Pickleball is a game that's easy to learn but hard to master. While the fundamentals might be simple, there are an incredible number of strategies to deploy on the pickleball court. Use these 11 tips to help you to up your performance and win your next game of pickleball.
Pickleball success happens during practice, before you even step onto the court for a match. To play pickleball better, you’ve got to improve each individual skill involved in your game.
This doesn’t mean you’ve got to be spending hours every day grinding with a pickleball coach. Unless you’re trying to make it pro, nobody has time for that!
Instead, think about the best use of your time. Assess your own pickleball skills:
- Are forehands your weakness?
- Do you struggle against the lob?
If you only have time to practice one pickleball skill, consider honing your serve. It is the only part of the game you get complete control over and can set you up for victory.
Pickleball games are won at the non-volley line. The pickleball player who owns the volley line wins the game, and the serving team has a great chance to set themselves up for success.
Serving deep to the baseline means your opponent’s return of serve becomes far more difficult. This means they will have to return defensively, setting you up for an aggressive shot selection.
Rallies are set up by the first, second, and third shots. As the serving team, you have control of two of those. Serving deep (close to your opponent’s feet) and to their weaker side (usually their backhand) allows you to dominate the middle of the court.
Get to the Kitchen
The kitchen, also known as the non-volley zone, is key to most advanced pickleball strategies.
A pickleball moves slower than a tennis or squash ball. This means getting to the net is a stronger and more controlling pickleball strategy.
Getting close to the kitchen lines makes it more difficult for your opponent to get the ball past you. They’ll have to attempt riskier shots, potentially leading to more unforced errors.
Return of Serve
When you are tasked with the return of serve, there are two key points to consider:
- First, make sure you get the ball back! Handing your opponent points without making them hit in open play can kill your momentum.
- Second, aim for the middle of the court. This is a key pickleball doubles strategy. The middle of the court area can cause confusion between a doubles team about who should take the next shot.
Keep it Low
When the pickleball is low to the ground, it is much harder to control where and how you are going to hit it. Keeping the ball low is the key to dominating rallies, as it forces your opponent to hit the ball up.
The pickleball paddle is relatively large, making it too unwieldy to attack when the ball is low. Your opponent will often have to get under the ball, scooping it up and giving you a chance to smash.
There are exceptions to this pickleball strategy. Hitting the ball higher can give you time to get to the kitchen line if you need to change your positioning.
The ready position isn’t just for receiving a pickleball serve. It should be how you reset after every shot.
A game of pickleball is fast-paced and relies on quick reactions: keeping the pickleball paddle out in front of you can give you those critical extra milliseconds to pull off difficult shots.
Keep it in Play
A professional game of pickleball is likely to be won by whoever hits the most winning shots. An amateur game is more likely to be decided by whoever makes the least unforced errors.
Aiming for the middle of the court gives you more margin for error than risky shots to the side of the court. This forces your opponent to attempt to beat you with their next shot rather than handing them points with mistakes.
Attack with your Dinks
The exception to the “aim for the middle of court” rule is the dink shot. These should be aimed crosscourt rather than to the middle of the court.
The reason? It’s because crosscourt dinks are difficult shots to return. Forcing your opponent to run can make dink shots a fantastic weapon in your rallies.
The biggest key in pickleball doubles strategy is communication.
As a doubles team, you have to work together. Talking through plans before each point is a good start, but be sure to talk throughout the point as well.
Let your partner know if you are going for a shot, or let them know to leave the ball if you can see it’s going out of play.
As a doubles team, you have more eyes: use them!
Watch the Ball
This one is simple, and applies to most racket sports: keep your eye on the ball!
It can be easy to get too focused on the outcome of your next shot and forget to execute. Watching the ball onto your racket every time reduces the risk of silly unforced errors.
How often have you seen your opponent (or yourself) be so annoyed at an unforced error that they make another mistake on the next shot?
Losing your head leads to losing points. By enjoying your game of pickleball, even when it’s not going great, you give yourself a chance to come back. Getting angry helps nobody and will likely hasten your defeat.
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