In this article, we're going to break down a common "Pickleball Pro Tip" - Getting to the net!
Like “capture the flag”, the primary objective during a pickleball point is to get to and dominate the net. Remember, if you are not at the net you have a 70% chance of losing the point. Most players understand this goal, but do not always hit strategic shots to get to the net. It takes practice and consistency to capture the net.
If you are not at the net, you have a 70% chance of loosing the point.
Players of all levels know that they must be consistent and never miss a serve or return. Generally, both shots are hit medium to deep, and under control. It should be a formality that you get to the third shot without an unforced error.
Practice drills until you can hit almost every serve and return safe - DEEP! Also, it is a given that the receiving team will hit a deep return and get to the net. A slower and higher return of serve to your opponent, will give you time to accomplish this task.
Related: Want to know what three 5.0 levels players and the head of a paddle company taught me about paddles and how they provide touch at the net? Click here!!
Pickleball Pro Tip - Learn the four stages:
Stage One - Serve and return of serve
Your serve and return of serve are unique in that they both have some arc, and ideally land deep in the court. This pushes the opposing team back. For serves, control is preferred over power. Power can lead to errors. Control leads to consistency.
Stage Two - Get To The Net
The receiving team hits the return and gets to the net first. Now it is up to the serving team to hit the important “third shot”, and get to the net. This shot usually is a soft shot that lands in the kitchen (known as the "third shot drop"), and gives the serving team a chance to get to the net. On occasion, the third shot may be a hard shot (better known as the "third shot drive"), or a lob. It depends on how effective the return was at keeping the serving team back, and how skillful you are at hitting a third shot that lands in the kitchen. This is referred to as the “third shot drop”. It takes practice to hit it consistently and effectively.
Stage Three - Dinking or Soft Game
All four players are at the net, hitting soft shots that land in the kitchen. It is important to keep the ball low, and make your opponent hit upwards. If they're hitting down on your "dink", you're going to eat a pickleball. Stage three is a time of caution and patience, hoping you are not the one who hits the ball too high, or into the net.
Stage Four - Volley Time or Fast Play
Someone hit a shot that can be smashed or hit hard, usually toward an opening or directly at a player. If you can smash it and win the point - do it. If you hit a hard volley and do not defeat your opponent's reaction time, you lose the point about 60% of the time. So be patient, and wait for the opportunity to put away a high ball hit over to you.
If you hit a hard volley and do not defeat your opponent's reaction time, you lose the point about 60% of the time.
It is important to keep track of your unforced errors in each stage of a point. Use power correctly - hit soft if you are hitting up, and hit hard if you are hitting down. On most points, you should get to stage three, and give your opponents the chance to make a mistake. Practice your dinking so you can demonstrate patience, and dink as long as needed.
As you improve, you can add spin and vary the pace of all of your shots. Engagement is the key to developing touch and control. Like most sports, your skill will improve as long as you practice. Bouncing the ball on your paddle in between matches is a perfect use of that rest time. It sounds simple but that will help with your touch and feel for the ball on your paddle.
When possible, practice all of your shots with a partner. Also, play with better players. Watch 5.0 or pro players and their matches on YouTube. Practicing drills takes patience and discipline, but it is worth your time and effort. Hit all your shots off a wall and gradually move closer as if getting closer to the net. You will greatly improve your reaction if you hit hard shots close to the wall. You can also improve your touch by hitting the ball above your head and catching it with your paddle.
The Final Pickleball Pro Tip
Finally, one last pickleball pro tip for you. When a point is over - it’s over! Don’t fuss and fume over a lost point, game, or match. Win or lose, stay in the present moment. It’s ok. You can learn from your mistakes, and focus on hitting high percentage shots. Three good things to remember are: Preparation, Pace, and Placement.
For more tips from Pros, check out the Pickleball Guru Prem Carnot's advanced strategies page here.
Now get out there, practice, play, and HAVE FUN!