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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mark's Third Shot Drop

Yesterday we looked at a comprehensive review of the third shot based on a video from Jeff Shank. Today we will drill down a little more by looking only at the third shot drop as discussed in Pickleball Strategy: Third Shot Drop, a video from Mark Renneson. 

Many coaches, like Jeff Shank in yesterday's video, talk about gaining the kitchen as the primary goal of the third shot. Mark's focus is using the shot to prevent good net players from driving the third shot back for winners. Hitting a hard groundstroke from the baseline toward opponents at the kitchen line often results in an even harder ball hit back to the serving team's feet. Hitting a third shot lob from the baseline often results in an overhead smash. The drop shot is a ball that stays below the top of the net and forces the opponent to hit their return upward rather than downward.

The goal of the drop is not to win the point, but to keep from losing it. When opponents hit up on a ball, they can't hit an offensive shot. Of course, all drop shots aren't perfect and a bad third shot can result in a hard downward shot too. Still, even that bad shot allows the serving team a fighting chance. The worst third shot is the one into the net that causes immediate loss of serve.

A good drop shot does more than neutralize an opponent. When an opponent hits up on a ball, they may hit it a little harder than intended and provide the serving team with an opportunity to make an offensive shot. Also, opponents concerned about hitting a high ball may cause them to hit it too low or too softly and dump it in the net.

With regard to technique, the drop shot differs from a regular groundstroke. The groundstroke is hit relatively flat to just clear the 3' net while the drop shot has a pronounced arc peaking at 5'-6' on the server's side of net. Instead of driving the ball forward with a closed paddle face (perpendicular to the court and parallel to the net), the paddle face is slightly open to cause the ball to rise off of the paddle.

In addition to the lift from an open paddle face, the ball should be struck from a low stance with a low to high paddle arc.

In order to gain the height of the arc with a soft touch, the ball is lifted with an upward movement of both the body and the paddle. A low stance allows the legs to assist in the lifting process. The paddle also moves upward pivoting from the shoulder. The arm and wrist is locked in place. Using wrist movement makes it harder to develop the consistent sweet spot hit needed on this delicate shot. Note the upward movement in both the paddle and body positions during the swing pictured below.

Mark makes one last point about where to hit the drop shot. He states that the target is bigger when hitting crosscourt and that makes for an easier shot than hitting it down the line.

This is a shot that is almost 100% feel, and that feel can only be developed by practicing. Good luck with it.

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