a 45-degree angle. This provides the trajectory necessary to loft the ball over your opponent's head (see diagram B).

When deciding whether to lob cross-court or down the line, keep in mind there is more space to play with hitting cross-court. Although the down-the-line lob is difficult to master, it is very effective because it reduces the shot-placement options of the returner.

I suggest you always play the percentages when hitting passing shots. You'll score more often and win more matches. Next: volleying Photo