Pace on the pickleball court can be a weapon, as many pickleball players struggle to handle power and speed. However, there are circumstances where hitting the pickleball with as much pace as possible can be counterproductive.
Try slowing down the pickleball in these circumstances:
1. When You Are Struggling with Your Drive
Pace and paddle angle largely dictate the trajectory of the pickleball on the pickleball court. As a result, controlling pace is important to controlling your on-court shots, like your drives.
Generally speaking, if you hit your drive with as much power and pace as you can muster, your drive will sail long out of bounds. As a result, you generally want to hit your drive with only 70% to 80% of your power.
If you find yourself sailing your drive, or struggling to control your drive, on the pickleball court, try slowing the pickleball down. Slow down your drive until you have more control over your placement. Placement is more important than power on the pickleball court, so master your placement first. Then, once you have control over your placement, you can turn your focus back to power and slowly increase your pace, while trying to maintain your control.
2. When You Are Trying to Get the Pickleball Down
Like drives with too much power that may sail out of bounds, the same is true when you are at the Kitchen line and trying to hit the pickleball down at your opponents’ feet (for instance, a low volley)—pace is important to the trajectory of your shots. And, since you are only 14 feet away from your opponents when standing at the Kitchen line, you do not have much room to manipulate the trajectory of the pickleball. In other words, if you hit the pickleball with too much power, you do not give the pickleball time to travel on a downward trajectory.
So, if you are struggling to get the pickleball down, try slowing the pickleball down (and try to hit the pickleball with a bit more top spin). This will give the pickleball more time to travel down.
Again, placement is more important than power. Be sure to get the pickleball down first and foremost, and slowing the pickleball down will help accomplish this.
3. When Your Opponents Want to Play Fast & Have Good Counters
If your opponents like speed, you may want to avoid giving speed to them. In other words, try slowing down the pickleball against opponents that like speed, which may frustrate your opponents. This will also require your opponents to generate their own pace and power on the pickleball court, which will lead to slower shots and more time for you to react. As a result, try deep lob serves and returns of serve, and stay in the dink (rather than speeding up the pickleball).
Further, oftentimes, the team that speeds up the pickleball first will lose the point, as the opposing team has enough time to counter and is able to take advantage of the initiated pace on the pickleball. This is particularly true with opponents that like speed. So, when you are playing opponents that like pace and have strong counters, keep the pickleball “slow and low.” Avoid speeding up the pickleball unless you have a clear winner. Let your opponents be the first to speed up the pickleball, so you have time to react and can use their pace against them. Otherwise, your opponents will use any pace you provide against you.
4. When You Want to Mix It Up
Speed is not black and white. There are not only two options—fast or slow. Rather, there are infinite increments of speed. And, it is important to have shots at varying speeds in order to keep your opponents off-balance.
Think of changing speeds like a baseball or softball pitcher. Pitchers have a fastball, curveball, drop or sinker, curve, off-speed curve, rise, and a change-up, among others. These pitches all have varying spins, locations, and speeds. This same mixture can be applied on the pickleball court.
Generally speaking, you want to mix up your shots to keep your opponents guessing. You can do this by changing your shot selection, your spin, your placement, and also your speed. If your opponents always expect the same pace from you, then they will be able to get into a consistent rhythm and timing. Disrupt this rhythm and timing by changing the speed of your shots on the pickleball court.
Fast pace is often revered on the pickleball court. However, mastering your pace and manipulating your pace can be even more powerful, and more frustrating to your opponents. Try slowing down the pickleball in these circumstances, which could help you do just that.
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