However, in the sport of pickleball, because the court is only 44 feet in length, lobbing your opponents from the baseline can be very challenging for several reasons. I will address those reasons later in this article, but first let’s clarify the two different types of lobs.
In the sport of tennis, I encourage my students to understand the difference between a defensive and an offensive lob, and to be able to intelligently and strategically utilize both as needed.A defensive lob is a shot we utilize to buy some time, get back into position, and hopefully regain a neutral or offensive position from which we can continue the point. It is a shot that should generally be hit high in the air with a shorter trajectory, utilizing a sharp/ pinpoint apex of the flight path that will assure the ball will land inside the lines.
An offensive lob should be hit at a lower height in the air with a flatter/longer trajectory, with an apex of the flight path that is just getting over the top of the reach of our opponent and (hopefully) landing inside the lines.As a Formula 1 race fan and driving enthusiast, I personally relate lobs to driving through a corner in a car.
A defensive lob is like taking a 45 or 90 degree sharp turn; we must find the apex of the corner, turn very sharply and exit out of the corner.
An offensive lob is like going through a long sweeping curve. We don’t turn the wheel as much as we do in a sharp turn, and we should accelerate out of the turn from the apex and utilize the momentum of our speed to carry us through the end of the turn — much like topspin does on an offensive lob in tennis.
So now that we know the difference in defensive and offensive lobs, let’s discuss why a lob from the baseline in pickleball can be somewhat challenging to accomplish.Number one, as I have already stated, the lack of length of the court does not provide the distance with which to effectively get the ball up/over our opponents and back down into the court, and inside the lines. In addition to the space limitations, we are not able to apply heavy topspin to a pickleball as we would a tennis ball. Also, because most all pickleball play here in our area is outdoor, there is the factor of wind. Remember, a pickleball is actually a whiffle ball!
Even though lobs in pickleball can be executed from the baseline, when they are attempted from that part of the court, it is usually due more to desperation from bad positioning than it is from strategic savvy.
While accomplished pickleball players can strategically and successfully hit lobs from the mid court, lobs are more effective and should actually be executed from the area around the seven-foot line. From this position, even though we are attempting to hit an offensive/winner with the lob, due to the limited length of the court which we have to execute the shot, we actually want to hit more of a defensive style lob, using a sharp/pinpoint apex with a higher flight path, which will assure the ball will land inside the lines.
We also have the luxury of the fact that once we do get the ball over the heads if our opponents, the lack of bounce from the plastic pickleball somewhat prevents them from the opportunity to run the shot down and somehow keep the ball in play.
Like a good offensive topspin lob from the baseline in tennis, a well-hit lob in pickleball is a shot that needs to be stealthy and well disguised until you pull the trigger and execute the shot. Just like a tennis player lobbing an opponent who is all over the net, I want my stroke to look like I’m going to hit a passing shot, right up until the last second, when I surprise them and throw up the lob.
In pickleball, I want it to look like I’m gong to hit a dink, right up until the last second, when I surprise them and throw up the lob.
But beware, because just like in tennis, if you don’t effectively get the ball over your opponent’s head, you are probably going to be history!
So that brings us back to the difference between an offensive and a defensive lob.
With a defensive lob, I am expecting my opponent to hit an overhead and I am hoping to have the opportunity to hit another shot and get myself back into the point.
With an offensive lob, I am attempting to hit a winner and finish the point.
Read my column in upcoming issues of Coastal Breeze News to learn the proper techniques needed to execute a good lob in pickleball.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.