I refer to this direction from baseline to baseline, as north and south.
Like tennis, a serve in pickleball must be directed diagonally to the cross court service box. However, returning a serve in pickleball is different than returning a serve in tennis. This is due to the fact that the serving team must let the return of serve bounce, which provides the returner the option of going either cross court to the server, or down the line to the partner; a shot that is not necessarily a viable option in tennis, where I usually avoid the net position player on the serving team and return my shot cross court to the server.I refer to this direction from sideline to sideline, as east and west.
I frequently see pickleball players continually (and unconsciously) return the serve back to the server, while never directing a return to the server’s partner.
There are several reasons why I may choose to direct my return to the server’s partner. Maybe, they are a left and righthanded team or I have noticed that the partner is the weaker player. Perhaps a strong crosswind is pushing my ball laterally to one side of the court, and I need a little safety margin to assure my return will land inside the lines.
Either way, I need to be able to direct my shots both north/south, as well as east/west, and utilize those shots to move my opponents both forward and backward or sideto side.
A simple way to comprehend directing your shots and your opponent’s move, is by using navigational direction. Think of it like driving directions to a location.
It’s easy nowadays. We ask our cell phone and it talks to us in its pleasant little voice… “Proceed north for two miles and turn left, proceed west for 500 feet and turn right,” etc.
Think of moving your opponents in regards to north and south or east and west. You can move them individually in one of these directions, or depending on the situation, you can blend the two together.
For instance when I am hitting dinks in the kitchen, there are times in which I may want to pull my opponent in close to the net. This would represent north/ south movement. There are other times when I want to pull my opponent off the side of the court; this would represent east/west movement.
There are also times where I may want to blend the two together and make my opponent move north/south, as well as east/ west, to push him back off of the seven foot line, as well as off the court laterally.
Just as importantly, I should also be aware of my own north/south positioning, because pickleball is not a groundstroke rally game, and the importance of my north/ south movement in regards to my positioning is vital to my ability to execute proper offensive strategies.
My east/west positioning is important as well, in order to provide myself the opportunity for forehands when hitting groundstrokes (a subject that I will cover in an upcoming article).
So give driving directions to your opponents. Make them move in the direction that you want them to move. You will be in control of more of the court and win more points!
Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis/Sports Juniors programs run year round, and offer classes for players ranging from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at email@example.com or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.