In last week’s column titled “Soft Hands,” I focused on old school serve, volley tennis and discussed how to gracefully and magically utilize serve and volley strategies to take the wind out of the sails of “power players.”
I explained how to overpower hard-hitting opponents, by taking speed off the ball and placing it on the other side of the net just out of their reach.
Because of the third ball rule in pickleball, while we cannot actually serve and volley as we can in tennis, we can still apply the strategy of taking speed off the ball and hitting an open space on the court.
First off, we need to be hitting to visual zones rather than to specific spots on the court. Here are two examples of how to effectively hit to an open space utilizing a visual zone.
If you have a ball with a contact point below the level of the net, aim between the two players, attempting to make the ball travel on a downwards trajectory as it is crossing the top of the net. Think of it like kicking a field goal through the uprights, your opponents are the uprights and the net is the crossbar.
If you are striking a ball with a contact point above the level of the net, aim right at your opponent’s feet. The purpose of both of these shots is to force your opponents to have to move away from—instead of towards—the point of contact with the ball.
The result of both of these shots is to make your opponent’s hit a defensive shot and allow you and your partner to take offensive command of the point.
Remember, you’re not necessarily trying to win the point with these shots. You’re efficiently and effectively placing the ball into an open space, just out of your opponent’s reach. The rule of thought for these shots is “placement precedes power.”
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 Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.