Becoming a Dual Threat Player: Part II

Becoming a Dual Threat Player: Part II

The first several rallies in a pickleball match are very crucial to learning about our opponents and the style they are wanting to play. In tournament play, it is imperative that we watch our opponents mannerisms and pick up on their strategy to know how to adjust when the time is right. I am an advocate for coming out aggressive and analyzing what our opponents can handle and if they are comfortable playing a faster paced game. If you see that they aren't comfortable, keep your foot on the gas until they prove they can hang with your aggression. If they can handle your aggressive approach, you will need to slow the ball down and grind out points a little longer. But what do we need to have in our arsenal to play an aggressive game and how can we execute it in a calculated way?

When we see that our opponents are more comfortable playing a soft game, there are a couple of aggressive skills that we need in our bag so we can take advantage of their discomfort. Please, here me on this; I am not advocating for a chaotic style of play. Being aggressive doesn't mean that we take a "grip and rip" approach, it simply means that we are looking to take risks a little earlier in the point. 

The first shot we should be looking to take advantage of is the third shot drive. Many times, we may choose to go with a third shot drop so we can get up to the kitchen line and level the playing field. However, against players who don't handle pace very well, it is a good idea to utilize a 3rd shot drive instead. A third shot drive is a ball that we hit with pace on short returns. This ball is often hit towards our opponents hip or lower with the expectation they will hit it into the net or pop the ball up for an easy clean up for you or your partner. We can get really aggressive with this and have both players crashing the net after the third shot drive to create more pressure. This is also know as the crush n' rush or the shake n' bake. We should be looking to utilize this as long as our opponents are giving us short returns and aren't countering back aggressively at our feet. Once the third shot drive starts working against you, start looking to hit a third shot drop a little more often. 

Speed ups and attacks are the next aggressive tools we need to use to make players feel stressed and pressured. Speed ups and attacks need to be calculated shots that we take, but when our opponents show us they don't feel comfortable with pace, we can attack a little more freely without the risk of having hard counters coming back to our feet. The two things we should look for when attacking is that the ball we are hitting is high enough (out of the air and off the bounce,) and we are in a balanced position. The better the hands of our opponents, the higher the ball needs to be for us to attack, and we should never be looking to attack when we are overreaching to hit a ball or when we are pushed off the line or taking awkward balls at our feet. Be willing to attack until your opponents show you they can handle it. if they are blocking back into the kitchen, keep attacking. Only when they start winning with hard counters or they are getting the best of you in hand battles do you need to start taking smarter risks with your speedups. 

The last thing we need to make sure we are able to execute is the follow up to an attack (the recounter.) Once we speed the ball up, we should be ready for that ball to come back. Sometimes it will be a pop-up that we can easily put away, at other times it will be a ball that comes faster and we need to be ready to stay in the hand battle (as long as we are in control.) Make sure you get your paddle back out in front of you and get ready to hit the next ball. We often get in trouble when we think our initial attack will be a winner and we aren't ready when the ball comes back. Look to stay in the hand battle as long as you are the one hitting down on the ball. If your opponents gain control and start hitting the ball down towards your hips or thighs (or lower,) look to reset and work the point longer. 

Understanding our opponents and what makes them uncomfortable is one of the most important aspects of any sport, especially pickleball! When we pick up on the things that stress our opponents out, we want to make sure to exploit those areas to apply more pressure. We have a good opportunity to apply pressure with aggression against players who are most comfortable playing the soft game. Sometimes our opponents show us that they are comfortable in all realms of a pickleball match, and that's okay. That's why it is important for us to become a dual threat player; so we can play and adjust to any type of player we see. In the last article in this series, we will look at how to slow the game down against aggressive players and what skills we must possess to apply max pressure!

Please feel free to reach out to me with any pickleball questions or if you are interested in taking pickleball lessons in Augusta, Georgia!

Back to blog

Leave a comment