Pickleball is a fun-filled sport suitable for people of all ages! Its unique combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis has made it very popular in recent years. As the game has attracted new players it has become more competitive — players are constantly looking for the best pickleball strategy available.
To help you in your quest for pickleball domination, this article will share some of the best pickleball strategies available.
You’ll be the undisputed pickleball champion before you know it!
Performing a Great Serve
The best pickleball strategy for serving is KISS (keep it simple stupid). Don’t bother with trick shots or adding a ton of spin to your serve. Simply focus on getting the ball over the net and forcing your competitor to move his or her feet.
If you have noticed that your competitor has a weak backhand or forehand, make them use it by serving to that side. Try to place the serve deep in the court, but don’t risk hitting it out.
Performing a Great Return
As the great general Sun Tzu famously said: “The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent”!
To confuse your opponents in pickleball, you should deliver a return that is right down the middle, ideally slightly closer to the backhand of one of your opponents. This pickleball strategy will force your opponents into deciding who will hit the ball. If you are lucky they will both go for it, or they will both leave it!
If you don’t have an angle for hitting a shot straight up the middle, play one close to the court’s rear or side boundary line. A good return should always keep your opponents to the back of the court.
Another great pickleball strategy for return of serve is to look for player mistakes before hitting the ball. If you see that one player is out of position, take advantage of it!
Know All of The Third Shot Options
The third shot is where the game really gets interesting! There are 5 common options which you can use for your third shot:
“Down the Hallway”
Also called “down the line” this shot involves hitting the ball between the players, straight up the middle. Some people call it down the hallway because the line is right next to “The Kitchen” — the section of the court next to the net.
This shot can surprise your opponents and can cause their focus to be interrupted. It is particularly effective when the sun is in the right position, however, high-skill players are probably very good at brutally smashing lobs into back at their opponents.
“Drilling The Net Person”
A shot straight at the net person to surprise them. This will test their ability to react quickly and lob the ball or to move out of the way.
“Side Drop Shot”
After the serve return, hit a drop-shot to the backhand of your opponent. They will have to rush forward to it the ball and they will be using their weaker side. After hitting this shot, rush to the net and get ready for the short return.
“Middle Drop Shot”
A drop-shot version of “Down the Hallway”. If the shot has been effective, run up to the net and get ready for the opponent to pop it over the top.
Think About Your Grip
While understanding every sneaky pickleball strategy is very helpful, it is also important to get the fundamentals right. One of the fundamental pickleball skills is how you hold the paddle. Players should use a “continental grip” with the skin between your thumb and index finger on the top of the paddle handle.
This type of grip gives you a lot of flexibility in the angle of your return shots and makes volleying much easier. Every pickleball shot can be played with the continental grip — you will never have to take your hand off the paddle.
You can also try using two-handed shots to give yourself additional accuracy. Simply use your other hand to stabilize the paddle.
Hit Towards Their Backhand
In most cases, a player’s backhand will be their weaker shot. Take advantage of this by playing to their backhand as much as possible. Ideally, line up shots that force both players to use their backhand. If the ball lands on their weaker side they might both leave it for the other player!
Play Mind Games With Your Opponents!
Another great pickleball strategy involves making the opposition expect a certain kind of shot, then doing something else. Spend the first few rounds of the game consistently hitting the ball to the weaker player. Wait till the better player has come to expect it to go to his partner, then BAM! Hit it at the better player.
Hopefully, the better player will be shocked to see the ball come his or her way and will miss the shot. Not the best start for them and it may affect their confidence. Going forward, they will be uncertain about where the ball is going and when you will surprise them with a sudden change in tactic.
Avoid Hitting The Ball To The Opponents
Hitting the ball directly to an opponent is a common mistake of new pickleball players. Instead, focus on forcing the opponent to move to get the ball, hit it between players and hitting it at their feet.
Keep Moving and Anticipate Your Opponents Shots
Look for any hints about the shot that your opponent is going to play next. If you can pre-empt their shot, you will gain additional time to perform a great return shot. Always keep your feet moving so it is easier to get into position for your next shot.
Work on Your Volleying Skills
Volleying is an important skill in pickleball and one that takes a good amount of practice to master. Here are some simple tips for volleying well:
- Don’t swing your pickleball paddle, simply punch the ball back with a flat paddle
- Bend your knees so your eye line is lower
- Focus getting the ball “just” over the net
- Aim the volley at your opponent’s feet
- Stand in “ready position” for the volley — elbows in front of your body, paddle ready, knees slightly bent
- Keep your paddle straight and steady as you punch through the shot, pushing from your shoulder and elbow joint
You are now equipped with some pickleball strategies that will help you dominate the game. If you would like more information on how to play pickleball or would like some information on the best pickleball paddles, follow the associated links.