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Thursday, July 21, 2016

When Drop Shots go Bad

I have often said that the third shot drop is the hardest shot in the game. Even 5.0 players make mistakes with the shot. So what do you do when you hit a bad shot? Prem Carnot has an answer in his article What to Do When Your Drop Shot Doesn’t Drop.

Let’s admit it: Even if you are convinced about the merits of the third shot drop, sometimes you don’t hit a perfect drop shot. (ahem, perhaps even more often than not…)

And even if you believe you are (or actually are) amongst the blessed few who can drop them shot after shot like a pro basketball player sinking free throws, chances are you’ll be on the same side of the net sometime soon with someone else who can’t.

Many players are tempted to give up in despair when they or their partner hit a bad drop shot, but don’t let that be you.

Yes, you gotta get to non-volley line to control the point and no, a bad drop shot isn’t going to get you there in one move.  But it doesn’t mean you should give up.

Here’s what to do instead.

This is a question I get asked over and over in my clinics.  Here’s my answer.

Step 1: Assess Your Drop Shot Early (a.k.a. Figure Out What You Did Wrong ASAP So You Don’t Get Your Behind Kicked Pronto)

In order to defend against a bad drop shot, you’ve got to figure out that it was bad BEFORE your opponent whales the ball at your feet.

Makes sense, right?

So how can you figure it out BEFORE they eat it up for lunch?

Learn to predict the future.

This isn’t the first time I’ve taught about this.  (Read this article for more on predicting the future in pickleball.)

How can you predict the future?  Assess your shot early.  If you can assess your shot as bad AS the ball passes the net, that’s a little better than figuring it out when it hits your opponent’s paddle.  If you can assess your shot as the ball passes YOUR non volley line, that’s even better.

I always teach that the trajectory of a good drop shot should have the arc of the ball peaking over YOUR non-volley line, about 5′-6′ high, then dropping neatly into the kitchen about 1′-2′ from the net.

If this is what you are shooting for in a good drop shot, it tells you two things about a bad drop shot:

#1:) If the arch of the ball is higher than 5′-6′ as it crosses your non-volley line, you’re probably in for a bad shot.

#2) If your ball is not arcing UP on it’s way to your non-volley line, it’s probably not going to actually drop and head DOWN after it passes that line.

Step 2: Prepare to Defend Yourself

Okay, so you realize as the ball crosses your non volley line that you’ve hit a bad drop shot.

Now what?

Stop where you are and split step to the ready position as your opponent hits the ball. Then get your paddle down low in front of you and prepare to catch the ball with your paddle in front of your knees.

Catch the ball with your paddle? you might ask.

Yep, pretty much. You want to catch the ball with your paddle and scoop it back into another drop shot.

Step 3: Drop & Repeat

Go for that next drop shot, then, go back to Step 1 and Asses ASAP. If it’s a good drop shot, hustle all the way to the non volley line. If not, Prepare to Defend again, Drop & Repeat again.

So next time you miss your 3rd shot drop, don’t freak out. Just stay in the game, and keep working your way up the line, drop shot by drop shot.

Prem Carnot offers clinics, lessons & video analysis for pickleball players of all levels & especially for players of other racket sports who are new to the game. For FREE monthly pickleball tips & to find out what strategy the 2012 National Champion used to make his highly-skilled opponent look like a newbie (that you can use the next time you’re out on the court), go to

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