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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Targeting: The Experts on Third Shot Options

Be sure to positively identify your target before hitting the ball...

Last week I reinforced the return of serve concepts in my articles with advice from experts. Today's post will do the same with the options for the third shot

Deb Harrison has a video - Pickleball TipBit: Third Shot Options - in which she discusses alternatives to the drop shot, including the drive and the lob.

As I have previously stated, I am not a fan of the lob from the baseline unless the lobber is highly skilled at it. Prem Carnot has some advice about options in his article The First Commandment of the Third Shot (And It’s Not “Hit a Dropshot”). He seems to agree.
The First Commandment of the Third Shot
If even one your opponents is deep, keep them deep.
Don’t hit a drop shot on the third shot if your opponents are NOT at the net.
The strategic use of the drop shot is NOT to make your opponent run forward.
It is NOT to lure your opponent up to the net. (That’s about the worst thing you could do.)
In fact, you should NEVER use the third shot drop unless your opponents force you to (in which case it is, by far, the best shot to use).
Remember, your goal is ALWAYS to #1) Keep Your Opponents Back when Possible and #2) Get Up to the Net ASAP.
If your opponents are at the back of the court, then the best third shot you could hit is a deep shot to the feet of the person is farthest back (or if they are both back, then to the person who is on the move). This will keep them back and give you time to move up to the net.
The Rational FOR Hitting the Third Shot Drop
You Didn’t/Couldn’t Keep Your Opponents Back, so The Only Thing Left to Do is Focus on Getting Up to the Net
If you are playing against strong opponents, they will hit the second shot (the return of serve) and immediately rush up to the net.
If your opponents have moved up to the net, then you obviously didn’t/couldn’t keep them back.  (This doesn’t mean you aren’t playing smart, it just means that they ARE playing smart, too.)
When they are both at the net, and you are still back because you had to wait to let the return of serve bounce (Remember that pesky double bounce rule?) then, they are effectively forcing you to hit a third shot drop.
Because there are really only 3 possible shots you could hit in this scenario, of which the third shot drop is the best.  Let’s review your options:
#1) Hit a hard line drive/passing shot low over the net
If you are playing against someone who has NOT taken one of my clinics or bootcamps, you may get a point by hitting this shot, but once you play against someone who has their paddle up and is in the right position, they will eat up this shot like a kid eating a popsicle on a summer day, and it will come smashing back at your feet before you know what happened.
The faster you hit this shot, the faster it will come back at you, so this is not your best strategy because it doesn’t help you get up to the net.
#2) Hit a Lob Shot Over Their Heads
Again, this is rarely an effective strategy.  For one thing, it’s very difficult to hit a lob that is both shallow enough to land IN bounds and high enough to keep your opponents from smashing the ball back at your feet.  Second, even if you do manage to do that consistently, because you are at the back of your court when you hit your lob, your opponents have plenty of notice and therefore time to get to the back and return the lob deep, which only keeps you back.
This shot, if implemented perfectly, could buy you time to get up to the net, but given the level of difficulty, and the fact that it usually puts your opponents in an offensive position, it’s not one I recommend.
#3) Hit a Drop Shot
When your opponents are at the net and virtually force you to hit a third shot drop, you, in turn, buy yourself time to approach the net because by hitting a drop shot, you force THEM  to wait until the ball bounces in the non-volley zone before returning it.
This shot, followed by a couple more drop shots if necessary, will buy you time to get up to the net, which is an absolute MUST in order to win against better players.
Does that all make sense?
So, in summary, DON’T hit a third shot drop if one of your opponents is NOT at the net– hit the ball deep to them instead.  When your opponents ARE both up at the net, then make sure to try for a third shot drop (or a series of them) to move up to the net.

Finally, for those who still believe the drop is the only option, let's check with the mythbuster, Mark Renneson, and his video Pickleball Myth: Third Shot Drop in which he shows the drive used frequently in lieu of the drop.

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