There are 14 types of shots in pickleball and three basic strokes. Of the 14 shots, five are advanced and should only be used at critical intervals. The others are basic shots that are imperative for us to master the game. Learning the strokes is just as vital as learning the shots.
In pickleball, experimenting with different shots is a great way to have some fun. While playing pickleball, I’ve witnessed some great ball handling and a few bizarre ones as well. When you’re just starting, it’s critical to remember how crucial it is to learn the fundamental shots.
To put it simply, it’s a crucial weapon in our arsenal. To perfect them, simply use them. To help you improve your pickleball game, I’ll be covering both the fundamentals and more advanced techniques here.
Types of Pickleball Shots
As mentioned earlier, there are fourteen types of pickleball shots we need to learn to the fullest. They are:
- Ground Stroke
- The Lob
- Cross-court Dink
- The Serve
- The Drive
- Block Shot
- Deep Return Serve
- Backhand Punch
- Overhead Smash
- Third Shot Drop
- Centerline Ace
- The dink fake
- Around The Post Shot
- Backhand spin dink
- Backspin Return Serve
The 14 Basic Pickleball Shots Explained
Pickleball’s fundamental shots are the ones you should focus on learning first. All right, let’s start from the beginning.
Pickleball’s notorious lob shot. The goal of this shot is to send the ball sailing high above your opponents’ heads. Your opponents will have no choice but to swiftly spin around and try to chase you down in the backcourt. The opponent may become flustered and make a mistake as a result of the sudden change in tempo.
The vast majority of times you see this shot, it’s being used for its sole purpose: to change the pace of play at a point’s midpoint. The lob is a great way to reset the game when your opponent is hammering you with the ball and you just can’t seem to stop the momentum.
If you can get your opponent to chase after the lobbed ball towards the backcourt, you’ll have a clear path to the net. You shouldn’t do this too often, as either lobbing it too short or too far can result in it being smashed back at you or lost.
As the name implies, a cross-court dink is a dink stroke that is hit from one end of the court to the other, into the opponent’s side.
Among the deadliest shots in pickleball is indeed the cross-court dink. Also, it’s exceedingly difficult to learn, which places it among the most irritating strokes in pickleball. However, mastering the cross-court dink with the return is essential.
Knowing your relative positions is crucial. The distance of a dink that is traveling in front of you rather than across the court is substantially shorter. This is at minimum twice as long as the original. For this reason, you’ll need to apply more force to succeed in your mission.
The cross-court dink we can perform in a variety of ways. How you decide to take this shot, though, is entirely up to you. Never lose sight of the idea that maintaining a safe distance is of paramount importance.
The service is a fundamental component of the game of pickleball. It’s the first step to earning a point. There’s no volley or groundstroke in this. The service is all that’s needed. You can be of service in a variety of contexts. Adaptability is high. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered if you need a service tutorial. Try it out here if you’re interested.
When you’re playing tennis, a drive is any volley or groundstroke that we hit as firmly as possible. Drives should be ferocious, lightning-fast, and implacable. Once your arms are strong enough to complete a drive, go for it!
But for those of us who aren’t as strong, it’ll be a real challenge. Drives are tools, not ammunition, and we must use them as such. Driving to any of these places can be quite successful if you sense the court has an opening or see the opponent coming toward you.
So, how do you respond to their attack? By using a:
A blocked shot in pickleball is a shot meant to prevent your opponent’s drive, whether it’s a third shot or a standard drive. Any mistake can be compounded if your opponent hits you with a powerful blow. The block shot, however, is available to aid.
The blocking shot is a simple move to execute. If you’re interested, here’s a lengthy piece I did on the topic of blocking shots. It’s easy to stop a shot if you hold your paddle in a backhand stance and thrust it forward. Do nothing but let the ball hit the paddle. Important reminder: do not attempt to hit it with a fist.
Believe me, the ball is screaming straight towards you with all the fury it can muster. No need to pump it up with extra juice! If you do this right, your opponent will have a hard time returning the ball since it will limp into the kitchen. A smart technique to prevent your opponent from gaining an advantage is to block their shots.
Deep Return Serve
This is a crucial shot that needs to be mastered. It’s not challenging; it just takes some time to master. It’s understandably tough to judge the distance of a backcourt shot. When attempting to estimate distances of that magnitude, our depth perception becomes a little wonky.
Finding a friend or a pickleball partner and practicing serving back to them is the best method to improve this skill. They will be able to tell you how far you are hitting it, which will be really useful information. Your mind will adjust to the routine, I promise.
The opponent is constantly caught off guard by this clever little stroke. When playing at the net, a backhand punch entails striking the ball with a fist. In response to a high dink from your opponent, you can use this shot to aim directly at them.
This action can be carried out with minimal effort. Just make it like you’re punching with a fist by holding your paddle in a backhand grip. Easy!
This is my favorite pickleball move of all time. Just because I’m a man in my thirties doesn’t mean you should treat me like one. Our upper body and arms will get sore the day after we smashed too hard.
The single purpose of the overhead smash is to completely demolish the ball and render it unplayable for your opponent. In other words, it’s a shot in the dark. When your opponent tries to pop up a shot and it sails just over your head, it’s the opportunity to bury it! Put your hand up high and slam the ball down on the ground. Punctuality and precision are essential. You shouldn’t utilize as much wrist action if you’re hitting them into the net. You should utilize more wrist motion or a lighter paddle if you’re hitting the ball past the opponent’s baseline.
