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Monday, December 12, 2016

Revisiting the Dropshot

The last few weeks have included discussions on the serve and the return of serve (in conjunction with groundstrokes). These topics were chosen based on a review of the Sarah Ansboury article 3 Ball Pickleball Drill: 1-2-3 Drill and my follow-up article titles Deep, Deep, Drop, Dink. We will continue the review of the most basic shots in pickleball with an article from Jeff Napier called Pickleball – The Dropshot.

Pickleball – The Dropshot

As you know, the serve must bounce in your court before you can return it. And, your return must bounce in the opponents’ court before they can hit it back. After that, you can do anything you want. Most beginners believe the best response for the third hit is to hit it hard and low to the opponents backcourt. As it turns out, that is seldom the most successful strategy, especially when playing with experts. The approach they usually use, for good reason, is called the “dropshot.” The idea is to drop the ball just over the net, so it ideally lands in the non-volley zone, and does not bounce high. you then follow your shot by coming quickly to the non-volley line.

This initiates a classic quality pickleball rally, in which the ball is hit softly with control back and forth within the non-volley zone until someone makes a mistake. The common mistakes are to hit the ball into the net, or to hit it so it is high enough that the opponet can smash it, or place it where you cannot reach.

Beginners and some intermediate players will assume that the drop shot is not important. They may even assume that it is guaranteed to fail because they do not yet have the skill to place drop shots well. This assumption is actually OK when you’re playing a game with non-skilled players, although even for them, the drop shots will generally confound them. But with advanced players, you really need a good drop shot. Otherwise, they’ll be able to come to the non-volley line while keeping you in the backcourt, and that’s not a successful place to be.

One of the best ways to learn the drop shot is to purposely practice it. During warmup, or with someone who is willing to help, try rallying with you in the backcourt, and the other person at the non-volley line, where you try to execute drop shots continuously, and the other person returns the balls to your backcourt.

If you find the opponent has an overwhelming response to your drop shots, either smashing them or placing the ball strategically, your drop shots are going too high over the net, or too fast. Slow them down so they’ll drop soon enough, and keep them low over the top of the net, so they won’t bounce too high.

If you often hit your drop shots into the net, you might notice what’s happening when you make the shots. Most people with this problem are moving forward at the time they hit the ball. Instead, make your move forward, if necessary, as early as possible, so you can come to a stop, and focus on a good hit. You might also try watching your paddle strike the ball.

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