These tips are geared towards 3.5 pickleball players trying to go to 4.0, but anyone can use these tips to help boost your game. Included video instruction from top instructors can help you visualize what you can work on to take the next step.
1. Do You Know Your Grip?
Do you think about how you hold your paddle? What are you doing with your grip? You can use other grips later for different shots, but I suggest using this grip for now because it makes your job easier at the NVZ not having to switch grips.
Using the wrong grip can make your paddle face open or closed too much which will contribute to you popping balls up or hitting more into the net. Check out this video from pickleball central showing you three types of grips, but I recommend trying the continental grip first.
2. Get Aggressive With Your 4th Shots
How are you returning your 4th shots? I used to only think about getting the ball back and not make a mistake. Are you aggressive with your block volleys, swinging volleys and forehand/backhand rolls? Are you keeping your opponents deep or are you just getting it back?
The higher level you play the more you will see the quality and aggressiveness of the players 4th shots because keeping your opponents from getting to the NVZ is essential to winning more points. You don’t have to be completely focused on pace for this shot you can focus on hitting spots. You want to be aiming at your opponent’s feet and away from them if possible. Make them move and keep it low.
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3. Hit Your 3rd Shot Drops Higher
How many times do you have two quick serves with missed 3rd shot drops leading to a side out?
Go watch a rec play or a 3.5 tourney and you will see people launching drives or trying to paint the net cord with their drops. I think a lot of 3.5 players are striving for the perfect drop because their partner is rushing to the net no matter what.
Watch the pros play for a bit and see the patience they have. Sometimes they are not getting to the net until their 5th , 7th , or 9th shot. They work their way in slowly when they know their return isn’t perfect. How many points are you winning when you hit it into the net? Nada. Get those third shots higher and talk with your partner about not rushing in after every 3rd shot drop.
I know this tip sounds too simple and we still want to hit that beautiful 3rd shot drop. Jordan Briones does a good job breaking down the mistakes many people make when hitting their 3 rd shot drops.
4. Be Intentional with Your Dinks
When I started dinking I had no idea what I was doing, I was just going back and forth trying to keep the point alive. Are you trying to set up a shot with your dinking? Are you even thinking about the locations you are dinking to?
Being confident in your dinks and dinking strategy will help set you up for more attackable balls and stop you from speeding up a ball too early. I suggest working on one aspect of dinking at a time. I would pick targeting specific locations first, then start adding more pace and spin, and then start thinking about variations of power, spin, and location.
The most important thing is you don’t become predictable in what you do because that makes it easy for your opponent to stand in one spot. You want to move them around and make them work to return your dinks. Keeping them off balance keeps them from having good speedups.
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Check out this great drill from Tyson McGuffin to improve your dinking.
Check out this dink article on pressuring your opponents.
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