Third Shot Drop
The third shot drop is deemed as the most crucial one to learn. If you want to get good at pickleball, you need to master this shot. The third shot is where most of the damage is done. It’s because there’s so much riding on making this particular shot. The other team has a significant edge because they are in the kitchen while you and your companion are still near the baseline.
Soft bullets that curve upward and then land gently in the kitchen constitute the third shot drop. With such a cushioned landing, the opponent will feel compelled to dink the ball instead of driving it. When your shot is too long or too high, your opponent has more room to smash or drive the ball, and you’ll likely lose the point.
Hitting the ball to someone over at the kitchen line is a great method to hone your third shot drop. Let them inform you where the ball landed to help you improve your shots and force.
Advanced Pickleball Shots
Keep in mind that they are not your everyday shots and you should utilize them as tools. These shots are quite effective when presented with the right opportunity.
Backhand Spin Dink
If you’ve mastered the dinking stroke, it might be time to invest in a more sophisticated version of the technique. This type of shot is only effective when executed as a backhand cross-court dink. You’ll play on the left side of the court if you’re right-handed, and the right side if you’re left-handed.
If you have the self-assurance to pull it off, this is a fantastic shot. The secret is to dive under the ball and hit it so that it spins backwards. Even though your opponent has likely seen the shot in action and is prepared for it, they may still make a mistake.
Even though a dink is typically a soft shot, the added backspin makes the outcome highly improbable. This shot is easily missed if it is hit too high. You might want to stick with the tried-and-true cross-court dink if you’re up against tall, long-legged guys.
The Dink Fake
In pickleball, this is among the most cunning and underhanded strokes you can play. A dink fake can be devastating if executed properly, but only if done with great skill.
By appearing as though you are going to drink a partially high ball. However, you drive it, which is committing a dink fake. It’s quick and unexpected, and we can use it as a third-shot drive if there’s an inadequate return.
Two things are necessary for a successful shot:
- We must pitch the ball at a high enough height.
- We can’t afford to skimp on topspin.
This shot requires a high ball to avoid going straight into the goal. However, we must also use sufficient topspin to get the ball to curve over the net and away from the baseline.
Time to dust up those acting chops by:
Trying to trick your opponent into thinking you’re going to dink the ball, and then hit a powerful drive. The trick is to make it look as though it just appeared out of nowhere.
When directed towards the target, this shot can be just as devastating.
You need a really strong topspin to serve for this to be effective. It can be tough to pull off if you don’t. This service is one of my favorites to perform. I highly recommend giving it a shot in your free time.
To execute this serve effectively, you should smash the ball as firmly as possible while using as much topspin as doable, and make sure to hit the sweet spot in the center of the court. If you’ve done it right, your opponent might not even be able to react. Your opponent will be left dumbfounded as it screams down the centerline.
Backspin Return Serve
When executed flawlessly, this shot is not only effective but also amusing.
This shot requires a semi-high serve. Whenever the going appears smooth and effortless, make a straight downhill cut with your paddle.
The ball will rise gently into the air and fall with a lot of sidespins.
If you hit the ball properly, it will bounce off the side wall and out of reach of your opponent. If you get it just right, the ball will rest on the floor evenly between the two sides of the kitchen and then bounce off to the side, about a foot away. Brutal!
This is a very high-risk attempt. It’s easy for it to miss the court, go into the net, or be a routine return serve that does nothing but up the stakes. An even more intense spin can be achieved with a paddle that has a fiberglass face.
This is a one-in-a-million opportunity to fire a shot that will kill. Given its rarity and status, it is undeniably one of the most eye-catching pictures. If your opponent hits a powerful cross-court shot or dink and the ball bounces far away from your side of the court, you may have a chance at making this shot.
The trick is to run alongside the ball so you can both move quickly. If the ball has bounced far enough away from the sideline, you can gently hit it around the post. Then you can bask in the waves of applause that will be washing over you.
Keep in mind, too, that even if it landed on the other team’s side of the court, it is still a fault if the ball hits the side post.
What are the Three Basic Strokes in Pickleball?
To hit a stroke is not the same as hitting a shot. Putting force on the ball is the essence of a stroke. What follows a stroke is called a “shot.” As the term “shot” implies, it is more narrow in scope than “stroke,” which is larger and is grounded in principles.
Pickleball relies on just three fundamental strokes. They are:
Simply enough, the shot we make after a single bounce from the ball is called a groundstroke. Most of our shots in pickleball, including dinks, are seen as groundstrokes.
Simply described, a volley is any type of shot we take before the ball touches the floor. Once the ball has not bounced, it’s a volley regardless of where it was hit. Volleys are characterized by significantly more forceful shots. Overhead smashes are a common sort of volley and one of my favorites to use. Don’t forget that the kitchen is a no-volley zone!
No, it’s not a two-income household without children. You can only employ a dink, or a specific form of groundstroke, while you’re near typified by being cooked up in the kitchen, being extremely squishy, and just squeaking by the net. During a game of pickleball, you can use a wide variety of dink shots.