When you're transitioning from tennis to pickleball, you have a lot of built-in advantages, and in many ways, you'll skip the learning curve. But there are also things to be aware of to make the transition easier. Understanding the differences between pickleball and tennis, such as being played with a smaller court, lower net, and a different plastic ball with holes will help you grasp the game’s finer points.
Seven Pickleball Tips For Tennis Players
Tennis and pickleball have many differences. Here are seven tips for those tennis players wanting to give pickleball a go.
1. Serve Deep
Tennis is a game of fast, deadly serves. Pickleball is not. Since you have to serve underhand, and since the pickleball is lightweight and has holes in it, there’s only so fast your serves can go. Instead, your best strategy is to serve deep to put pressure on your opponents and make it more difficult for them to set up their shots.
Here are a few tips for serving deep in pickleball:
- Aim for the back of the court: Serving deep means hitting the ball toward the back of the court, closer to the baseline. This can make it harder for your opponents to reach the ball and give you a better chance to control the point.
- Use a strong, flat serve: A strong, flat serve will have more power and be less likely to be affected by the wind. Practice hitting serves with a full arm swing and a flat racquet face to get more pace on the ball.
- Mix up your serves: Varying the placement and spin of your serves can keep your opponents guessing and make it harder for them to anticipate where the ball is going.
- Practice your serve: Like any shot in pickleball, serving deep requires practice to execute consistently. Take time to practice your serve and focus on hitting it deeply and accurately.
2. Slow Down
There are a few ways to slow down the pace of play in pickleball:
- Use soft shots: Soft shots, such as dinks or lobs, can disrupt the pace of play and force your opponents to hit more defensively.
- Play pickleball defensively: By positioning yourself further back on the court and hitting more defensive shots, you can slow down the pace of play and force your opponents to hit more shots.
- Play at the net: By coming to the net and hitting volleys, you can control the pace of the game and make it more difficult for your opponents to hit winners.
- Use spin: Hitting shots with spin can slow down the ball and make it more difficult for your opponents to hit aggressively.
- Focus on consistency: By hitting consistent shots, you can make it more difficult for your opponents to hit winners and force them to play longer rallies. This way, you can slow down the pace of play.
3. Stick To The Kitchen Line
The kitchen line in pickleball runs parallel to the net and is located at the top of the non-volley zone. It’s important to control the middle of the court and use it to your advantage.
Sticking to the kitchen line can be a useful strategy in pickleball because it allows you to:
- Stay in the non-volley zone: The non-volley zone (or “no volley zone”) is the area on the court between the kitchen line and the net. Players cannot volley the ball while in this zone. You can avoid violating this rule and potentially incurring a penalty by staying on the kitchen line.
- Hit dinks: The kitchen line is in a good position to hit dinks, soft, low shots hit with spin that land just over the net. Dinks can be a useful tool for disrupting your opponents’ positioning and setting up points.
- Cut off your opponents’ angles: By positioning yourself on the kitchen line, you can cut off your opponents’ angles and make it more difficult for them to hit winners.
- Hit lobs: The kitchen line is also a good position to hit lobs, which are high, deep shots that can be used to get your opponents out of place.
- Play defensively: By staying on the kitchen line, you can play more defensively and force your opponents to hit more shots. This strategy can be useful if you are struggling to win points on your own.
4. Use A Short Backswing
Using a short backswing in pickleball can be a useful strategy for a few reasons:
- Quicker reaction time: A shorter backswing allows you to hit the ball more quickly. This can be beneficial if your opponent hits a quick shot and you have to react quickly.
- More control: A short backswing can also help you have more control over your shots. This technique can be especially useful with softer shots like dinks or lobs, where precision is more important than power.
- Less effort: A short backswing requires less effort and can be less tiring over the course of a long match, which is advantageous if you play multiple games in a day or are not in top physical condition.
- Better positioning: A short backswing can also help you stay in a better position on the court, as you don’t have to step back as far to make your shot. This can be especially useful if you are playing at the net and have to react quickly to your opponent’s shots.
5. Perfect Your Dinks
Dinks are soft, low shots hit with spin that are used to disrupt your opponent’s positioning and set up points in pickleball. Here are a few tips to help perfect your dinks:
- Use a light grip: A light grip on your pickleball paddle allows you to impart more spin on the ball, which can help you hit better dinks.
- Hit with an upward motion: Hitting dinks with an upward movement helps lift the ball over the net and create spin. This shot disguise can make it more difficult for opponents to anticipate the ball trajectory.
- Aim for the middle of the court: Aiming for the middle allows you to hit your dinks with more margin for error. This tactic is especially useful if you are just starting out and are still learning how to control the placement of your shots.
