I’m not sure I’ve yet played with a pickleball player that didn’t want to improve and level up. While we’re all out there for recreation and exercise and some wholesome fun, we’re all competitive. And it’s a heck of a lot more fun to hit more good shots!
With that in mind, I thought it might be good today to talk about 3 shots you might look at adding to your repertoire to help you take the proverbial “next step” in your own game (and that’s presuming Ben and Irina and Zane and Anna-Leigh aren’t regular Dink Tank readers…and if you are, you can probably skip this one).
- Hitting a 3rd shot drop with your backhand
As we play better opponents, we start to see that they more consistently return the ball to us in our weaker positions. For many of us, that often means to our backhand.
A low slice return to our backhand can be a hard shot for many of us to deal with, and at first, just returning the ball at all might be a mark of progress.
However, as we improve and play with and against better players, our opponents will sniff out that we might not ever be hitting 3rd shot drops from our backhand which, in turn, means we can’t get to the net.
That clearly tips the momentum in our opponents’ favor, and the longer they can do this, the more of the odds of the game/match are tipping in their favor as well.
To avoid being painted into this sort of corner, we need to work on hitting a 3rd shot drop with our backhand just as we do with our forehand.
It’s a touch shot, and there’s no solution to improving it other than “practice a lot.” For me, I found putting some backspin on it really helped as it then stays lower on the bounce, and I practiced this shot off the wall enough that I now find I actually prefer dropping with my backhand.
- Hitting your 3rd (or 5th) shot drop to your opponent’s backhand
As newer players, we generally start hitting our drops to the center of the court…and that makes a lot of sense. There’s no reason to get too cute by playing it towards a sideline, and the net at middle court is a little lower. Even further, we’ve all hit shots down the middle where our opponents fail to communicate and we win a point as they figure out who takes which ball.
But again, as we play better players, we can’t be one dimensional with our drops.
One way we can make our opponents less comfortable is by dropping the ball to their backhand. This simply makes our shot less attackable and less prone to speed ups. After all, it’s harder to roll the ball on our backhand side, to we’re almost always going to get a defensive dink back from our opponent.
A defensive dink means one more opportunity for our opponents to make a mistake and give us a ball to attack. That’s tipping the odds in our favor one shot at a time.
- The lob
What? The lob?
I know. This seemed like a taboo shot when I started playing a few years ago; people scoffed at it like a gimmick.
But those of us that watch the pro tour(s) know how much the lob has permeated the ranks and become a viable strategy by all top players.
Simply, this is one more shot we can mix in to keep our opponents off balance. During a long dink rally…starting out the point with a lob serve…the occasional lob return…or even opting for a lob instead of a reset when we’re on defense- these are all times we can think of mixing in a lob to keep the opposing teams guessing, especially if we can develop the touch where we have to make them back up a step before they can hit it.
While there are plenty more shots than this, the main point is this: if you want to improve your game, you constantly need to be thinking of new shots and ideas to add to your arsenal to make yourself less predictable to your opponents.
Until next time…