Mastering your third shot drop is one of the best things you can do to bring your pickleball game to the next level. Not only is a drop shot key to setting the pace of the game, but it also brings you control over many of your other shots. Third shot drops will make or break you as a player, so let's look into their advantages and when to use this crucial shot.
What is the Third Shot Drop?
The third shot drop is a shot that’s made as the third shot in a rally. Its purpose is to put the serving team in a strong position leading into a rally near the non-volley zone.
Third shot drops are a moderately upward-arching shot intended to land close to the net on your opponent’s side of the court. You want to strike the ball with just enough power to get over the net, but also soft enough to make it bounce as gently as possible to slow down the pace of gameplay. Many players like to think of it as a long dink-style shot.
Many pickleball players consider the third shot drop the most important shot during a rally, as it determines who will be in control of the game. If your team can’t consistently perform a third shot drop, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to be competent enough near the non-volley zone to consistently score points.
If you can hone your third shot drop, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to score. It’s seriously that important!
Why the Third Shot Drop is Important
A third shot drop is designed for one purpose: to give you and your teammate time to get to the kitchen.
The returning team has the advantage after the return, as both players will be right on top of the kitchen line. This puts the serving team at a distinct disadvantage since, at the very least, the player who served the ball needs time to get to the baseline.
A third shot drop drastically slows the pace of the ball, which forces your opponents to respond accordingly with a dink to return the shot accurately. It neutralizes your opponents’ speedy return, bringing the pace of the game back under your control.
If you can perfect your drop shot, your opponents will have a difficult time keeping pressure on your side of the court. The key is trying to get low with your body to stay underneath the ball when it comes onto your side of your court. You also need to keep the ball directly in front of your body to ensure it will hit the sweet spot on the paddle face.
Take some time to use wall drills to get comfortable with both your backhand and forehand dinks, as they are essential for building your confidence with your third shot drop.
When to Use the Third Shot Drop
Another common third shot is known as the third shot drive. Instead of hitting the ball gently and strategically into the opponent’s kitchen as you would in a third shot drop, a third shot drive is a powerful shot where you want to direct the ball with as much force as possible at a low angle just over the net.
So when do you use a third shot drop instead of a third shot drive shot? A lot of that has to do with your ability to read what kind of return shot your opponent favors using during your match.
The purpose of a third shot drive is to try and catch your opponents off guard. A well-executed third shot drive will potentially drive the ball directly into them, causing them to fault, or drive the ball past them and bounce on their side of the court near the baseline.
So, if you start noticing that your opponents aren’t attacking your serve as strongly as expected, you may want to start driving the ball on your third shot to keep them on their heels. Short lob returns that bounce fairly high should be attacked with a third shot drive.
On the other hand, if your opponents are returning the ball consistently with hard shots that drive the ball deep into your side of the court, then you’ll want to use a third shot drop. In this instance, a drop shot will give you the time you need to get to the kitchen line from the baseline while also slowing the game down near the net.
A good rule of thumb is to alternate between the two types of third shots. This will prevent your opponents from being able to read into your pickleball strategies, allowing you a more strategic advantage during the pickleball game.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Now that you have a better understanding of why the third shot drop is so important, let’s outline some of the distinct advantages and disadvantages of the shot when compared to the third shot drive.
Advantages of the Third Shot Drop
- This shot will usually be much more accurate than a drive. It’s much easier to control the direction and velocity of a soft shot, ensuring that your drop shot will hit the targeted area of your opponent’s side of the court.
- It gives you time to get from the baseline to the non-volley line. It’s often said that the game of pickleball is won and lost in the kitchen, and a drop shot will allow you to get right into the game at the net.
- In the chance that you misread an opponent’s return of serve, a third shot drop is easier to execute in impromptu scenarios than a more powerful shot.
Disadvantages of the Third Shot Drop
- Although more accurate, drop shots are far less powerful than third shot drives.
- If your opponent is anticipating a drop shot, it opens them up for a powerful next shot.
- Drop shots give you time to get to the net, but this also means that it allows your opponents to get set in their favored position as well.
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