Pickleball Strategy: Tips & Techniques to Win

Sana Sabir
November 4, 2022
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Pickleball Strategy: Tips & Techniques to Win - 4 players are playing pickleball in a doubles match 1024x653

Even if you are a complete beginner, one of the simplest approaches to improving your pickleball game is to start practicing some advanced pickleball strategies. Improving your game as a newbie is actually easy if you follow the right direction. The key is to adopt certain excellent pickleball techniques and skills.

Wondering what is the best pickleball strategy for beginners? How to increase the chances of your winning? No worries!

In this blog, I’ll share the best pickleball strategy tips from basics to advanced. So it doesn’t matter even if you’re a beginner player, you just need to follow them and see the improvements in no time!

Key Takeaways!

  • You should avoid leaving a gap in the middle between yourself and your partner while playing. This will make it difficult for your opponents to take advantage of the space. 
  • Always attack the weaker side of your opponents. In most cases, it is their backhand side.
  • A deep serve into the service box will force your opponents to go back behind the baseline—making it difficult for them to return the serve. 
  • During rallies and in between shots, you and your mate should interact with one another by calling “I Go,” “Mine,” “You,” or “Yours.”
  • The smartest way to put your opponent in trouble is by hitting the ball over the net and between the middle lines. 
  • The third shot drop is perhaps the most difficult approach to accomplish of all the methods. To hit this shot perfectly, the player must hit the ball in such a way that it lands in the kitchen area of the rival.

Play Smart Pickleball

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As mentioned above, a good high-level pickleball strategy is essential for winning the match. The following are the five most useful pickleball strategy tips for any player:

  1. When serving and returning the serve, always strike deep.
  2. As often as you can, strike at the left foot of your opponent.
  3. Avoid low to high shots to prevent providing your opponent an opportunity to attack the ball.
  4. If you’re doubtful, hit the opponent’s backhand and down the middle.
  5. Make it to the net and simply keep the ball in play.

Even if you only apply the above five easy techniques, no issue how unskilled you are, your team will win more matches. Don’t believe me? Try them yourself!

There are, however, still more fundamental pickleball serving strategies that anybody may adopt. The pickleball techniques and skills listed below are ones that all skilled players practice game after game. However, only because skilled players utilize them does not imply that they are difficult. In reality, the techniques I’ll discuss in detail today may be applied by almost any player— regardless of their skill level.

To make things simple, I’ll explain each approach like we are playing a doubles game. Are you ready? Let’s learn them one by one!

Improve your Pickleball Serve

Pickleball Strategy: Tips & Techniques to Win - a player is serving in doubles pickleball match

The first approach revolves around the opening shot of every rally — the serve obviously

We distinguish pickleball game from others because of its underhand serve. That being said, it is critical to have exceptionally good serve accuracy. Why? Because, unlike in tennis, you have just one opportunity to land your serve in the right service area. Furthermore, the serve is the only shot in this game over which you have total control. The serve is therefore one stroke on the court that you should fully master with practice and achieve a high level of accuracy for.

In addition to ensuring that your serve lands in the appropriate service box, it’s essential to offer yourself a benefit on the serve by making it harder for your opponents to return the serve. 

Consider the following two suggestions to make it challenging for your opponent to return the serve:

  • Attack the weaker side of your opponent: As most players possess strong command over forehand strikes than their backhand strikes, you should attack the weaker side of your opponents. Yeah, I’m referring to their backhand side.
  • A deep serve into the service box: The main objective when serving is to place the ball in a difficult spot for your opponents to return, ideally forcing them to go back behind the baseline. A deep serve into the service box will do just that. However, don’t make the mistake of hitting your serve out of bounds by providing yourself with too little room for error.

To learn more about how to improve your serve, please read our detailed article on pickleball serving rules.

Play Smarter, not Harder

If you don’t want your opponents to take advantage of the space, avoid leaving a gap in the middle between yourself and your partner. Furthermore, you should make a left-to-right movement together with your mate. I’ve found that visualizing an 8-foot rope linking you to your mate is a good technique. 

