Shot Selection in Pickleball

Shot Selection in Pickleball: Drive vs. Drop

Shot Selection: Drive or Drop?

Mastering the art of ‘Shot Selection in Pickleball‘ is crucial for any player aiming to dominate the court. This aspect of the game goes beyond mere technique and skill; it delves into the strategic mindset of a player. By understanding when, where, and how to deploy each shot, players can not only outmaneuver their opponents but also set the pace and tone of the match. As we delve deeper into this topic, we’ll uncover the nuances that make shot selection an integral part of this exhilarating sport.

Shot Selection in Pickleball
Shot Selection in Pickleball

Sequence of Play

  1. A player serves the pickleball (first shot).
  2. An opponent returns the serve (second shot).
  3. The serving team either drives or drops the pickleball (third shot).

Understanding the Drive

Nature: A drive (ground stroke) is a flat, fast, hard shot.


  • Puts pressure on opponents who struggle with pace.
  • Effective against short returns of serve, especially those with a high bounce.
  • Can lead to a winner, set up a “Shake and Bake,” or facilitate an easier fifth shot.


  • Be cautious of hitting the drive out of bounds, especially when moving in on the court.
  • Using top spin and hitting with 70% to 80% power can help keep the ball in play.
  • If off balance, a drive might be easier to execute, but consider reducing power for control.

Delving into the Drop

Nature: A drop is a soft shot, akin to a long dink, aimed to land in the opponents’ side of the Kitchen.


  • Helps in moving you and your partner closer to the Kitchen line.
  • Effective against returns that stay low in height, like those with slice or backspin.
  • Useful when pushed back on the court but still maintaining balance.


  • A drop from far back in the court might be more defensive than offensive.
  • Be prepared for an aggressive fourth shot from opponents.

Factors Influencing the Decision

  • Your individual style of play.
  • Your strengths as a pickleball player.
  • The effectiveness of the shot against specific opponents.

Other Third Shot Tips

  • Communicate with your partner about your strategy before the game or point starts.
  • There’s also a third shot option: the third shot lob. However, it has a lower success rate and should be used sparingly.
  • The third shot is crucial as it helps the serving team move from the baseline to the Kitchen line, where most points are won. Therefore, practicing this shot is vital.

Grip Strength for Drive and Drop


Grip Pressure: For a drive, a firmer grip is generally required. This allows you to generate more power and pace on the ball. However, it’s essential not to grip the paddle too tightly as it can reduce wrist flexibility and lead to less control.


Grip Pressure: For a drop shot, a lighter grip is recommended. This allows for better touch, feel, and control, which are crucial for executing a successful drop shot.

Additional Insights into Shot Selection in Pickleball

  • Importance of the Third Shot: The third shot is considered the most vital shot on the pickleball court. It sets the tone for the serving team to score by helping them transition from the baseline to the Kitchen line.
  • Third Shot Lob: While the drive and drop are the primary third shot options, there’s also the third shot lob. However, it’s less successful and should be used selectively.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Given the significance of the third shot, it’s essential to practice and hone your skills in executing third shot drives, drops, and occasionally, lobs.

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