Crosscourt dinks make up the majority of dinks. This is because the crosscourt dink gives you the most margin for error, as (i) the lowest part of the net is in the middle; (ii) you are hitting into a natural angle; and (iii) you have more court space to dink into in your opponents’ Non-Volley Zone (also known as the Kitchen), as compared to dinking straight on.
Since crosscourt dinking is a popular pattern to fall into, it is also common to put extra pressure on yourself to be better and better on every successive shot. Eventually, due to this continuous crosscourt pattern, a crosscourt dink from your opponent may be such a strong shot that it takes you out wide on the pickleball court and out of position. What do you do when you are pulled out wide and out of position? This pickleball blog will break down some pickleball strategies to combat the aggressive crosscourt dink.
Neutralize Your Opponents When You Get Pulled Out Wide
One way to relieve this pressure or neutralize a shot that puts you in a compromising position—for instance, a crosscourt dink that you have to extend well outside your shoulder for—is to reset the point with a dink. Resetting the point with a dink is likely your highest percentage shot when you are pulled out wide.
To reset the point with a dink, softly tap the dink across the net to the opponent directly in front of you. However, remember that the net will be slightly higher, the court space to target your dink will be a bit smaller without the big crosscourt angle, and the distance from you to your opponent in front of you is much shorter than the distance from you to your opponent crosscourt. As a result, your backswing and your follow through on your dink should be much shorter.
Also, when resetting the point with a dink, be careful of your opponents using an Erne against you (click here to learn more about Ernes and how to successfully execute one). To avoid the Erne, be sure to hit your dink two to three feet inside of the sideline toward the center of the pickleball court. This will help keep your dink out of reach for an opponent attempting an Erne. Also, keep your dink relatively low above the pickleball net, so your opponents cannot hit down on the pickleball.
Other Strategies to Combat a Shot that Pulls You Out Wide
As noted above, when you are pulled out wide, a dink is likely your highest percentage shot. This is important to note, as shot selection and reducing unforced errors is critical to success on the pickleball court. However, so too is remaining unpredictable, which is especially true as you elevate your skills and improve your shots. So, as you improve your pickleball game, also consider the following strategies to combat a shot by your opponents that pulls you out wide on the pickleball court:
- Go around the post! An around the post shot, also known as an “ATP,” is a specialty shot in pickleball where you hit the pickleball under the top of the pickleball net and around the post of the pickleball net. An ATP typically happens when a player has a clear, unobstructed view of the other side of the pickleball court after chasing down the widely hit pickleball. When hitting an ATP, be sure to stay low in your legs and wait as long as possible to strike the pickleball in order to allow the pickleball to travel as far off the court as possible, which will give you a better angle to hit the ATP. In other words, wait until the pickleball is about to bounce for the second time. Also, be sure to keep your ATP shot low to the court and try aiming for your opponents’ socks.
- Lob it up. A lob is also a possibility when you are pulled out wide. However, this is a more defensive, desperate shot. When attempting a lob, it will be easier to hit successfully when you are pulled out wide to your forehand side, as forehand lobs are typically easier than backhand lobs. Target your lob over your opponents’ backhand sides, which may vary depending on whether your opponents shifted together on their side of the pickleball court. Also, consider hitting your lob crosscourt, which will give you a bit more margin of error, as you will have more court space to work with.
- Dink back crosscourt. This is a difficult shot to execute when you are pulled out wide. Nevertheless, if you can hit an even better crosscourt dink than your opponents, go for it. This is especially true if your opponents shifted toward your side of the pickleball court and left the crosscourt section of the court open.
- Speed up shot. Another option you have is to speed up the pickleball. Again, this is another difficult shot, but advanced players may be able to put their opponents in a compromising position if they can speed up the pickleball in an awkward spot (for instance, the chicken wing). This is a low percentage shot and is not used often. As a result, it may be unexpected. Advanced players will be more effective with their speed ups if they can get some top spin on it and keep the pickleball low. However, if the speed up is not for a winner, your opponents will likely win the point, as you will be out of position—as you are pulled out wide—on the pickleball court.
Other Tips When You Are Pulled Out Wide on the Pickleball Court
When you are pulled out wide, you have a few options for your shot selection. The safest, highest percentage shot is to dink the pickleball two to three feet inside of the sideline, low above the pickleball net. However, you have other options—somewhat more difficult and lower percentage shots—when you are pulled out wide, too.
Regardless of your shot selection, remain calm when you are pulled out wide. Try to plant your feet and stop before hitting your shot. This will help you avoid hitting your shot wide or otherwise out of bounds. Also, try to avoid crossing your feet when moving toward the pickleball, but rather side step and otherwise keep your shoulders square to the pickleball court. If your only option is to run after the pickleball, then consider turning and running down your shot. Lastly, regardless of your shot and how you run down the pickleball, do your best to return to the proper court positioning and expect your opponents to hit the pickleball back. Get back and get ready for the next shot, which, to note, the simple dink reset should give you sufficient time to reset your court positioning.
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