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Friday, January 5, 2018

Is the Middle the Right Target for the Return of Serve?

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

Back in September, I had a series on targeting. One part of that series was the proper target for the return of serve - in the article Targeting: Where and Why - The Return of Serve

First, it should be noted that the return of serve should be a relatively easy shot since no opponent is waiting for your ball at the NVZ line. Therefore, targeting for a return of serve can get very specific. 

In that article, I identified the primary target as deep down-the middle for 3 reasons:
  1. It could create a hit by a weaker backhand if placed properly.
  2. It draws the opponent to the middle and exposes the sideline for the next shot.
  3. It holds the potential for an easy point if the opponents get confused about who should hit the ball.

My favorite contrarian and myth-buster, Mark Renneson, has a video that might lead to a different target, though. Pickleball Strategy: Avoid the Middle! argues that advanced players never get confused because they have communicated who will take each ball. Also, he uses an unusual technique to demonstrate that the down-the middle return cedes control to opponents. In essence, he argues that the shot allows the opponents' better player to take all of the balls. Instead, he suggests that a better target would be the weaker player.

I hope to follow up on this alternative soon. I have started an online discussion with Mark on the topic.

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