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Maintain the Advantage in a Pickleball Hands Battle

by JB Jones on

Slide to the Left ⬅️

Time to stop reacting and start anticipating. If you're going to attack don't just pull the trigger and hope for the best.

Place your speed up on their paddle side hip or shoulder. Then get ready for the next shot. Chances are that ball is coming right back at your body.

With a little footwork, you can maintain control of the point. After the speed up, slideeee to the left or slideee to the right. It can be either depending on if you want your next shot to be a forehand or backhand.

In this showdown, Daniel De La Rosa elects to slide left and set up a series of deadly forehands.

But I'm not much of a dancer, why would I do this?

  • Sliding to the side creates space between you and the ball
  • Space allows for arm extension which is vital to generating power
  • When you don't have space, you get handcuffed, like our friend Travis on the other side of the net

Maintaining that space is vital to keeping up in a hands battle. You can't just dig your feet into the ground and swing away. Tiny quick shifts like this turn one errant haymaker into a calculated combo worthy of a gold medal.

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Reactionary Pickleball

Playing purely reactionary pickleball will limit your level of play. As you advance into higher levels, players start anticipating 2-3 shots ahead.

It's like learning the game of pool. At first, you're just hitting the cue ball trying to make solid contact. Then you can start aiming and going more precision shots. After that, you stop worrying about the first ball you pocket and focus on where the cue ball will stop in order to set up your next shot.

To translate into pickleball, you need to move past where your attack is going and start preparing for the response.

A Step Ahead

In order to be a step ahead, it's crucial to get your body in position. If you were going to line up the perfect forehand groundstroke you would stand 2-3 feet left of the ball, not directly in line with it. The same thing applies at the kitchen line.

You want a ball that is a couple of feet wide of your body, something that you can swing at. If the ball is directly at your body it limits the ability to generate power, it is called getting jammed or getting handcuffed. It's called that because of the decreased arm mobility that comes with it, like you're wearing a pair of handcuffs.

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Too often players just fight off balls hit at their body with a weak backhand response. You can avoid this be anticipating where the ball is going a getting a literal step ahead. Step to the side, and turn that weak backhand defense into more  powerful attacks with the forehand.

Put it into practice. Try sliiiding on your next speed up and see if it pays off. Cha Cha Real Smooth.

For more strategy at the kitchen check out our 81 combinations to win in pickleball.

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