The third shot is considered the most important shot on the pickleball court. This is because the third shot is critical in putting you in a position to score a point when you are the serving team, as it helps you move from the baseline to the Kitchen line. And, most points on the pickleball court are won from the Kitchen line, so it is important to get there quickly and then stay there.
An effective third shot comes down to a few things:
- Shot selection (i.e., third shot drive versus third shot drop (or even a third shot lob));
- Placement (i.e., where to hit the third shot on the pickleball court); and
- Execution of your third shot (i.e., once you decide what shot and where to hit it, how do you execute your third shot?).
This pickleball blog will discuss placement of your third shot. In other words, the best places to hit your third shot on the pickleball court.
Best Placement for Your Third Shot on the Pickleball Court
When it comes to placement of your third shot drive or third shot drop, there are a few key targets to consider:
- Your Opponents’ Backhands – The first target to consider is your opponents’ backhands. This is because most pickleball players have weaker backhands than forehands. As a result, targeting backhands will usually lead to more errors for your opponents and greater success for you and your partner on the pickleball court.
- The Middle of the Pickleball Court – The second target to consider is the middle of the pickleball court. The middle of the court will give you the most margin for error, as you will be hitting into the largest area on the pickleball court—away from the sidelines. You will also be hitting over the lowest part of the pickleball net—the middle. Lastly, you will likely be able to get your opponents to fight over the pickleball. This is especially true if you hit your third shot slightly over the centerline toward the opponent that is moving in from the baseline to the Non-Volley Zone line (more on this in number 3 below!).
- The Opponent that Hit the Return of Serve – The third target to consider is hitting your third shot to your opponent that hit the return of serve. This is because this opponent will be moving from the baseline to the Non-Volley Zone line, so this person will be on the move. It is more difficult to hit a shot when moving, so hitting to the opponent that is moving will usually lead to more errors by your opponents.
Also, based on whether you decide to hit a third shot drive or third shot drop, consider the following:
- Third Shot Drive – Hitting to the three targets described above are solid options for placing your third shot drive. In addition to the targets above, consider targeting your opponents’ paddle-side hips. This is an awkward spot for your opponents as they will have to decide whether to hit your third shot drive with a forehand or backhand. This awkward spot may lead to more errors by your opponents. Also, consider hitting your third shot drive down the line if your opponents are leaving too much open court space. However, if you decide to go down the line, be sure to give yourself enough margin for error to avoid hitting your third shot drive out of bounds. Lastly, be wary hitting your third shot drive crosscourt, as you may be likely to sail the pickleball wide and out of bounds.
- Third Shot Drop – Again, hitting to the three targets described above are solid options for placing your third shot drop. Also, if you decide to hit a drop as your third shot, consider going crosscourt, which will give you a high margin for error, as your shot will, by traveling crosscourt, go over the lowest part of the pickleball net in the middle of the court.
With all of these options for placement on your third shot, it is important to do two things:
- Practice hitting to every target (with each of your third shot drive and third shot drop) in order to give yourself as many effective options as possible; and
- Mix it up! Remain unpredictable on the pickleball court to give yourself the best edge against your opponents.
WANT MORE PICKLEBALL TIPS AND STRATEGIES?
Do you know when to hit a third shot drive versus a third shot drop on the pickleball court? Learn more now.
Plus, if you want more pickleball tips and strategies on every aspect of your pickleball game, check out Pickler’s online video lesson collection called My Pro Pickleball Coach. My Pro Pickleball Coach is a fraction of the price of one clinic or even one lesson, and features over 140 video lessons (over 7 hours of instruction!), as well as a corresponding e-book. These online video lessons are available on demand 24/7 and breakdown every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including pickleball drills, strategy, and advanced concepts, so you will play your best pickleball.