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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Power Vs Control - Over-use of Power

Many, if not most, players misuse power when playing pickleball. This is especially true of beginning and intermediate level players who get enamored with power, likely because they are able to overwhelm equal or lower level teams. The reality is that advancing skill players use less power. There is one simple reason for playing a softer game - it provides more control...and more control helps to prevent the # 1 reason for losing a rally - an unforced error.

Joe Baker has a video (Doubles Pickleball Strategy 102 - Smart Pickleball Vol. 2, Powerto explain the proper use of power. Joe provides some of the best pickleball instructional videos I have seen, mainly because he goes further into the depths of strategy than most. I have used 2 of his videos in my posts - Doubles Strategy and The Basic Overall Strategy of Doubles. The Doubles Strategy post includes Joe's video Doubles Pickleball Strategy 101-How to Play Smart Pickleball, Ten Tips that is recommended viewing before proceeding through this post on power. I will cover the over-use of power portion in today's post and the under-use of power in tomorrow's post.

As mentioned above, the main reason for loss of a rally is an unforced error, usually into the net. Joe states that unforced errors result from using power inappropriately - a hard shot when a soft shot is better and a soft shot when a hard shot is better. Let's go through how too much power is generally used on some shots.

The Serve

The slide states "Unless you have extreme consistency with your serve, it makes no sense to use a fast serving speed. To serve deeper, you can hit the ball with a higher trajectory rather than hitting it hard on a flat trajectory."

The Return of Serve

Similar to the serve, a fast and low return of serve adds to the risk of hitting into the net.

Most high level players use an arcing return of serve instead. Note the ball height in the red circle below.

What makes the decision even worse is that the potential reward is low. A deep return is better than a fast return because it allows you more time to get to the non-volley zone line before the third shot comes back.

As you progress toward higher skill levels, the serve and return of serve should never be missed and should be consistently hit into the deeper 1/2 of the service boxes. A slower arcing shot is the key to success as it widens the window through which the ball must pass.

Hitting from Deep against Net Players

A common strategy used when deep in the court is to blast the shot at/through the opponents at the net. More often than not this results in an unforced error with a hit into the net or an opponents' return that comes back at your feet. Instead, the proper shot is an arcing shot into the kitchen, preferably toward the backhand side of the opponent. The general rule of thumb is that when you must hit up on a ball, hit softly; when you can hit down on a ball as with a smash, hit it hard. The usual shot from deep in the court is an upward or level motion and should be hit softly with the arc shown below. Note the peak of the arc is well behind the net and the ball is descending when crossing the net.

The above discussion covers the over-use of power. Tomorrow's post will cover the under-use of power. Enjoy the video.

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