If you’ve been following my articles for some time now, you (hopefully) understand the importance of hitting a drop shot for the “critical third shot.” I’ve written about WHY this shot is so important in this article getting up to the net. I’ve even written about HOW to hit a good drop shot.
What I haven’t yet spent much time on is what the heck you’re supposed to do when it all goes wrong. ‘Cuz (at the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie) I predict that in the very near future you or your partner WILL give your opponents a cream-puff of a shot that is gonna result in the ball being slammed down your throat if you’re not in a good defensive position. (And sometimes even if you are.)
That’s why I’ve put together my Top 2 pickleball strategies for how to put up a strong defense when you’ve accidentally put the ball in your opponent’s wheelhouse. Take these strategies and practice them with another team. We all would like a drop-shot that drops on command just over the net, but sometimes the ball hangs more than it should. Here are the pickleball strategies I recommend in that situation.
Strategy #1: Know Whether to Stay or Go
If You’re Up, Stay Up & Get Your Paddle Up.
If you are in perfect position at the kitchen (a.k.a. no-volley) line (and you’re not deluding yourself with one of the 2 Lies You Tell Yourself When You’re There) then make sure your paddle is up, and just STAY IN POSITION.
You’re already in a good position to see the ball & the court and you won’t have time to back-track anyway, so stay there, get your paddle up, and keep your eye on the ball.
If You’re Anywhere Other Than Up, Get Back & Get Your Paddle Up
If you’ve found yourself creeping back from the no-volley line, or if it’s early in the point and you haven’t managed to GET to the kitchen, and you know you or your partner has hit a lousy shot, then move your derriere BACKWARD quickly. Get about a foot or two behind the service line & get your paddle out in front of you… preferably before your opponent has even hit the ball.
You’ll come across a few players who tell you that no matter how high their “drop shot” was or how low their lob, they are just gonna charge to the net with their paddle at the ready because they have lightening-fast instincts at the net. Hey, you know me, I say that if it works for them, more power to ‘em.
But for the rest of us, whose reflexes may not be what they used to be, or for those who simply want to play SMARTER pickleball, backing up to the service line makes sense because it gives you more TIME. Time is the secret ingredient that will let you pick up a ball many others will miss, it is what will let you place the ball exactly where your opponents are not, and it is what will help you recover from a rotten shot. So when you pop the ball up, buy yourself some time.
Strategy #2: Move Left or Right Before They Even Hit The Ball
Knowing what to expect is another way to buy yourself more time because you can get into position BEFORE your opponent even hits the ball.
When a right-handed person hits an overhead, it is nearly always going to go in front of them, or to THEIR left side because of the mechanics of the hips, shoulder and elbow. Only very “wristy” players will hit an “inside out” shot, where the ball flies off their paddle to their right. When you’re playing against one of the few of them (or should I say us?), you’ll have to take that into account, but for the vast majority of players you’ll find yourself across the net from, you can bet that when they slam the ball, it’s gonna go to the middle of your court, or to your RIGHT.
- When a right-handed opponent is on the “even” side of the court, he or she will most likely hit the ball to the center or to the sideline on your right, so it’s best for you & your partner to shift your positioning to the right, so that the person on the odd court is near the centerline and the person on the even court is near the right-hand sideline.
When a right-handed opponent is on the “odd” side of the court, they have tend to rotate their body open to the right in order to get a better aim at the court, so they will most often hit toward the center of the court, but occasionally toward your left, so it’s best for you & your partner to shift your positioning to the left, so that the person on the odd court is near the left-hand sideline and the person on the even court is near the center line.
This will give you the best chance of being in the right position to be able to return the slam.
Of course, there are going to be times when there’s nothing you can do but mutter under your breath and wince as the ball gets pounded at your feet. But for the rest of the times, I hope that this article has given you some new strategies to implement next time you or your partner hits a bad shot. Remember, it’s not over ’til it’s over, so stay in the game, anticipate your opponent’s shot & try to stay in the point. Then comment below with your thoughts, feelings & questions.