Relishing Pickleball: Shot Selection

David Zapatka

Continuing our study of Pickleball Fundamentals: Master the basics and compete with confidence by Mary Littlewood, we will now learn about the selection for the third and fourth shots of a rally.

Third Shot: Serving Team

“The third shot of any rally—a shot hit by the serving team—determines which doubles team will gain the advantage in the rally. At this point, the receiving team is at the net—an offensive position—and the serving team is still deep in their court—a defensive position. Here are your options.

1. A drop shot that lands just over the net. You and your partner will follow it up to the non-volley zone.

2. A hard groundstroke down the middle, which you hope causes enough confusion for your opponents that you and your partner can get to the net.

3. A lob that forces the serve receive team deep and allows your team to get to the net.”

Fourth Shot: Receiving Team (This shot Is completely dependent on what type of shot the serving team makes on the third shot.)

1. “If the third shot is a drop shot, the fourth shot would most likely be a dink. All four players are now at the net. They dink back and forth until one shot is too high, at which time a player aggressively volleys it back to win the rally.

2. If the third shot is a groundstroke down the middle, the fourth shot would likely be a volley.

3. If the third shot is a lob, the fourth shot would most likely be either a groundstroke, a drop shot, or another lob off of the bounce. If the serving team’s third-shot lob is too shallow, it would be smashed on the fourth shot for a rally winner.

Once all four players are at the net, what happens next is dependent on which player commits the first error—hitting the ball into the net, hitting it out of bounds, or hitting it too high as a setup for an aggressive smash or volley.

Even though the ideal is for all four players to wage the battle at the net, some players resist going to the net for whatever reason—lack of mobility, discomfort with being too close to the action, lack of controlled aggression, or just lack of competitiveness and are content to stay back and bang the ball back and forth. If you’re happy playing that kind of game and you’re able to find other players who are happy to do so, so be it. If you truly want to become a better pickleball player and play a competitive game, you have to be willing to devote the time and energy to learning and using the three-shot sequence.”

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].