Relishing Pickleball: Shot Selection

David Zapatka

Continuing our study of Pickleball Fundamentals Master the basics and compete with confidence by Mary Littlewood, it is time now to learn about shot selection.

Mary Littlewood says the ideal sequence of shots provides a means for all four players to get to the net where pickleball is won and lost as opposed to staying at the baseline or getting stuck in no man’s land (halfway between the baseline and the non-volley zone line). Here is the sequence Ms. Littlewood teaches.

First, work on serving deep 100% of the time. Next, focus on returning the serve deep and slow 100% of the time. Lastly, make an effective third shot which is ideally the drop shot as taught in last month’s column. This all-important third shot drop will determine if the serving team will be able to effectively get to the non-volley zone and get in to the point giving them a chance at winning the rally. If you haven’t mastered the third-shot drop, drive a groundstroke through the middle of the court or up the sideline as a passing shot. Alternatively, you might attempt a lob given the right conditions. Your objective is to put the receiving team on the defensive to enable you and your partner to get to the non-volley zone. Important—if you are unsuccessful at putting the opponents in a defensive position, do not attempt to get to the non-volley zone yet. Be patient and make as many attempts as it may take to put them on the defensive. Coming in when the opponents are in a strong position and not a defensive position puts you at risk of having a strong shot hit at the feet of you or your partner.

First Shot: the serve. Regardless of how you hit the serve, hard or soft, with pace or without, your objective is to serve the ball deep into the proper court over the net and inbounds. Ms. Littlewood teaches once the serve is consistent, work on getting more aggressive by aiming for the deep backhand corner or putting spin on the ball. A deep serve will keep the player receiving the serve deep in his court and farther from the net. After the serve, you and your partner should stay back close to the baseline in a good position to return the ball after the bounce.

Second Shot: return of serve. The ideal return of serve is hit slow and deep into the server’s court. Hitting it slow gives you and your partner time to get to the non-volley zone side by side in a strong offensive position. This slow lofting ball keeps the opponents deep in their court in a defensive position.

Tune in next month for shots three and four.

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].