The third shot is undoubtedly one of the most important shots in the sport of pickleball. This is because the third shot is critical in getting the serving team to the Non-Volley Zone (or Kitchen) line, which is where most points are won (or lost) in the sport of pickleball.
Whether you hit a third shot drive, drop, or even lob, it is critical to hit a quality third shot. But, whether you hit a quality third shot, or a not so quality third shot, what is even more critical is what you do next. Do you take advantage of your quality third shot? Do you recover from your poor third shot? This pickleball blog will break down some pickleball strategies on what you should do after you hit your third shot – particularly, for doubles pickleball.
What to Do if You Hit a Quality Third Shot
If you hit a quality third shot, make sure you move in to the Non-Volley Zone line and take advantage of your successful shot. You do not want to be forced to continue to hit quality “third” shots on your successive shots—for instance, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth shots. Again, once you hit a quality third shot, move in to the Kitchen line.
Try to make it all the way to the Kitchen line after your quality third shot. However, make sure to move in a controlled manner, so you can remain well-balanced and react to the next shot. You should try to split step, or stop, before your opponents make contact with the pickleball. This will allow you to prepare for the next shot, as you should always expect your opponents to return the pickleball back to your side of the pickleball court. With that said, advanced pickleball players may be able to move from the baseline to the Non-Volley Zone line in a controlled manner on one quality third shot. However, many times, you may not be able to make it all the way to the Kitchen line if you are stopping and remaining under control prior to your opponents hitting the pickleball. This is okay. Use your split step, prepare for the next shot, and continue to work your way to the Non-Volley Zone line.
What to Do if You Hit a Poor Third Shot
Again, after you hit your third shot, you will want move in to the Kitchen line. However, you can only move in if you hit a quality third shot.
If you hit a poor third shot (for instance, a shot that sits high above the pickleball net, so that your opponents can be aggressive and hit down on the pickleball), you should likely play a bit more defensive pickleball and consider not moving into the Kitchen line. Rather, (1) communicate and warn your partner that you hit a poor third shot by shouting “Heads up!” or “Watch out!”; and (2) stop, or retreat a little and split step, and be in a position to play more neutral or defensive pickleball. By staying further back from the Non-Volley Zone after a poor third shot, you will have a little more time to react to the next shot—which will likely be strong shot by your opponents in light of your poor third shot. Try to reset the point and improve on your next shot. Then, if you hit a quality shot, continue to strive to move in to the Non-Volley Zone.
When Should You Move After Your Third Shot
Imagine your partner is preparing to hit the third shot. Taking the advice described above, when should you move into the Kitchen line?
There are two schools of thought on how immediately you should start moving to the Non-Volley Zone line on your third shot.
- One school of thought believes that you should immediately move in to the Non-Volley Zone line as soon as you determine that your partner will hit the third shot. This gives you the most time to get to the Kitchen line, puts pressure on your opponents to hit a good return, and allows you to possibly do a “Shake and Bake” with your partner and generally take advantage of more opportunities to win a point. However, if your partner hits a poor third shot, then you could be in trouble. For instance, imagine your partner pops up the third shot straight into your opponents’ overhead—you will certainly be seeing a fastball straight at you, which will be tough to defend if you are already at the Kitchen line.
- The second school of thought is the “wait-and-see” approach. In this approach, you will wait until your partner hits the third shot, evaluate whether the shot is a quality or poor third shot, and then, if it is a quality third shot, immediately move in to the Non-Volley Zone line.
The school of thought that works for you probably depends on your and your partner’s level of play. For higher skill levels, you should be able to move in to the Kitchen line as soon as you determine who will hit the third shot. However, if your partner has a weak or unpredictable third shot, then it may be better to take the “wait-and-see” approach.
Bottom Line: After Your Third Shot, Move In to the Kitchen Line!
Remember, most points are won at the Non-Volley Zone line, so it is imperative that you work your way to the Non-Volley Zone line as soon as possible. So, after your third shot, move in! However, make sure you are moving in to the Kitchen line under control. Take advantage of the court when you or your partner hit a quality third shot, and be more cautious if you or your partner hit a poor third shot. And, remember to move in under control, so that you avoid moving while hitting the pickleball, which could result in unnecessary unforced errors.
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