Third Shot Drop in Pickleball

Understanding the Third Shot Drop in Pickleball

Third Shot Drop in Pickleball – Why, When and How

The third shot drop in pickleball is a critical skill that helps transition the serving team from defense to offense. The term refers to the third stroke in the rally (the serve being the first and the return of serve being the second) where the player hits a soft, lofted shot that falls close to the net on the opponents’ side, in the non-volley zone or ‘kitchen’.

Why is the Third Shot Drop Important?

The serving team in pickleball starts at a disadvantage, as both the server and their partner are positioned at the baseline, while one of the opponents is usually near the net (kitchen). By hitting a third shot drop, the serving team gives themselves time to advance to the net, neutralizing the initial disadvantage. This helps to level the playing field, making the rally more balanced and placing both teams in a better offensive position.

When Should You Use the 3rd Shot Drop?

You want to use the third shot drop after serving, when you’re transitioning from the baseline to the net. This shot is specifically useful if the opponents are at the net and waiting to volley.

How to Practice the Third Shot Drop

The third shot drop involves three key elements, referred to as the “Three L’s”: Loose grip, Less swing, and Lift. To practice this shot, follow these steps:

  • Loose grip: The grip should be soft, as a tight grip can lead to less control and a shot that pops up too high. Practice hitting the ball while maintaining a loose grip on your paddle.
  • Less swing: Your swing should be limited, preventing the paddle from moving out of your view. Avoid a large, tennis-like swing, which can lead to errors. Instead, your paddle should stay in front of your body, not going past your leg.
  • Lift the ball: Aim to lift the ball, creating a higher trajectory that gives you more time to advance to the net. Avoid side-to-side swings, which often result in lower trajectories and less successful shots.

Another critical point to remember is your positioning. After serving, instead of stepping into the court, which may lead you to back up if the return is deep, stay where you are and let the ball bounce before hitting your third shot. This allows you to move forward while hitting the ball, which is generally more effective.

Variations of the Third Shot Drop

While the traditional third shot drop involves a flat, soft stroke, there is an alternative method involving topspin. Some players opt to hit the third shot with a windshield wiper-like motion, which adds topspin to the ball. This shot can be more challenging for the opponents to return and is a useful variation to have in your toolkit.

Remember that mastering the third shot drop in pickleball requires practice and patience. With time and experience, you will understand when to use this shot and when to opt for a different strategy, such as a third shot drive, depending on the circumstances of the game and the positioning of your opponents.

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