A moonball in tennis occurs when a player hits the ball high into the sky for it to drop down into the court against their opponent. A moonball is one of many techniques a player can use to gain an advantage against their opponent to score points. Moonball shots are more of a lob than a traditional strike, and that speed and heigh can throw their opponent off their rhythm via how they defend.
So, why is it called a moonball shot during a tennis game? How does the offensive player hit the ball to make it a moonball? What should the defender do when they notice that the ball will be a moonball to them?
Below we’ll discuss further moonball and its relevance in the game of tennis.
Why is it Called a Moonball Shot in Tennis?
The moonball shot got its name from the altitude the ball is supposed to reach when hit correctly. For a shot to be a moonball, it must reach high into the sky and come down at an angle. It’s comparable to reaching the moon, which is high in the sky during the night and slowly drifts down the horizon during the sunrise. So with them both sharing similar characteristics, it became known as the moonball.
How Does the Offensive Player Hit a Moonball in Tennis?
A moonball can be hit either during a serve or during long rallies in a tennis game. To shoot a moonball properly as an offensive player in either scenario, you must apply a good level of topspin to the tennis ball. This topspin will allow the ball to fly at a higher altitude and let it come down at an angle.
For the moonball to be effective, it must also change direction at some point on its journey. That is why it is critical when hitting a moonball to go high because that transition from high in the sky toward the player slowly allows the ball to change directions on a dime.
Topspin or Backspin for Moonballs?
Backspins can also cause a ball to reach a higher altitude and change directions, but when it comes to moonballs, a topspin is the preferred form to get the ball into the air.
A perfect moonball will land on the opponent’s baseline; when you add that plus the change in direction, it can be a difficult ball to defend.
How is the Defensive Player Supposed to Play Against the Moonball?
Not only are moonballs challenging to hit, but they are also difficult to defend. One of the ways to defend against them is to hit the ball while it is in the air. Some players wait for the bounce to return a ball but hitting a moonball while mid-air will allow you to replace it with a higher velocity and, if done right, turn the tables on your opponent.
Secondly, a moonball player will often be a player with a lot of endurance, so they are preparing to play long rallies, which they hope will cause you to get frustrated and make the wrong decision. So remain patient and wait for the moment to appear to return a proper shot.
Lastly, drawing the player closer to the net is advisable When near the net, a player who shoots moonballs cannot do so with a drop shot or a low, short ball. This type of play is not their style, as it will require them to be more aggressive. However, this will open the door for you to subdue them with good overhead shots.
How Does a Moonball Help a Player During a Tennis Game?
A player can benefit from moonballs because they slow the game’s pace. The ball is moving slowly between racquets, and in the case of a long rally, this can allow the player to recover from fatigue. It is a style of play that works best against power hitters such as Roger Federer, a player known for being aggressive.
Also, moonballs can often frustrate the opposition and, with this frustration, can take them out of their game and force them to make an error. For example, as mentioned before, Roger Federer is a power hitter, so he will try to end the set as quickly as possible, but a moonball will drag the game on and could frustrate him and cause him to make a mistake within the tennis match.
Finally, moonballs hit into the sky might be difficult for an opponent to read the ball. If a player loses the ball looking into the sky, that might result in a point for the opponent. This point tends to occur when the player loses the ball looking up into the sun.
When is a Good Time to Attempt a Moonball Shot?
A good time to attempt a moonball shot in tennis is after a drop shot attempt. This is a good attempt because your opponent had to crash the net to return the drop shot. If you then lob a moonshot high in the air and towards the back of the court, it will force your opponent to run backward while looking up in the sky, which can result in them messing up and giving you a point if they can’t return it.
Conclusion: What is a Moonball in Tennis?
A moonball is neither fun to hit nor fun to defend. It can be very impressive for the fans when witnessing a moonball on the tennis court, but the opposition knows they are in for a long day. With the help of the moonball technique, Rafael Nadal won the 2019 US Open after a grueling series of matches that took place beforehand.
Whether it be the WTA or the ATP, players know when they see a moonball, it will be a long physical and mental match. However, with proper training, winning against a player who relies on moonballs is achievable. It just comes down to practice and how to properly react with this shot.