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Monday, January 15, 2018

Skill Level Guidelines for Targeting the Return of Serve

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

Today's post will finish the current discussion on the down-the middle return of serve. We previously read Prem Carnot's article 7 “Hit to the Middle” Secrets Every Pickleball Player Should Know in 7 Down-the Middle Secrets. Prem included a separate section in that article that provided guidelines about how frequently a player should target the middle based on his skill level. Those guidelines are shown below.

Click here to request your FREE copy of my Ratings & Goals Guide, which will help you figure out your exact skill level and will also give you skill-level specific goals to help you take your game to the next level. Once you’ve identified your skill level using that guide, then come back here to read the rest of this article.

Here are some quick, skill-level specific guidelines for how frequently to hit to the middle compared to going for a cross-court shot or hitting straight on.

Newbie (2.0) – Aim 5/5 Shots to the Middle

If you are a Newbie, aiming for the middle on every single shot actually IS an excellent strategy.  It will reduce your unforced errors and stay in the rally.  Just do it until you can come back to my Ratings & Goals Guide and be sure that you’re at least a beginner.

But for other skill levels, hitting to the middle every single shot will cause you to become way too predictable AND it will keep you from taking advantage of the openings when you have them.

Beginner (2.5)- Novice (3.0) – Aim 4/5 Shots to the Middle

Yep, I know, it’s still kind of a lot. But trust me. For the level of player that you are, in order to keep the right balance between keeping the ball in play, you should still hit the vast majority of your shots to the middle, but make sure to keep an eye out for the opening, and even if there isn’t one, throw the occasional cross-court or straight-on shot in to mix it up.

Novice (3.5) – Aim 3/5 Shots to the Middle

That’s right.  The majority of the time you should still be hitting to the middle but at your level, you’ll need to make sure that you are a little more strategic about it. Hit to the middle when you want to involve your partner. Hit to the middle to construct your point. Hit to the middle when you’re off balance and need to keep the ball in play. But don’t go there 100% of the time.

Intermediate (4.0) – Aim 2/5 Shots to the Middle

At your level, you’ve got to keep your opponents on the move and you MUST  have a variety of strategies to create your opening. You’ve got to know exactly when to hit to the middle and make sure to use it to your advantage.

Go for the cross-courts and the straight-on shots when you can, but make sure to hit to the middle when…
  • You are in a cross-court rally and the opponent diagonal to you moved wide to get the ball and doesn’t return to position.
  • You are in a straight-on dinking rally and your opponent’s partner (diagonal to you) has not shifted to cover the middle of the court
  • Almost any time there is more than about 6-7′ between your opponents paddle reach.

Expert (4.5 – 5.0) – Aim 1/5 Shots to the Middle

Once you’re at this level, my friend, it’s all about consistency and constructing your points.

Review all the recommendations above for 4.0 players as those all apply to you, and again, if you or your partner is fatigued, it is always wise to up the percentage of the time you are hit to the middle.

Side Out.  Over to You.

So, I hope that you can rest assured and feel more confident next time you play now that you know The 7 “Hit to the Middle” Secrets Every Pickleball Player Should Know.

Prem Carnot, The Pickleball Guru, is the author of the #1 Best-Seller, Smart Pickleball. You, too, can use his simple "Yes or No" criteria to determine your precise skill level AND get skill-level specific guidance on EXACTLY what to focus on to take your game to the next level. Claim your FREE copy of his Ratings & Goals Guide at:

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