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Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Third Shot - Summary #1

I have often noted that more pickleball information becomes available daily. I try to keep the blog updated with both new ideas and new perspectives on old ideas. Those pertinent to the third shot are archived in Chapter 4: The Third Shot, the third chapter of the "book" from A Pickleball Life that can be found along the left side of the blog. While I like the idea of the book chapters - it was mine, after all - I love the idea of an occasional synopsis of where we are...based on the archive to-date. This is the first synopsis about the third shot. We'll start with a list of the most important learnings and then summarize their sources.

The 10 Commandments about the Third Shot
  1. Hit a drop shot when opponents are at the kitchen line.
  2. Hit the drop shot high and deep enough to clear the net. Do not hit into the net.
  3. Hit the drop shot softly with an arc about 6' at its peak (when hitting from the baseline).
  4. Get into proper position before the shot.
  5. Hit a low driving shot instead of a drop when the return of serve is short.
  6. Target the opponent's backhand, the area between opponents, or diagonally cross-court.
  7. Use a topspin drive to set up a fifth shot drop.
  8. Stay behind the baseline until the return of serve is hit.
  9. Split-step into the ready position while advancing to the kitchen line.
  10. Practice, practice, and practice some more.

In The Third Shot, we learned that there are options for the serving team including a low hard shot, a lob, and a drop shot. The low shot fails to attain the goal of the serving team gaining the kitchen line and the lob from the baseline is very low percentage. The best option - in normal circumstances - is a difficult-to-learn drop shot. The technique of hitting a drop shot is to open the paddle face and lift the ball in a gentle arc such that it lands in the opponents' kitchen.

In Third Shot Drop, Prem Carnot tells us that the drop shot is the most effective way to move from a defensive position to an offensive position. This is because the shot allows the serving team to move from the baseline while forcing their opponents to hit up on the ball. Prem's technique includes hitting the ball late after its bounce, lifting with your knees, scooping the ball upward with little backswing, and hitting the ball in an arc peaking on your side of the net in order to reduce the risk of hitting into the net.

In Third Shot Drop with Sarah, we learned of Sarah's 3 Ps for hitting the drop shot - Preparation (getting ready for the shot), Pace (hit a soft shot), and Placement (thinking about a target). Sarah also recommends hitting the ball as it falls after the bounce because the energy of the return has dissipated. Sarah's technique includes pointing the paddle downward and hitting the ball with an arc peaking at 6'-7'.

In Mark's Third Shot Drop, Mark Renneson gives his take on technique, using the same open paddle face and upward body lift described by others. The swing is from the shoulder and does not use the wrist at all.

In When Drop Shots go Bad, we read that the difficulty of the drop shot means that it frequently will allow the opponent to hit an offensive return. Prem Carnot discusses ways to anticipate whether the drop shot is good or bad by watching the height and arc of the ball. Based on that assessment, players can move forward to the kitchen line or take a defensive position.

In Third Shot Drop = Winning, the importance of the drop shot was reinforced by Dave Weinbach in an interview in which he stated "The most important shot in pickleball, really, is the third shot drop, and I don't think people practice it enough back at home. It isn't an easy drill to do, but if you can effectively hit a third shot drop in the kitchen, then your partner and you can get into the kitchen line where you have to be to play effective pickleball."


In Third Shot Review, Jeff Shank provides a comprehensive review of the third shot starting from pre-shot positioning to advancing to the kitchen line. Jeff recommends that serving-team players remain behind the baseline until the return of serve is hit. Then, they should move to the proper position to hit a drop shot that allows getting the positional advantage at the kitchen. If a shot fails to allow getting fully to the line, stop in the ready position when the opponent is about to hit. The non-hitting partner should take 2 steps into the court while watching his partner's shot to judge whether to stay in position or charge to the line. 

In Revisiting the Dropshot, Jeff Napier summarizes many of the previous points with particular emphasis on the importance of the shot.

In Third Shot Drive, Mark Renneson discusses the low hard shot as an option and the process used to decide the proper shot. A low driving shot is appropriate when the serving-team player has a strong groundstroke and the return of serve is short. A driving shot from mid-court still allows the players to gain the kitchen while putting the opponents in a defensive position.

In Deep or Drop?, the drop versus drive decision is again discussed from Prem Carnot's viewpoint. Prem emphasizes that the proper time to hit a drop shot is only when the opponents are at the kitchen line. When 1 (or both) opponents are back from the net, a deeper shot is appropriate. This shot keeps them deep and at a disadvantage.

In Pickleball Statistical Analysis - Drop Shots, we learned about a data review that proved that drop shots are the best option for the third shot. Statistics show that teams that successfully hit more drop shots than their opponents won between 7 and 9 games out of 10 games played. The analysis also showed that all drop shots are not equally effective. Drop shots hit to the middle of the court (in the kitchen), to opponents' backhands, and hit cross court (diagonally) to the corner of the kitchen are "by far the most effective in neutralizing the opponents’ returns".

In A Different Third Shot Strategy, a discussion of how improved equipment allowing more power and spin has changed the third shot strategy. It now includes a driving topspin shot that still forces the opponent to hit up on the ball while allowing the serving team to advance several steps forward. Even that small advance makes the drop shot much easier and is now the fifth shot drop.

In The Basic Overall Strategy of Doubles - Phase 2, we learned about phase 2 of most points - "The Service Team Struggle to the Net". Again, the drop shot is emphasized as the best option to gain the net.


The difficulty of the drop shot means practice is required to get the feel for it and work toward mastering it. Several posts provide drills to develop the shot, including Third Shot Drop Drills, Drop Shot Drills, and Drop Shot Drill from Deb.

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