Shown below are ten doubles strategies – particularly helpful, I’m certain – for those of you just embarking on your pickleball journey. Obviously, there are considerably more than 10 strategies. These doubles strategies, however, represent the foundation for all others and will help you to become a smarter – and better – pickleball player.
1. Get to the Non-Volley Line after the Return-of-Serve
Getting to the non-volley line is – and will always be – pickleball doubles strategy tip #1.
As such, follow every return-of-serve to the non-volley line. The odds of winning the rally will be stacked in your favor.
2. Learn to Hit Drop Shots
A drop shot – while difficult to perfect – is an excellent shot selection and pickleball doubles strategy any time you and your partner are not at the non-volley line, but your opponents are. It’s a shot that, when successfully executed, will get you and your partner to the non-volley line as well – thereby negating the inherent advantage your opponents previously had.
The drop shot is frequently executed from the serving team after the return-of-serve. Because of this frequent execution on the third shot, the drop shot is often referred to as a “third shot drop.”
3. Keep your Opponents Pinned to the Baseline
If you and your partner are at the non-volley line and your opponents are not, keep them pinned back. The odds are stacked in your favor at this point. Hitting a shorter shot simply brings your opponents up to the non-volley line where your advantage will be negated. Instead, a better pickleball doubles strategy is to hit shots that keep your opponents deep in their own court so you maintain the advantage in the rally.
4. Hit at Your Opponent’s Feet
A ball at the feet is a very difficult ball to return without popping it up. If you’re dinking with your opponents, hit it at their feet. If your opponents is in the transition area between the non-volley line and the baseline, hit the ball at their feet. If they are near the baseline, keep them pinned back and hit the ball at their feet. Adhering to this simple strategy will surely make you a better doubles pickleball player.
5. Serve with More Depth
When serving, the #1 goal – after getting the serve in – is to hit it deep. Remember strategy #1. The return-of-server wants to advance to the non-volley line after the return. Keeping the serve deep will likely prevent them from making their way all the way up to the line.
It’s counter-intuitive for many, but it’s better to hit a high arcing ball that lands deep in the opponent’s court than a blistering serve with big-time pace that lands several feet inside of the baseline.
6. Don’t Stand Too Close to the Baseline when Returning Serves
I see players standing at the baseline or, perhaps even a foot or two inside the baseline, all too frequently when returning serve.
No longer will you get jammed and give up an easy point to your opponents when the ball is served deep.
7. Return the Serve as Deep as Possible
A deep return-of-serve has several advantages. For one, it gives the returner additional time to follow the return-of-serve and advance to the non-volley line. It also makes the third shot for the serving team a longer shot and much more difficult to successfully execute.
8. Communicate when Returning Shots Hit Down the Middle
Shots hit down the middle of the court frequently cause chaos and uncertainty about which partner should hit it. Therefore, as a team, and at the beginning of the game, decide who will take the middle shots.
Perhaps, you’ll go with a general rule-of-thumb that dictates whoever is positioned on the forehand side for the middle shot will be the one to hit it. At the very least, communicate with each other by yelling “mine” or “yours.”
9. Move Together
When playing doubles in pickleball, you and your partner should always be moving together – almost as if you’re tethered together by a 8-10 foot piece of rope. Move up-and-back together as a team. Move side-to-side as a team. By not moving in concert with each other, huge angles will be opened up for your opponents to more easily put balls away.
10. Be Patient
Yikes. This one gets me right in the heart. Patience is, perhaps, the most difficult pickleball doubles strategy to master. Patience involves being selective with your shot selections. If you can’t hit the ball with a descending blow to get it over the net, consider a more conservative shot. Rallies are usually “lost” on errors. Errors can be avoided by being more patient. Patience, grasshopper!
These are just a sampling of the pickleball doubles strategies that will make you a better pickleball player and partner. Be sure to implement as many of these concepts and strategies as you can in your own game. These strategies may not come naturally. In fact, they likely won’t at first. However, with a bit of practice, you’ll be well on your way to upping your game.
See you on the courts.