All in all, it is essential to maintain a safe gap between you and your teammate and you should move in sync with your partner and continually adjust your position to cover all of the courts. But remember, rather than sprinting all around the court and rushing to fill in the gaps, save stamina by strategically covering the court. Close the gaps and make it difficult for your opponent to benefit.

But wait! There is more to learn…

Rushing and sweating may give the impression that you’re playing better or harder than the opposition right? But if you think patiently and determine where the ball would go and making it more difficult for the opposing side to get chances can be far more effective than playing hard. That is what we call playing smart.

This is also an important technique for older players. So, it doesn’t matter if you can’t move as quickly as you used to— remember that a senior player may outperform a stronger, younger, and faster player by performing smarter on the court.

Communication is Key

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In a doubles game, effective communication with your teammate is another best approach that is essential to success. During rallies and in between shots, you and your mate should interact with one another.

Wondering how? Follow the below strategies:

  • Develop the practice of calling “I Go,” “Mine,” “You,” “Yours” or a similar phrase before each shot, — particularly if you are competing with a new partner or if either of you is left-handed or the other is right-handed.
  • Make a decision over who will handle lobs. Even if the lob lies on the opposite side of the court, the speedier player may take it.
  • Moving to your mate’s side of the field and calling “Switch” will save you time since staying there for the next drive is quicker than running back to your side. However, be careful to position yourself correctly before the following rally starts (depending on the score).
  • Decide who will be responsible for handling shots that land in the court’s center. The player holding the paddle should stand in the middle and be ready to accept shots that come over the centerline. When playing with a left-handed and a right-handed partner, both backhands and forehands should be in the center.
  • If a ball shot high looks to be going out, alert your partner by saying “Bounce it!” If you’re certain the ball is heading out, yell “Out!” or “No!” before it hits the court.
  • After the rally, boost team confidence by praising your teammate for good performance. Don’t ever blame your mate for mistakes; it only makes things worse.
  • Before a match, in between points, or after a break, the team should discuss its plan, including which opponent to attack. This will allow the team to establish a shared objective and show that it is acting as a unit rather than as two individuals.

3rd Shot Strategy

Pickleball is a mental game; scoring more than your opponent in it requires strategic planning. You probably would have got a great experience in standard shots like backhand and forehand, but putting the rival in difficulty could only be done by pickleball 3rd shot strategy. 

3rd shot strategy often comes after returning the serve, and the mechanism to hit this shot is a little frisky. To hit this shot perfectly, the player must hit the ball in such a way that it lands in the kitchen area of the rival. This minimizes the opportunity for the opponent to hit it back with the same force and trajectory, and ultimately it will make you score a point. In other words, this huge gap is known as a long dink that is impossible to receive and return simultaneously.

Mastering this shot would help you win at critical stages; however, this isn’t simple. A player has to learn various tricks to master this shot. 

Show Patience 

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Ah! Patience would be the hardest thing to take control of in this game. Being an impatient sportsman would always get you in trouble, especially in Pickleball. So remember, if you want perfection in your 3rd shot strategy, you must show perseverance. 

If you cannot throw a ball blown down in the kitchen area of the opponent, then this will never be an ending journey to hit 3rd shot. Therefore, staying relaxed will help you prevent errors.

Over the Pickleball Net, Between the Lines & Mostly Down the Middle

Do you know how to keep scoring points by putting your opponent always at risk? By hitting the ball over the net and between the middle lines. This is the smartest way to put the opponent in trouble and make them unable to return the ball properly. 

Hitting the ball in the middle is always fruitful; do you know why? Because the net is at the lowest point in the middle of the court, which increases the highest ratio of errors. The middle shots are also amazingly beneficial if there is a significant distance between opponents or if you can have your opponents struggle over who should take the middle shot.

Letting the Ball Go

Sometimes “letting go” is the only way to win in the long term. The same is the rule applied in this game too. If you want to master 3rd shot strategy, you have to let the outing balls go. This is the most significant advice if you’re playing against an opponent that likes to drive the ball. Drive shots allow less opportunity for players to hit the ball before the bounce. So playing such shots is always risky; let the out balls go.

