Causing confusion and indecision from our opponents is an effective strategy which can win us some quick and easy points. While there are times I may want to open up the court by moving my opponents laterally with a good sharp cross court angled shot, playing balls down the middle is a simple way to take control of our opponents’ side of the court.
Examples of point play situations which provide opportunities to hit down the middle are when we have a ball which we can volley with a contact point above the net at the no volley zone and third ball shots.
Here are a few reasons why I feel playing down the middle is a wise choice of shots.
Playing down the middle is a high percentage shot. By hitting down the middle, I greatly reduce the chances of missing a shot wide or long. Fundamentally speaking, the only way I can miss is by hitting the ball into the net.
Hitting down the middle of the court forces our opponents to have to make a decision as to who should (or ultimately for us, who should have) played the ball.
Playing down the middle of the court helps to prevent our opponents from moving us laterally with extreme angle shots.
Two important things to remember when hitting a ball down the middle are:
Take your time. By this I mean don’t rush through the shot. While there are times I want to jump all over a shot early and catch my opponents out of position, there are often times when it is beneficial for me to wait for my opponents to commit to a position before I strike the ball. Either way, I want to make sure that I take the time to execute a solid well-placed shot effectively and confidently.
In addition to taking our time, one of the most important aspects of hitting a good shot down the middle is to remember that “placement precedes power”. The game is full of bangers who love to hit the ball as hard as they can. However, outside of the fact that they are attempting to intimidate us by hitting the ball right at us, for the most part these players have very little (if any) actual control over where their shot is going. If you have ever had the chance to watch some championship level pickleball, you will notice that when the Pro’s hit the ball hard, they hit it with premeditated, pinpoint precision.
With all of that understood, the best way to prevent an opponent from banging a ball right at us is by precisely placing our shot in the middle of the court right at, or just behind our opponent’s feet.
My last advice on the subject, (defensively speaking), is to dink to the middle of the court in the kitchen whenever you are laterally pulled out of position and need to re-set the point.
So, divide and conquer your opponents by hitting down the middle of their side of the court. Your percentages of unforced errors, (aka, missing shots), will go down and the number of points you are winning will go up.
Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years’ experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Naples Pickleball Center and Training Academy at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.