If you are looking for a fun sport suitable for people of all ages, pickleball is the game for you. It is a unique combination of badminton, tennis and table tennis and has become an incredibly popular sport within the last decade. It is an easy game to learn, but also provides challenging gameplay. If you want to become a serious contender, you will need to develop your own unique pickleball strategy.

Like all sports, those who seek success in competitive pickleball games need to develop strategies to increase their odds of winning. Here, we will discuss tips and tricks that can give you a leg up on the competition.

WHAT IS PICKLEBALL?

Pickleball started as a backyard children’s game in the mid-1960’s. It was invented by three fathers as a cure to their children’s summer boredom blues. In 1984, the United States of America Pickleball Association was started and by 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states.

It is a paddle sport that can be played with two or four players. The players use paddles made of wood or composite material to hit a plastic wiffle ball over a low net. The pickleball court is similar to a standard badminton court, while the rules more closely reflect those of tennis.

PICKLEBALL VS. TENNIS: IS PICKLEBALL RIGHT FOR YOU?

The most significant differences between tennis and pickleball are the size of the court and the style of the ball and rackets. The gameplay is also different: serves must be underhand, the ball must double bounce before either team can volley, and the pickleball kitchen or no volley zone is absent in tennis.

Due to the smaller court size and less intense gameplay, pickleball is an easy sport for all levels and a particular favorite amongst mature adults. It’s also an easier game to set up around one’s own home. If you are looking for a fun, low impact way to achieve a healthy sweat and have fun with friends, pickleball is the right game for you.

TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE PICKLEBALL STRATEGY

Basic Rules

A thorough understanding of the basic rules of pickleball will serve as a strong foundation so you form your pickleball strategy.

  • A coin toss determines who serves first.
  • Starting with the right-hand service-square, the ball is served diagonally across the net.
  • The server must have both feet behind the backline while serving. Serves are to be done underhand below the waist.
  • The server will continue to serve until he/she faults, alternating service squares each time.
  • The ball must bounce once for each team before it can be volleyed (double bounce rule). To volley a ball means to hit the ball without letting it bounce first.
  • The kitchen is a seven-foot rectangular area of the court on either side of the net. This is a no-volley zone to prevent “spiking.”
  • When the server faults, service switches to the other player/team.
  • Only the serving side can score points. The winner of the game is determined when one team achieves 11 points or more with a 2 point lead.

Also, it is imperative that you know all the potential pickleball faults:

  • The ball is volleyed before a double bounce
  • The ball doesn’t go over the net after being hit
  • The ball lands out of bounds
  • The ball lands in the non-volley zone on a serve
  • The ball is volleyed from the non-volley zone

Different Strategic Strokes

If you are already a pickleball player, you’re more than likely familiar with the three common strokes of pickleball: forehand, backhand, and volley. Here are several more advanced strokes that might catch you fellow opponent off guard.