Here are the ways to do so,

Talk to your partner

If you’re playing a doubles game, you will have a better option to communicate with your partner. Communicate to your partner about leaving the ball if it comes in the outer direction. Scream out “Let it go” if you witness a drive in the air.

Leave shoulder height ball

There are some shots that go above shoulder height, and such shots are supposed to leave. So if your opponent strikes above shoulder height, let it go. Those drives usually happen if done from a non-volley zone.

Watch out for the game pattern

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Another best strategy for pickleball is to analyze your opponent’s playing behavior. What I mean is you need to focus on their game method, how they play, and what initial spots they choose to serve/return the ball. Similarly, observe whether their shots are driven or quick. 

Watching your opponent’s game pattern will help you significantly predict the upcoming shot. And ultimately, you’ll be able to surprise your rival effectively.

Watch out for contacting height

Consider letting go of a drive that one of your opponents strikes and sits below the net. This is due to the fact that your opponent will need to hit up on a low-sitting ball in order to get it across the net. By striking high, they will send the ball in a direction that will most likely take it beyond bounds.

Body language

Along with observing game patterns, analyzing body language is crucial in anticipating the next move. In this game, understanding your opponent’s next move is extremely helpful to react accordingly.

For instance, the paddle swing tells a lot about how the player is coming towards your way. Watch out at what particular angle your opponent serves the ball. Watching out their body gestures as it tells you a lot about how they will proceed. So make sure you observe your opponent’s body language correctly.

Pickleball Strategies Based on Players’ Skill Level

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If you don’t play in tournaments, you probably might not know about the player skill level in Pickleball. But don’t worry! You can easily decide and select your ratings using the definitions provided by USA Pickleball Association.

The skill levels often termed as ratings, are employed to determine each player’s ability level. This is crucial during professional tournaments because players should be matched up with other players who have comparable skill levels. Above all, it would not be appropriate to pair a player having high playing ratings with a player having low rankings.

There are certain factors which determine your overall skill level. These factors include:

  • Your playing experience.
  • How well you follow the rules.
  • The moves you are most at ease doing on the court.

No matter what skill level you’re at in your game right now, you can always improve your game by following the basic pickleball strategy. Let’s begin exploring some of the best practices for beginners to advance.

Pickleball Strategy for Beginners

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If you’re just starting out with this game and want to improve your play, no worries. Follow the below cool approaches with your mate and improve your results in no time.

Stay Alerted

The first pickleball strategy for beginners we have is all about discipline. Yes, you read it right! Don’t underestimate the power of being alerted while playing this game. Always pay attention, and be prepared for strikes to come. 

Here are some pointers on how to act in court:

  • To get started, bend your knees slightly while standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • You should not place your entire body weight on your heels.
  • Be sure to stretch to relax your muscles and warm up before starting.
  • The ball and paddle should be angled up and away from your body. But don’t get it too far away. Try to keep it close to your chest.
  • By practicing your posture and keeping your mind ready, you can develop reflexes for hitting accurate shots. It’s best to stay in a neutral position as you can’t predict what kind of shot your opponent will make.

Be Gentle

The most common mistake that individuals make is they strike the ball excessively stronger than required when they become anxious. If you, too, do so, you’re not alone. It’s very common for most players to strike the ball as strongly as possible when it appears to be headed in their direction— but this will never work.

Instead, you should follow a basic strategy for pickleball and concentrate on continuously putting the ball in the court of the opposite team by passing it over the net. As long as you can consistently accomplish that, the rest you’ll learn as you gain experience.

No Man’s Land

“No man’s land” refers to the area between the kitchen and the baseline.  During intense games, you should avoid becoming stuck in this area. 

Wondering why? Here are some of the arguments why to avoid it:

  • You’ll get opponents’ quick reactions.
  • You’ll leave the space in the back zone.
  • The space left in the front non-volley region.
  • Opposition can easily target your feet.

All of these things lead to the conclusion that you should avoid this area as much as possible.

Pickleball Dink Strategy

Now that you know all the basic approaches you must follow as a beginner, let’s discuss an intermediate pickleball strategy. We call it a pickleball dinking strategy. So what it is? Let’s understand:

If you want to keep your opponents from being able to attack with an aggressive shot, it is crucial to keep the ball low. And this requires a strong pickleball dink strategy. One suggestion for effective dinking is to strike the majority of your dinks crosscourt rather than straight down in the court. 

