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Ball Up, Paddle Down: How to Return a Smash in Pickleball

by JB Jones on

Something pickleball pros do that looks so easy: return, or block, a smash.

Picture sending a high ball, one that is practically floating over the net, to your opponent. They're licking their chops, waiting to clobber it like Barry Bonds at the dish in 2001.

Point over, right? Turn around and head back to the line.

Not so fast. In today's game, overhead defense is better than it's ever been.

The pickleball is notoriously difficult to end a point with. The ball slows dramatically in-flight and especially after it bounces, which gives defenders a fighting chance to send the ball back.

The rule that most great pro-level defenders follow is Ball Up, Paddle Down.

When you leave a ball high, it's time to assume a defensive position, retreat into the back court, and place your paddle down.

Kyle, aka ThatPickleballGuy, breaks down how to block a smash in a recent video:

  • The overhead is likely to be aimed at your feet, beat the ball to the spot by having your paddle low.
  • Mimic a volleyball player digging a spike. Bend your knees and put that paddle down, readying to absorb contact.
  • sAny ball sent at chest or head level is likely to go out. There's rarely a need to defend a shot coming chest high.

Read Next: A Shorter Drive is a Better Drive in Pickleball

Get out there and start digging up overheads. Nothing frustrates an opponent quite like sending back four, five, six smashes in the same rally.

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JB Jones

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