12 Pickleball Shots to Build Your Game Up

Are you tired of playing the same old pickleball game with the same ol’ pickleball shots with the same end result? Variety is the spice of life! Now is the perfect time to learn some new shots and them to your arsenal. Because one thing I have noticed from casual club players: their game is predictable, making it relatively easy to get the ‘W’.

I played pickleball three times this week, marking the 10th time I played. The game is fun, the people are great, the exercise is essential, and there is still so much to learn and improve upon! I have vastly improved when t comes to honoring the double-bounce rule!

As with most sports involving a ball, placement is the name of the game, trumping power nine out of 10 times.

After a week that saw over 5 hours of playing time, my upper legs and right elbow have some mild soreness–but this tells me that I am getting a bit stronger. The recovery time from playing pickleball vs. tennis is much shorter and much appreciated! 😉

Today, we will look at some of the pickleball shots that are important to add to your arsenal. Mix in a few of these shots to your play, and you will quickly elevate your game. But before we get into types of pickleball shots, let’s review the most basic pickleball strokes. 

basic pickleball shots

Groundstroke: This is the shot that is made after the ball bounces once. While groundstrokes are the foundation for tennis. they tend to play a more sporadic role during pickleball doubles. Whether you go deep or short, the groundstroke is all about placement, spin, and changing speeds.

Dink: Think of a dink as a super soft groundstroke hit near the kitchen line and is designed to arc downward, close to the net, making for a difficult return from your opponent. Similar to a drop shot in tennis, but with more play in pickleball. Master the dink and you will fluster your opponent into submission.

Volley: A shot that is made on the fly, before the ball hits the floor. As long as the ball hasn’t touched the ground, it is a volley stroke irrespective of where you hit it, whether it is near the net or not. Volleys are where most of the speed and action takes place for intermediate and advanced players. 

Once you have mastered the three basic types of pickleball shots listed above, you are ready to add more arrows to your quiver.

The Lob

The pickleball lob is when you hit the ball high up in the air over your opponents’ heads. A lob can take your competitor out of position, send them deep to the baseline, and set up a dink. Be sure to keep your head and chest up, and most importantly, hit it deep. Anything short, and that ball will get put away by your opponent. If you are familiar with topspin, try it on your lob to get an extra edge.

Breath deeply. Then hit the ball deep.

Cross-Court Dink

As the name implies, the cross-court dink is simply sending the ball diagonally from one end of the court to the other. But simple, it is not. The big advantage here is that you close off a lot of the court for your opponent, virtually guaranteeing they will not smash the ball back at you. The dink is a power neutralizer.

Block Shot

Block shots, aka “self-defense,” come to the rescue when your opponent hits a hard shot directly at you. This pickleball shot is sometimes used to stop the infamous third drive shot and prevents the opponent from having an advantage. Pickleball players who have been around the court a few times can use block shots as a mechanism to slow the game down and quickly change pace.

The Drive

This pickleball shot is straightforward: use full extension and hit the ball with a purpose outside of the kitchen. This is a shot that can be used as a winner or to take advantage of opponents who are out of position.

Backhand-Punch Shot

The backhand punch shot is relatively easy to master and is a common pickleball shot type. For this shot, the paddle is in the backhand position; act as if you are hitting the ball with your fist. This is a handy shot for when your opponent hits a high dink, and you have time to survey the open court for weakness.

The Fake Dink

File this one under trickery! This deceptive shot is designed to catch your opponent off-guard–they expect a dink, but instead, you drive the ball forward with speed–usually right at their feet.

Overhead Smash

This is the pickleball shot that many players find the most satisfying. But since a pickleball ball does not move at the speed of a tennis ball, you will want to use an angle more than force—easier said than done. 😉

Backhand-Spin Dink

Similar to the cross-court dink but made with your backhand. 

Deep Return Serve

As a pickleball rookie with tennis experience, I came to the court trained for this shot–and I’ve learned it’s an essential one to keep opponents off balance. A deep return, regardless of positioning, will take hard groundstrokes and shallow drop shots (mostly) off of the table. 

Third-Shot Drop

From what I read and what I hear, the third shot drop is all the rage with professional and higher-level pickleball players. 

It takes gentle hands to get the ball to arc upwards and land softly into the court on the opponent’s side. Accuracy matters if you want to take control of the point! 

ATP (Around The Post) Shot

Ready for a surprise? When playing pickleball, you do not have to pass the ball over the net, at least not if you are swung out wide. The ATP is an elusive shot, but if you can hit it? Oh, the glory!

Half-Volley From The Transition Zone

The transition zone is the area on the pickleball court that is between the baseline and the non-volley line. It’s generally an awkward place to be when playing the game at a higher level. As a rookie, I have found success here–but I often get instructed not to live in this dangerous zone. However, if you find yourself here, quick hands can give you the option to hit a short-hop or volley.

Do you have a favorite pickleball shot? Tell us in the comments below!

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