  • Overhead Smash: This is an important shot to master early on in your pickleball training as it is one of the most aggressive and offensive moves. It involves using the leverage of a fully straightened arm to hit a high flying ball downwards. When a high ball is hit to your side of the court, be patient. Using your free arm to aim or point at the ball as you prepare your working paddle arm to strike. Hit the ball with the center of the paddle.
  • Forehand Lob: The forehand lob can be a little tricky, but it is definitely a stroke you will want in your player’s tool belt. It is easy to hit the ball out of bounds with this shot, so make sure to practice it before a big game. Go in for the ball like you would a normal forehand stroke, but hit it upwards to give it a little more loft. Ideally, this will send the ball flying up and over your opponent’s head and landing in the back of the court. If you don’t send it high enough, you could be setting up the other team for an overhead smash. Send the ball too high, and it could very well go out of bounds. Hit it right, and it will be the perfect move to catch your opponent off guard. This is a great stroke for returning serves. The deeper you return the ball to your opponent, the more they will have to chase down the ball. This will make them tired and increase the odds of them faulting. It also gives you more time to prepare for your shots.The forehand lob can be a little tricky, but it is definitely a stroke you will want in your player’s tool belt. It is easy to hit the ball out of bounds with this shot, so make sure to practice it before a big game. Go in for the ball like you would a normal forehand stroke, but hit it upwards to give it a little more loft. Ideally, this will send the ball flying up and over your opponent’s head and landing in the back of the court. If you don’t send it high enough, you could be setting up the other team for an overhead smash. Send the ball too high, and it could very well go out of bounds. Hit it right, and it will be the perfect move to catch your opponent off guard. This is a great stroke for returning serves. The deeper you return the ball to your opponent, the more they will have to chase down the ball. This will make them tired and increase the odds of them faulting. It also gives you more time to prepare for your shots.
  • Dinking: A dink is one of the most popular shots in pickleball. It is a shot hit from behind the non-volley line that just barely soars over the net to drop into the opposing player’s non-volley zone. This softer technique is great for throwing a more aggressive player off their game. A dink is one of the most popular shots in pickleball. It is a shot hit from behind the non-volley line that just barely soars over the net to drop into the opposing player’s non-volley zone. This softer technique is great for throwing a more aggressive player off their game.

Other Strategic Tips

  • When you serve “KISS”: The golden rule for an excellent pickleball serve can be summed up in one easy acronym: KISS (Keep it simple, stupid). One of the biggest mistakes pickleball players make is complicating their serve. One trick that might be helpful is aiming for the ball to land deep in the court.   Most players are eager to rush to the kitchen-line, so they might rush past it. Other than that, just hit the ball. Save the fancy strokes for later.
  • Engage in a volley session: The ideal outcome for this strategy is to get the other player to fault. It requires more endurance than the other methods, but it is still a very effective play. Keep your eye on the ball, your strokes simple, and ease into the back and forth rhythm of the volley session. Patience is better than power for this play. Your opponent may try to rattle you but remain calm. Let them throw their best trick shots at you. This will tire them out and make their weaknesses more plain. That’s when you strike!
  • Don’t Hit The Ball At Your Opponent: Hitting the ball directly back to the opposing team is a common mistake and a strategic mister. Hit the ball to areas of the court where your opponent is not standing. This will make them move and make them tired and lose focus.
  • Hit Towards Their Backhand: Most people are weaker with their backhand stroke. By returning the ball in a way that forces them to use their backhand, you can exploit this weakness.
  • Adjust Ball Speed: This is another excellent way to throw your opponent off their game. However, they are hitting the ball, do the opposite. If they are hitting it fast, return it slowly. If they slow to the hit, return it as quickly as possible. This may confuse them and throw them off their focus. Changing the speed of the ball also keeps the game exciting.
  • Low Ball Them: This is a great play if your opponent has a tendency to go for higher balls. Give them a few returns in the comfort zone, then hit the ball just over the net. They’ll be caught off guard and forced to readjust their shot, making them much more likely to fault.
  • Don’t Take The “Easy Shot” For Granted: Always be looking for ways to confuse your opponent. Sometimes that might mean taking an easy shot like delivering the ball right down the middle and closer to their backhand side if possible. This is especially useful when playing doubles. Your opponents might hesitate going after the ball because they assume their teammate will play it.
  • Don’t Forget About Your Grip!: One last fundamental skill to keep in mind for your pickleball strategy is the grip you use during gameplay. The most effective and flexible grip is the continental grip. This grip is achieved by having your Purlicue, or the skin between your thumb and index finger, on top of the handle of your paddle. This grip is ideal because you will never have to take your hand off the paddle. Two-handed shots for added accuracy can be achieved by simply placing your other hand on the paddle for added stabilization.

CONCLUSION

Who does not love a little healthy competition? Most people who play competitive sports enjoy the rush one feels after winning a game. The key to maximizing your chances of winning are developing strategies that you can pull from during gameplay. Add some of the tips and tricks suggested here to your pickleball strategy, and you will be the next great pickleball champion in no time!

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