OK, so the return of serve is coming back and you’re in position to drive the ball.
What are you trying to achieve with your drive?
So, many new players and a good number of beginners seem to have the wrong goal with how to use the drive.
So much of pickleball comes down to being able to move up to the non-volley zone line. It also comes down to minimizing mistakes and waiting for the other team to make mistakes of their own. It's about reaching a destination to neutralize the returning team's advantage.
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Pickleball is Different from Tennis
So little of pickleball is hitting winners. It’s not tennis. The court is too small, the ball has holes and certainly can’t gather the velocity of a tennis ball. Unlike tennis, pickleball isn’t so much about the winning shots, it’s more about not hitting the losing shots.
There are a few things to think about when doing this and a few ways to get it done. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when driving your third shot.:
Don’t try to hit winners with your drives.
Do try to use your drives to create an advantage for your side and to create the possibility of mistakes for the other side.
Don’t try to hit the “alley” or drive it past the person already standing at the NVZ. There’s not as much room as you think, and good, higher-level players can close this space down in a hurry.
Don’t hit the ball and expect it to not come back.
If the situation presents itself, do hit your drive at the person closer to the baseline.
Do hit your drive lower, instead of higher.
And most importantly, do hit your drive with the intent of moving up through the transition zone and then to the NVZ. A well-placed drive down the middle or into the body likely means a volley back to you in the middle of the court which gives you and your partner options on your next shot. The goal is to move towards the kitchen with your third, not win the point.
You can find more on the third shot drive in this instructional video.
Ultimately, it means you and your partner are no longer on the baseline, which is the goal.
Achieve your goal with a third-shot drive at the right time to the right spot.