As a new follower of professional pickleball, I have not watched a ton of live match play at that level. I would typically consume highlights and clips from social media to see the jaw-dropping points of the weekend. But this weekend, I watched a good amount of the Foot Solutions Arizona Grand Slam. It was great to see the different pace of play, the back and forth strategy, and how each individual and team play to their strengths and weaknesses. After watching all weekend, I noticed a couple of things that I can takeaway and implement in my pickleball game. I think others may benefit from them as well.
Reset to the Middle
This tip applies to both singles and doubles. I first noticed this when watching Anna Leigh Waters & Ben Johns in mixed doubles. Anna Leigh was locked in a back forth dink fest where she was being pushed to the sideline on each dink. Instead of just staying near the sideline, she would shuffle her feet each time to reach the dink and shuffle her feet back to reset to the middle.
I’ve been in similar situations myself, but have found myself cheating to the sideline to get ahead. Like you can imagine, it happens to burn me most of the time as it exposes more of the middle of the court. So next time you are being dinked to the sideline, make sure to reset to the middle each time
When You Think You Can’t Dink, Dink Again!
Being rather new to the sport of pickleball whenever I explain the game or watch highlights with someone unfamiliar with pickleball, they do not understand why people engage with dink battles, rather than speeding it up or going to the power game. I too once had that exact thought. Why waste time with the soft stuff when the hard stuff can get the job done just as well (the same can be said when drinking.) After watching this weekend’s play, I found myself starting to guess when each person would end the dink battle and speed it up. Most of the time I was wrong. Whenever I thought it was going to end, they would dink some more. Thinking about this made me realize during my matches I tend to be the one who always speeds it up because I don’t want to be the one on the receiving end up the speed, which often puts me into a vulnerable position. Going forward make a conscious effort When You Think You Can’t Dink, Dink Again!
Don’t Get Overwhelmed with Power, Work Your Way Back to the Kitchen Line
We’ve all found ourselves on the receiving end of a mishit where you end up hitting a pop up and start that quick back peddle like you’re a defensive back. This never feels great, but there is a way out of it. While I typically lose this this type of point 90% of the time, I was surprised to see how often the pros are able to come back from this. While being pushed to the baseline, they continue to return the power shots, eventually hitting a drop or two move themselves off the baseline. While we all know the importance of being at the kitchen line, it’s ok to work your way up there. Don’t try to rush it, just keep battling back.
I’m hoping to watch more pro pickleball to pick up some more tips as the weather starts to get better her in Chicago. What have you picked up from watching the pros play?