Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Without a plan, there is no attack...

Attack. The word brings to mind violent images. In fact, the definition of attack is "an aggressive and violent action against a person or place". But pickleball is a genteel game so violence does not apply, right? Well, violently attacking players is certainly not part of the game. But attacking the ball is another matter altogether.

"Attackable" is a word I have seen enter the pickleball lexicon recently when discussing pickleball strategy. To the best of my recollection, I have not used the term before. But I do like the mental image it conveys as it applies to pickleball. I like it so much that it will be a part of my normal descriptions so it makes sense to define and explain it.

Also part of the lexicon is the opposite term - unattackable. An unattackable ball is one that a player must hit upward in order to get it over the net. There is little opportunity to drive the ball without the risk of the opponents attacking it or it going out of bounds.

In other words, a good defensive shot keeps the ball below the top of the net. Shots that accomplish this include dinks and drop shots. The following photo shows an extreme example of a short and low shot. The only option for the player is to hit it nearly straight up. His objective should be a dink to make his ball unattackable but it easy to add just a little too much oomph and create a winning opportunity.

The next photo is a less extreme example. The player is still making contact below the net and must hit the ball up. Again, his goal should be to hit an unattackable ball to his opponent with a dink.

In contrast, an attackable ball is one that a player can drive downward. It creates the opportunity to make an offensive play to put the opponents at a disadvantage or even end the rally with a winner. From a player perspective, the "attackable zone" is the area above 8" or so over the net, as shown below. Proper execution of a shot in this zone should create a winner.

The net, the NVZ, and geometry dictates the height at which a ball becomes attackable. First, a ball must be above net height in order to drive it. Driving a ball below net height results in a ball in the net or out of bounds due to its upward angle. Second, a player hitting a drive with a volley or smash must stand behind the NVZ line, which is 7' from the net. This creates the need for more height in order to safely attack the ball.

If your opponents are at the opposite NVZ line, your target should be as low as possible, such as their feet. This requires an even higher ball to attack.

There remains one zone between the attackable ball and the unattackable ball. This area is shown below.

Many players will attack a ball in this zone. These shots are risky. These attacks are often hit hard enough to carry them out of bounds. The opponents' strategy should be to defend them with caution. Another attack is to hit the ball directly at an opponent so it doesn't go out of bounds. Opponents should be wary of this tactic and be prepared to evade the attack.

The principles of percentage pickleball would dictate that these balls should be hit with an offensive goal but not in full attack mode. As Aspen Kern advised in Aspen's Advice - Patience, "these balls mean you're winning and not that you have won...As long as I am hitting down, I am in control of the point and will try to build the advantage until I get the ball I am looking for, then and only then is it checkmate."

I think it is safe to say that the biggest mistake I see (and do) is trying to end the rally too soon. I'm starting to imagine seeing the ball through eyes on my paddle. If those eyes cannot see a clear path to the opponent's courts, the ball is unattackable. But, if those eyes do see a clear path to the opponents' court - and especially their feet, then the ball is attackable.

No comments:

Post a Comment