If you’ve watched any pro pickleball this year, then you have probably heard the term ‘scorpion’. And, you might be scratching your head thinking "I know the Bert and the Erne, but I don’t remember any scorpion in Sesame Street."
A scorpion is just like the Riley Newman ‘pancake.’ Watch Thomas Wilson use it to end the rally here:
The shot is used to defend against an attack from your opponent. It changes the vulnerable ‘chicken wing’ into a deadly sting. Instead of defending with a backhand, players are loading up a high forehand and squatting down to turn the shot into a mini-overhead.
Raising the paddle into this position resembles a scorpion ready to strike. It turns a defensive backhand shot into an offensive forehand that catches your opponent out of position.
What to Look For
When your opponent is looking to attack from the kitchen line they will likely target your paddle side shoulder or hip. This position is targeted because it is hard to counterattack a ball hit there. If there is no space to extend your arm then it's nearly impossible to generate power with your counter.
If you see your opponent's paddle face shift from the crosscourt angle to pointing directly at you, then you know it is time to take action. At lower levels, this is done when a ball that bounces too high or is popped up by you or your partner. A tell-tale sign is seeing your opponent wind up for their next shot. If they pull their paddle back you know an attack is coming.
How to Prepare
The Scorpion response requires two things in order to be effective. First, the paddle must be rotated so you are ready to hit a forehand. By default, most people protect their body with a backhand block or volley. Force yourself to move the forehand when you see the attack coming.
Second, you need to create separation. As we mentioned before, extension of the arm is needed to generate power in a counterattack. You can create separation by getting your body out of the way.
For the scorpion that means squatting lower in your stance. So a ball that was going to hit your shoulder is now over your head and easily attackable.
Finish The Point
Hit your Scorpion shot with intention. Don't be satisfied with defending yourself from this attack. Use it to end the point. Aim the response down at your opponent's feet where they will not have enough time to reach. If they do reach a ball that low, you will likely receive a popup that can be put away with the next shot.
Be ready for that next shot. After you get into position for the Scorpion remember to recover back to a balanced athletic stance so you are ready for the next shot. As you advance to play at higher levels, it might take more than one attack to put away a ball. Always be ready for that next ball by recovering after your shot.
It takes some anticipation to get right, but if you can read your opponent’s speed up, you can end points with the quick strike of the scorpion. Now we just need to come up with a drill for it.