When it comes to playing pickleball, you can probably win on your own with skill, endurance or sheer talent. However, you cannot beat a pro without a plan, and in order to excel at this sport, you’ll need to know the steps to forming a good pickleball singles strategy.
Thankfully, as pickleball is becoming more and more of a relevant sport, there are quite a few tutorials and guides.Christine McGrath and Sarah Ansbourv are some of the highest ranked pickleball players from the 2015 US nationals, and their trainer has divulged relevant information for every pro, newbie or intermediate pickleballer.
First of all, pickleball is not tennis – the rules of the game are similar but still quite different, and so is the relevant gear. Players will need to take into account the difference in weight between a tennis ball and the plastic hole-covered pickleball, which makes a huge difference in terms of stroke strength.
There’s also the plastic or compound ping-pong-like racket, which is bigger than a ping-pong racket but smaller and lighter than a tennis one. And while tennis requires extreme stamina and agility, pickleball is more about calculated strikes and proper targeting of court areas. In order to fully explain the significance of these differences, you can read the strategy guide below.
The Best Pickleball Strategy List
Since pickleball is all about strategic placement, instead of trying to accommodate yourself to your strikes, you should try harder to make an attempt at freezing your opponent behind the baseline.
This will always depend on the placement of both players during a strike, but you should always keep in mind that your opponent should be taken back as much as possible. This gives you room for low shots that are hardly returned, and most of the time, it’s a winning strategy.
Striking deep into the court will always prove beneficial for the user of this strategy. No matter where your location on the court during a shot is, you should make your best attempt at striking as far down as possible. This will make your opponent retreat from the no-volley zone and give you the advantage of a larger shot-friendly area.
You can return the ball wherever you like as long as the opponent is not near enough to strike it, so even if you do get put in a tricky position with the opponent’s response, you can afford to return a weak ball.
By always returning the ball to one side of the court, you’re creating an angle for both yourself and the opponent. However, that line of shots is dictated by you, and the opponent will in due time begin to follow it. You can take this as a sort of space domination when it comes to pickleball
By making your opponent squeeze to the edge of the field with every following shot, you’re increasing the width of the angle of your possible shots, each of which has the potential to score your point.
Third Shot Drive
The third shot drive is probably the most effective pickleball singles strategy out there. It allows for perfect scoring every time that you implement it, although it does take some practice if you wish to master it. Most of all, this refers to creating a perfect return.
Look at it this way, you can use the two preceding shots (with or without the serve included) however you like, you have to be sure that those shots will bring you into the scoring position during the third shot.
There really isn’t a specific combo for this technique, but that simply means you can implement it however you see fit. This technique was discovered at the US finals of 2015, by the trainers that were observing the intense matches.
Let’s face it, there really isn’t a way to return a low no-volley zone return if you’re at the baseline of the court. The area also referred to as “the kitchen”, which is the first 7-foot long zone on each side of the net, creates a perfect return opportunity against any baselined opponent.
This means that you need to be aggressive right from the very start, with the previously mentioned deep strikes constantly being returned to the opponent.
You should try to keep a middle position while you’re performing this technique, in order to prevent any tricky shots from stealing your point. Once you’re close enough and the opponent is too far, simply strike a low shot and the point is yours.
The Kitchen Drag
As the title implies, a good technique when it comes to pickleball singles strategies is to force your opponent into the no-volley zone. “Dragging” means that you should pull your opponent closer with every return, eventually making them end up right at the place you want . Since pickleball requires much less intensity and more focus than tennis, this is usually a slightly slower process.
You’ll be staying either at the baseline or at the middle of the court while implementing this, and while your opponent could easily base drive you if they choose to do so, it’s up to you to have the distance and intensity calculated into every shot.
That way, you can manipulate the next place your opponent will go. Once they’re close enough to the net, all you have to do is strike a powerful deep shot.
Since pickleball is a relatively new sport, there isn’t really a book that lists every single pickleball strategy, but we’ve gathered what the pros have shared with us and we’re sure this will help you score. Your task is to study these strategies as best as you can and come up with your own style of play that mixes them all together.
Our last recommendation is to, of course, have fun, because what’s pickleball if not an awesome court activity? Once all of these strategies are in place and you’re scoring better than ever, the amount of fun you’ll have will likely quadruple.