As an improving pickleball player, you have no-doubt been voraciously consuming content and have been learning strategies and the proper fundamentals and techniques for hitting dinks, drops, volleys and drives. Mastering these shots is foundational in your journey to becoming a better pickleball player.
Shown below are 15 pickleball shots – many of which are advanced shots – to add to your arsenal. Although some are frequently called upon during a match, others are simply intended to surprise your opponents – and, as such, are infrequently used. But all have a purpose.
1. Cross-court Dink Volley
The cross-court dink volley is when you take a dink shot hit by your opponent out of the air and softly volley it back cross-court so the ball lands harmlessly in your opponent’s non-volley zone so that it cannot be easily attacked.
Taking the ball out of the air accomplishes two things. Firstly, it takes takes time away from your opponent. Secondly, it prevents you from backing up and retreating from the non-volley line. Establishing and maintaining position at the non-volley line is always a good strategy and, as a result, the cross-court dink volley is an extraordinarily valuable pickleball shot.
2. Dink Escape Shot
For those instances in which your opponents have pulled you wide with a dink – and an around-the-post shot is not available – the best pickleball shot to get yourself back into the rally is a short, lofted dink into the middle of your opponent’s non-volley zone. This shot will minimize the angles for your opponent and it will give you time to get back into position.
3. The Dink Shove Surprise Attack
The dink shove relies on a bit of deception. When your opponent is straight across from you at the non-volley line, set up like you’re going to hit a dink shot, and then, at the last second, quickly “shove” the ball forward with your paddle straight at your unsuspecting opponent. Chances are the surprise shot will jam them and create an easy put-away opportunity for your next shot.
4. 3rd Shot Forehand Drive at Dominant Hip/Shoulder on a Short Ball
It may seem counter-intuitive to blast the ball to your opponent’s forehand side when they are at the net. But it works!
They will likely be in a back-hand-dominant ready position so a hard shot at their forehand hip pocket or shoulder will cause confusion as they attempt to quickly manuever the paddle to the forehand side – or, better yet, chicken-wing the volley.
5. Cross-Court “Inside Out” Forehand Drop Shot
This is one of my favorite shots to hit from the odd-side when my opponents are at the non-volley line and I’m near the baseline. With a little top spin that lands cross-court at the opponents feet on their backhand side, this shot will result in a shot that is generally un-attackable.
6. Short-Angled Serve from Even Side
If struck well, the short, angled serve that lands just beyond the non-volley line and will likely create a big gap in the opponent’s court if returned. You will then be able to hit a hard drive in the vacated space for an easy winner.
7. Backhand Slice Return-of-Serve
The backhand slice return-of-serve is a fairly conservative, yet extraordinarily effective, shot. With the imparted backspin the ball will stay very low to the ground making the 3rd shot for the serving team difficult. Advantage, you!
8. Misdirection Forehand Volley Straight at Opponent
This is a very effective shot to hit when dinking cross-court, forehand-to-forehand, and your opponent hits their dink a little too far and about chest-high. To execute this misdirection shot, open the paddle face, lay back your wrist and push the ball straight at your unsuspecting opponent straight across the net from you. They will likely recoil backwards from the surprise tactic. Score!
9. Backhand Punch Volley
Perhaps the most frequently executed shot during a match, the backhand punch volley is a great option for hitting volleys at your opponent’s feet or into a gap when the ball is approximately chest-high. With no backswing and full extension from the elbow, this shot is nasty – although not necessarily intuitive for you tennis players.
10. Forehand Roll Volley
This is a shot that I absolutely love – both for its effectiveness and its relative “conservativeness.” When your opponents attempt drop shots or third shot drops, reach in when you can and hit a topspin volley that drives your opponent back and prevents them from advancing to the non-volley line. Your topspin roll volley will hit the court and “jump” at your opponent (because of the topspin) making their next attempt at a drop shot extraordinarily difficult.
11. Half-Volley from the Transition Zone
The transition zone in pickleball is the area on the pickleball court – sometimes referred to as “No-Man’s Land” – between the baseline and the non-volley line. As you are working your way up to the non-volley line from the baseline, you will likely have to hit some shots from this area. Learn to hit half-volleys.
Half-volleys are basically short-hop shots. Loosen your grip and hit these shots softly into your opponents non-volley zone – and continue your advance to the non-volley line. Make sure to split step, however, as you make your way through.
12. The Lob over Opponent’s Non-Dominant Shoulder
The lob shot is a good shot selection in some cases – although it’s typically over used.
The lob can be a great shot selection, however, if executed from the non-volley line – off either a dink or volley – when your opponents are leaning forward at their own non-volley line. When lobbing, hit the ball over your opponent’s non-dominate paddle shoulder. This makes an overhead smash much more difficult.
13. Lob Return Drop Shot
When returning a lob that is hit over your head, never back-pedal. Let me say it again. Never back-pedal. Back-pedaling is asking for injury. Instead, pivot, turn and chase the ball moving forward. You will want to come from behind-and-around the side of the ball to execute a drop shot that lands in your opponent’s non-volley zone. Then, as a team, work yourselves back up to the non-volley line. Returning the lob with a drive or another lob is recipe for disaster.
14. Around the Post (ATP) Shot
Admittedly, this is a shot I under-utilize. When your opponent hits a severe angle and pulls you wide – frequently after a dink – blast the ball low and around the post into the open court. The ball does not have to travel over the net. The ATP shot will be an adrenaline rush and a rally-winner for your team!!!
15. Block Volley
Nothing frustrates a banger more than when the opponent effortlessly squares up their paddle to the oncoming blast and drops the ball harmlessly over the net and out-of-their-reach. Learn how to absorb the pace of the ball and frustrate your hard-hitting friends with a block volley.
Hope you enjoyed these 15 pickleball shots to play. Before “messing around” with many of these, make sure you are first fundamentally, and technically sound with the traditional dinks, drops, drives and volleys. Then, and only then, does it make sense to enhance your arsenal.
See you on the courts.
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Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.