This is due to the following reasons: 

  • A cross-court dink can go well over the lowest point of the net— that is the center.
  • You’re striking in a natural direction.
  • In comparison to a straight dink, you’ll have much more court region to dink into. 

All in all, the crosscourt dink is far more flexible and does not require as much perfection. Therefore, you should focus more on becoming an expert at the crosscourt dink.

Note:

You should remember that all your dinks should not be crosscourt. To keep your approach surprising, you should change your dinks (or other hits, like as an attacking lob) occasionally.

Pickleball Stacking Strategy

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If you don’t know about pickleball stacking strategy, don’t get confused. It’s simple than you think. This approach can only be used in doubles matches and even beginner players can take advantage of it. Wondering what is it? Let’s understand the definition:

To put simply, stacking refers to when two players line up or stack together on the same side of the field either during the return of serve or serve. Therefore, each player stands on the same side of the court and whenever the ball is played, both players assume their desired position to gain an advantage or to launch their best stroke (forehand).

Stacking has several rules and variants, but the fundamental purpose is to reach a place where you have an edge or where you may earn a point using your best shot.

FAQs

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What are the 5 key strategies to help you in becoming a better pickleball player?

1. Take the appropriate position and hold it.
2. After the third shot, go as fast as you can to the non-volley region line.
3. Make your serve better.
4. Improve your serve-returning techniques.
5. Make your third shot a drop shot.

What is the most important shot in pickleball?

In pickleball, the third shot—often referred to as the third drop shot—is known to be the most important shot. If done successfully, the third shot drop will enable the ball to go through the net while reducing the advantage of your opponent. All in all, this ultimately results in either a winning or losing point.

What are the three 3 key things you should focus on in pickleball?

1. You should have a small goal before you begin playing. It is because your mind lacks focus in the absence of a definite goal.
2. Maintain your concentration towards the ball.
3. The final strategy is to strike strongly as if you’re striking the 3 balls. While playing every shot, you should extend the arm forward so the paddle is aimed straight at the goal.

What are the 5 common mistakes that beginner pickleball players often make?

1. The most common mistake that novice players commit is being inconsistent. They believe they can attack more aggressively, but their fundamental strikes lack consistency— causing the game to halt.
2. Ensuring that they strike the middle of the paddling.
3. Delay in returning the paddle to make the shot.
4. Standing steady but not moving in relation to the ball 
5. No one has a plan to win the point. They immediately respond and hope to earn points by smashing the ball directly into their opponent’s head. They should instead put plans into action, understanding their opponent’s body language, and identifying their weaknesses.

Wrap Up

I believe you’ve found this blog post useful. You’ll notice that many of these pickleball tactics are straightforward, making them easy to adopt for any player of any level of skill.

Still, bringing these approaches into action requires practice. It requires practice to hit your opponent at his or her feet. Again, the approach is simple, yet implementation requires deliberate effort. The more you practice, the simpler it will become.

The third shot drop is perhaps the most difficult approach to accomplish of all the methods I’ve mentioned. It’s probably the most challenging shot in the game. So don’t be disheartened. Give yourself time to practice, and try the other approaches I outlined in the blog.

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Sana Sabir

Hi, I’m Sana Sabir. I’m a freelance content writer from Pakistan. I am passionate about fitness and sports, so much so that it’s the reason my career has taken off. My background is in business studies and I love to write about fitness and sports-related topics.

I also write articles on other niches like healthcare, fashion, and lifestyle. Being a fitness lover who has always been fascinated by the human body and how it works, I had always wanted to be a fitness writer since an early age. I enjoy trying new sports, one of my favorites of which is pickleball.Ā 

I’ve been writing for 3 years now, and my work has been published on many fitness, health, and lifestyle blogs. I always entertain my readers with some interesting and informational articles. To ensure my articles are genuine and relevant, I perform in-depth research, explore case studies, and read books on the topic before writing. Besides writing, I love painting, cooking, and gardening.Ā 

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