- Practice your dinks: Like any shot in pickleball, dinks require practice to execute consistently. Take some time to practice hitting dinks from different positions on the court and with varying amounts of spin.
- Use dinks with other shots: Dinks (or drop shots) are most effective when combined with different shots, such as lobs or drives. Mixing up your game can keep your opponents guessing and make it harder for them to anticipate what you will do next.
6. Stay In The Ready Position
Staying in the ready position in pickleball is important because it allows you to be prepared to react to your opponent’s shots and move efficiently around the pickleball court. Here are a few tips for staying in the ready position:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart: This allows you to have good balance and be ready to move in any direction.
- Keep your knees bent: Keeping your knees bent helps to keep you low to the ground and ready to move quickly.
- Hold your racquet in front of you: Holding your racquet in front of you, with the head of the racquet facing upwards, allows you to react quickly to shots hit toward you.
- Keep your weight evenly distributed: Distribute your weight evenly between both feet to help you maintain your balance and be ready to move in any direction.
- Stay focused: Stay focused on the game and be ready to react to your opponent’s shots. This will help you stay in the ready position and be prepared to play your best.
7. Get Used To The Smaller Court Size
A tennis court is larger than the pickleball variety. If you are used to playing tennis on a full-sized court, it can take some time to adjust to the smaller court size in pickleball. Here are a few tips to help you get used to the smaller court size:
- Focus on footwork: Good footwork is even more important because the court is smaller in pickleball. Practice moving quickly and efficiently around the court to improve your footwork.
- Adjust your shot selection: The smaller court size means you won’t have as much time to set up your shots. Consider using more aggressive strokes, such as drives and smashes, to put pressure on your opponents.
- Be prepared to hit more volleys: Because the net is lower in pickleball, you will likely hit more volleys. Practice your volleys at the net to become more efficient at finishing points.
- Use the whole court: The smaller court size means you should use the entire court to your advantage. Practice hitting shots all over the court to keep your opponents guessing and make it more difficult for them to anticipate where the ball is going.
- Practice: As with any new skill, the best way to get used to the smaller court size in pickleball is to practice. Play as many pickleball games as possible to get comfortable with the court dimensions and your shot selection in each area.
Making The Switch From Tennis To Pickleball
Is It Hard To Switch From Tennis To Pickleball?
Switching from tennis to pickleball can be challenging for some new players, but it is not necessarily hard. Differences like the court size, the net height, and the ball used can take some time to get used to. However, many of the same skills, such as footwork, shot selection, and strategy, apply to both games.
One of the biggest challenges for tennis players making the switch to pickleball may be adjusting to the smaller court size and the importance of the non-volley zone. Tennis players may also need to practice their volleys, as they will likely hit more volleys in pickleball due to the lower net.
The key to a successful transition from tennis to pickleball is patience and as much practice as possible. As you become more comfortable with pickleball’s unique rules and characteristics, you can apply your existing skills and improve your game.
Consider picking a pickleball coach who has a background in tennis so they can help you with the transition.
What Are Some Common Mistakes To Watch Out For?
Here are a few common mistakes to watch out for when switching from tennis to pickleball:
- Hitting the ball too hard: The ball used in pickleball is slower and lighter than a tennis ball, so hitting it too hard can be a mistake. Focus on control and accuracy rather than power to be more effective in pickleball.
- Volleying outside the non-volley zone: Pickleball players are not allowed to volley the ball while inside the non-volley zone (the area between the kitchen line and the net). Make sure to volley the ball only outside this zone to avoid penalties.
- Not using spin: The ball used in pickleball is more susceptible to spin than a tennis ball, so using topspin, backspin, etc., can be a powerful tool. Practice hitting shots with different amounts of spin to add another dimension to your game and allow you to play your best pickleball.
- Ignoring the middle of the court: The area around the net in pickleball is known as the “kitchen.” It is an important part of the court to control, so practice your dinks and volleys and use them to your advantage in the kitchen.
- Overlooking the serve: The serve is an essential shot in pickleball, as it must be underhand and hit past the kitchen line. Practice your serves to become more consistent and effective in pickleball.
What Advantages Do Tennis Players Have When Switching To Pickleball?
Tennis players who switch to pickleball may have some advantages due to their existing tennis skills and experience. Here are a few benefits that former tennis players may have when switching to pickleball:
- Footwork: Tennis players are used to moving quickly around the court and covering a lot of ground.
- Shot selection: Tennis players are used to hitting various shots, including groundstrokes, backhands, forehands, volleys, and serves.
- Strategy: Tennis players are accustomed to thinking about the overall strategy of a match and how to set up points.
- Court awareness: Tennis players are used to playing on a full-sized court and are familiar with the court dimensions.
- Racquet skills: New players have experience hitting a ball with a tennis racquet, which can be helpful when making the transition to pickleball.
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