Have you heard of a shot called the “Erne” on the pickleball courts? An Erne is an advanced shot on the pickleball court and is named after Erne Perry, who elevated the shot and first brought the shot into mainstream competitive play. The Erne is a shot where you hit the pickleball either (1) in the air as you are jumping around the Non-Volley Zone (also known as the Kitchen); or (2) after you run around or through the Kitchen and re-establish your feet out of bounds, just to the side of the Kitchen.
The Erne puts pressure on your opponents to make a quality shot and may cause your opponents to make unforced errors if they lift their heads to look at you running or jumping around the pickleball court, rather than focusing on the pickleball.
So, how do you defend against the Erne, or otherwise prevent the Erne from being used against you?
To defend against the Erne, try the following:
- Stay relaxed. Shots like the Erne are effective because they are aggressive and add pressure on the opposing team. So, remain calm and focus on making your best shot.
- Keep your eyes on the pickleball. Resist the urge to look up at your opponents (which can cause unforced errors). Rather, keep your eyes on the pickleball and use your auditory senses and peripheral vision to see what your opponents are doing.
- Try hitting the pickleball to the following locations:
- Hit the pickleball to exactly where your Erne-opponent was standing. By hitting the pickleball into the middle of the Erne-opponent’s court space, you will likely be hitting the pickleball out of his or her reach. This may even be enough to win the point if your opponents did not stay linked, leaving open court space. So, play the pickleball right back to where your opponent was standing prior to the Erne attempt (which can be with a dink or, if you have more open court space to work with, with a more aggressive shot, like a speed-up shot).
- Also, try hitting the pickleball both low above the pickleball net, as well as short and near the pickleball net. The closer the pickleball is to the net (whether in terms of height or in terms of depth in the Kitchen), the more likely the pickleball will be out of your opponents reach. So, keep the pickleball close to the net in terms of height and depth in the Kitchen.
- Another potential shot to try if you see your opponent going for an Erne attempt is a lob. Oftentimes, a lob will cause both of your opponents to be out of position, as one is attempting an Erne, while the other must chase down the lob. The lob can be particularly effective if the partner that is chasing down the lob has to return the lob with his or her backhand side (which is usually the weaker side).
- Lastly, if you want to try an even more aggressive move, fire the pickleball at the Erne-opponent’s body. Your opponent will have reduced reaction time because your opponent is closer to you. However, be careful with this option, as your opponent could easily dodge the pickleball and allow your shot to travel out of bounds.
- Despite your best attempts to deter, and defend against, the Erne, sometimes your opponents are able to get in position and execute the Erne. If this happens, and your opponents are able to hit an Erne on you, go on the defensive. If you have time, take a step back off of the Kitchen line. If you do not have time, hold your ground. And, in either case, bend your knees and drop down low, get your paddle out in front of you, and be prepared to reset the pickleball back over the net to stay in the point.
Now, get out on the pickleball court and deter, and defend against, those Ernes!
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