Generally speaking, it is ill-advised to attack a pickleball that sits below the top of the pickleball net. This is because you would be forced to hit the pickleball on an upward trajectory to get the pickleball up and over the net (or otherwise risk hitting the pickleball straight into the net). By hitting up on the pickleball, you have a tendency to either hit the pickleball out of bounds, or allow your opponents to go on the offensive and hit the pickleball down at your feet.
With that being said, as you advance your pickleball skill level, there may be times when it is a good pickleball strategy to attack a ball that would otherwise appear to be “unattackable” (i.e. below the top of the net). This article will discuss when those circumstances arise, as well as 3 tips to maximize your success in attacking an unattackable ball on the pickleball court.
When to Attack an Unattackable Ball on the Pickleball Court
Again, generally speaking, it can be risky to attack a pickleball that sits below the top of the net. However, as you improve your control and skill on the pickleball court, you can attack what seems to be an unattackable ball in order to surprise your opponents and keep your opponents off-balance, which will help you win more points on the pickleball court.
Consider attacking an unattackable ball on the pickleball court when you satisfy each of the four characteristics below:
- You are balanced and in position on the pickleball court.
- Your opponents do not like pace and/or your and your partner’s hands are faster than your opponents’ hands.
- The pickleball may be below the net, but it is not overly low to the ground.
- You can disguise your attack in order to keep your opponents off-balance.
If you find yourself in a circumstance with these four characteristics, then consider attacking an unattackable pickleball. If you are missing any of these characteristics (i.e., you are off-balance, reaching, and/or moving too much, your opponents are better in hands battles at the pickleball net, the pickleball is just above the ground, and/or you are using this technique too frequently, so your opponents have adjusted and are ready for the counterattack), then avoid attacking the pickleball below the net.
3 Tips When Attacking an Unattackable Ball on the Pickleball Court
If you are in a position to attack an unattackable pickleball that sits below the top of the net, then use these 3 tips to maximize your success:
- Use top spin and reduce the speed of your attack. Top spin on the pickleball helps to keep attacks low (even if you are attacking a pickleball below the net). Top spin is rotation on the pickleball that travels away from you as the striker, from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock. This top spin helps manipulate the pickleball up and over the pickleball net, but then cause the pickleball to quickly travel downward toward the court surface due to the spin. This can be difficult to do and requires some practice (but may be getting easier with the recent paddle developments (e.g., carbon surface that provides extra grit to help impart spin on the pickleball)).
However, when attacking below the net with top spin, it is important to take a little pace off of your shot. Too much pace will not allow you to manipulate the pickleball with top spin. As a result, take speed off of your shot and only use about 70% of your power. This will give you more control over your attack.
- Hit to a target—notably, the “chicken wing” area. Continuing from tip #1, placement is more important than power. So, take speed off of your shot and aim for specific targets to maximize the success of your attack. One of these common targets is the paddle-side hip and shoulder of your opponent—also known as the “chicken wing” spot. These are key targets, as these spots are the transition point between a forehand shot and a backhand shot, which makes it difficult for players to react quick enough to defend a speed up. So, hit your off-speed speed up at these targets, and put your opponents in an uncomfortable “chicken wing” position.
- Be ready for the next shot. When attacking an unattackable pickleball, your attack is not intended to be a winning shot. Rather, your attack is intended to set up a winning shot—for instance, the attack at your opponents is intended to induce a pop up, so you or your partner can then hit a put away shot. Again, your goal is for your attack to set you and your partner up for a winner—in other words, your attack is a “1-2 punch.” So, be ready for that next shot.
Sometimes, attacking the unattackable pickleball may not work. Your opponents may be able to reset the pickleball (in which case, you may need to start the process to set up an attack all over again—waiting for the right moment). Your opponents may be able to counterattack your shot and put you and your partner on the defensive. You may be overly aggressive and attacking shots that do not meet the four characteristics above. If that is the case, re-evaluate your strategy and see if you need to make any changes. But, just because you lose one point does not mean it is a bad strategy. Rather, evaluate the percentage of rallies you are winning and losing with this strategy. If you are winning rallies more than you are losing, stick with it (as you will likely win the game, since you are winning the majority of rallies). But, always look for cues and clues of areas to improve your odds and maximize your success even further.
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