Pickleball tips for intermediate players include always staying in the ready position, mastering backhand shots, hitting at your opponent's feet, hitting to the weaker opponent in doubles matches, and mastering dinks and drop shots.
Pickleball Tips for Intermediate Players
Don’t skip the warm-up
Success starts before the game during your warm-up. This is true for two reasons: mental and physical. Warming up has the obvious physical effect of allowing your body to adjust slowly to more strenuous activity. It also has the mental effect of ensuring you feel prepared for the match, especially if (like many pro athletes) you follow the same warm-up routine before every match.
Always stay in the ready position
Remember to always stay in the ready position, even when the ball is not in play. That means keeping your paddle up, keeping your knees bent, and staying ready to move in any direction quickly when necessary.
If you allow yourself to stand stiffly and be unprepared, you’ll quickly find yourself at a mental and physical disadvantage.
Master backhand shots (and force them)
Backhand shots are harder for most players than forehand shots. Mastering backhand shots makes you a more versatile player, allowing you to return a shot anywhere on the court with accuracy.
At the same time, you’ll want to hit to your opponent’s backhand as much as possible since it’s likely their weaker side.
Concentrate on shots before hitting them
It might seem obvious to say “concentrate on your shots,” but paying attention to what you’re doing can pay off big time. Take the time to carefully observe your opponent’s position on the court and their weak spots. Slow down and focus closely as you hit shots that exploit the deficits in your opponent’s game.
Deliver deep serves and serve returns
As the serving team, keep your competitors away from the net by hitting deep serves. As the returning team, you should return deep as well, so it’s difficult for the serving team to approach the non-volley zone.
The more you can keep your opponent away from the net, the more advantages you’ll have.
Aim at your opponent’s feet
Aim at your opponent’s feet so they’re forced to back up in order to return your shot. Doing this forces a difficult return shot.
Whether you’re serving or hitting dinks, aiming for your opponent’s feet creates a tough dynamic they’ll struggle to overcome.
Hit to the weaker opponent in doubles
Hitting to the weaker opponent is a common strategy in doubles play. Identify the weaker player and start directing as many shots as possible toward them in order to maximize your advantage.
You should pepper your opponent with difficult shots like the ones we have discussed above when playing doubles.
Return serves down the middle
Returning serves down the middle of the court is an underutilized strategy. Always hit down the middle or to the weak side, never to the opponent’s strong forehand.
Practice good teamwork
Make sure you communicate with your partner. Tell your partner if the ball should be hit or whether it is going out by calling “Good” or “Out.” Be especially careful during the third shot, which is often hit down the middle. Make sure to loudly and clearly call out “Mine” or “Yours.” It’s not uncommon for partners to stand like deer in headlights waiting for the other to make a decision.
Be aware of your partner’s movements. Follow their body language and visual cues, so you are able to anticipate their movements toward the ball.
Strategically place the stronger player in doubles matches
If you are playing doubles, you generally want the stronger server to serve first to increase your chances of scoring points immediately.
It’s common for competitive pickleball doubles teams to place their better player on the left-hand side of the pickleball court so that they can keep their forehands in the middle.
Master dink shots
When dinking, it’s important to have quick footwork. Learn to shuffle laterally. Make this a part of your dynamic warm-up.
When dinking begins, stand as close to the non-volley zone as possible. When you dink, hit with an open paddle face. Prioritize cross-court dinks over down-the-line dinks, dinking to your opponent’s feet where possible. Don’t be afraid to change it up and dink down the middle from time to time.
Common pickleball mistakes made by intermediate players
Avoid these intermediate pickleball player mistakes, and you’ll level up your game in no time.
- Hitting drop shots too low: If you want to make your drop shot more challenging to return, try using backspins and slicing the ball to maintain balance. Don’t get too aggressive with hitting the drop shot low, or you might find yourself causing a fault by hitting the net.
- Returning dinks too high: When you return dinks, avoid popping the ball too high or you’ll open yourself up to an aggressive smash from the opposing team.
- A lack of spins during the game: Beginners don’t focus on spin, but intermediate players need to play with backspin and topspin to take their game to the next level. Spin helps your ball bounce lower and makes it harder to return.
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