Keeping the ball low in pickleball helps you dominate rallies. Low shots are harder to return, giving you the upper hand if you can execute them correctly. To keep the ball low, maintain control of your paddle angle, hit the ball early (before it has a chance to drop), and make sure not to grip the paddle too tightly.
How to Keep the Ball Low In Pickleball
1) Keep your Paddle Angle Low
This is the most basic concept any pickleball player needs to get their head around when attempting to manipulate the height of the pickleball ball.
As a rule of thumb, your paddle angle determines the angle with which the ball will begin its trajectory.
To hit a low drive shot in pickleball, you need to ensure your paddle angle is low. This is crucial to correct shot execution.
2) Use Topspin
Another way to keep the ball low in a pickleball game is to use topspin. Start your backswing low and hit over the top of the ball, adding spin.
Take care with this approach: Due to the upwards motion of a topspin-heavy shot, if you are a little heavy-handed you can easily hit the ball too hard. This means the spin you add may not do much, and you’ll end up with a high shot rather than a low shot.
3) Hit The Ball Early
Hitting the pickleball early – before it drops too much – means hitting the ball higher in its arc. From a higher vantage point, it’s easier to hit the ball at a downward angle.
If the ball is lower than the net, you have to hit it upward, so it doesn’t hit the net. This makes it harder to keep the ball low.
4) Keep Your Grip Loose
A common mistake among pickleball players is to have the paddle locked in a sort of death grip. Grip pressure this strong can sometimes feel more secure; in reality, however, it makes the paddle much harder to control.
This is especially true when hitting low shots. A player with a firm grip will often hit the ball too far downward and into the net. Maintaining a loose paddle grip gives you more accuracy and control, allowing for more accurate shots.
5) Use Your Body Position
Body position is a crucial part of directing the pickleball. Too many players use the same body shape for every shot, causing them to struggle to manipulate the shot angle.
One of the best ways to keep the ball low is to get your body ‘on top’ of the ball. This means getting up high and riding the bounce of the ball, rather than sitting low underneath it.
Keep your weight forward and drive through the ball to keep it low.
6) Use Cross-Court Dinks
A great way to keep the ball low is to use dink shots. These gentle shots drop the ball over the net without much power. This means the ball stays low and doesn’t bounce very high, making it hard to return.
When dinking, it’s useful to hit cross-court rather than down the line. This is simply due to angles – the distance between you and your cross-court doubles opponent is longer than the distance between you and your direct opponent down the line.
This slightly longer shot distance gives you more space to get the ball over the net, allowing more margin for error.
7) Keep Your Swing Short
A common mistake in pickleball is taking too long of a backswing and follow-through. This makes it hard to keep the ball low for two reasons:
- First, a longer swing generates more power, and more powerful shots tend to go higher in the air. Some pickleball players will realize this and try to modulate their speed through the ball, leading them to decelerate and lose control of their shots.
- Second, the longer the swing, the harder it is to maintain control of your paddle angle. Keeping your swing short and compact allows you to remain aware of where your paddle face is pointing, allowing far greater control.
Why You Should Keep the Ball Low in Pickleball
So, we’ve covered HOW to keep the ball low in pickleball. But what about WHY?
The simple answer to this question is that low shots are generally harder to return – or, at least, harder to return with control and power.
- If the ball is up in the air, it gives your opponent a chance to hit a smash, drive, or kill shot down toward you with power. This puts you on the defensive, meaning you lose control of the rally.
- If you keep the ball low, your opponent must pop it up to get it over the net. These shots move slower and bounce higher, giving you more time to choose where to place your next shot. Strategically, the smartest thing your opponent can do with a low shot is to just try and keep it in play.
Pickleball is all about manipulating rallies and forcing your opponent to move around the court. Keeping the ball low takes away some of your opponent’s control and therefore is a crucial weapon in dominating any game of pickleball.
Mastering the Mental Game of Pickleball
For many pickleball players, the difficulty of keeping the ball low is mental rather than physical or technical.
If you were to take away the net, players would be able to execute a low shot repeatedly. As soon as the net is there, the fear of hitting it takes over, and mistakes start to creep in.
One of those mistakes is the death grip we mentioned earlier. Maintaining correct grip pressure can be difficult, especially as the game progresses and rallies get tenser. However, keeping a loose grip on the paddle is a crucial element of maintaining your mental game.
The best way to work on the mental aspect of your pickleball game is to run drills. For example: how many drives can you land successfully without making a mistake? These types of mini-games in practice help you learn how to perform under pressure.
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