Stacking is a must-know strategy in pickleball. But, while this strategy has advantages and strengths, stacking also has disadvantages and weaknesses that opponents can try to use against the stacking team.
Before we dive in to how to break down a stacking doubles team in pickleball, if you are looking for information on:
- What is stacking in pickleball, or why to do it, then check out Pickler’s “What Is Stacking in Pickleball & Why Do It” article; or
- How to stack and tips to improve your stacking skills, then check out Pickler’s “How to Stack in Pickleball” article.
Then, head back here to dive into how to break down a stacking doubles team in pickleball.
How to Break Down the Stack
If your opponents have decided to stack on the pickleball court, your goal is to make their stacking strategy as difficult as possible. Remember that stacking requires extra movement and switching sides of the court, so you want to try to use this extra movement against them.
Breaking down the stack in pickleball is easier when your opponents are the receiving team, rather than the serving team. This is because the serving team that is stacking only has a step or two to switch sides. In other words, stacking in pickleball is easier when you are the serving team. However, the same cannot be said for a receiving team that is stacking. Doubles teams often lose a lot of points when stacking as the receiving team because it is more difficult and easier for your opponents to challenge you.
How to Break Down the Stacking Team When They Are Serving
When the stacking team is serving, then you and your partner will have one shot to try to put pressure on the stacking strategy, since your opponents will be able to be in position after just a couple of steps. This one shot is your return of serve. There are a lot of strategies that come into play when determining where and how to hit your return of serve, but if your main focus is to try to break down a stacking team on the serve, you will want to hit your return of serve in the direction that the server is moving to switch sides of the pickleball court—in other words, you will want to hit your return of serve straight-on to the corner that is down the sideline from you. You will also likely want to hit your return of serve deep and put some pace on your return of serve (rather than hit a lob return) to challenge your opponents even more.
To note, however, this return of serve to the corner (near the baseline and sideline) with pace can be high-risk, low-reward. This is because you will have a small margin of error near the sideline, and the rewards vary, as many pickleball players can manage the couple of steps it takes to serve and then move into the open court. As a result, you may want to consider using this strategy to break down the serving team that is stacking when you have a player that forgets to move or does not move well, or use this strategy more when your return is headed to your opponents’ backhand side (which is oftentimes their weaker sides).
How to Break Down the Stacking Team When They Are Receiving
As noted above, it is easier to break down a stacking team when they are receiving because there is more court to cover and more movement. This is good news because this means you and your partner are the serving team, so every time you successfully break down the receiving team that is stacking, you win a point!
To challenge a receiving team that is stacking (or using hand signals and switching), try the following tips:
- Do not let all of the movement of the stacking team distract you. Focus on the pickleball and pick a spot on your opponents’ side of the court to hit the pickleball. Play the ball and ignore any distracting movements by your opponents. This is especially important when you are facing a team that switches and fake switches randomly.
- Serve deep and wide to your opponents. In other words, hit your serves near the corner by the baseline and sideline of your receiving opponent. This will cause your receiving opponent to be pushed back and pulled off of the court. If you are able to hit a quality serve that is deep and wide, then this will open up the opposite side of the court on your third shot because your receiving opponent will have to take a few extra steps to get across the court and in the proper position. Making your opponents take even just one extra step can be the factor that helps break down the stack, so work on keeping your serves deep and wide against your stacking opponents.
- Hit your third shot near the sideline where the receiver is moving toward. When your opponents are stacking on the return of serve, they generally have to hustle to the proper position after hitting the return of serve. Make your opponents really struggle by hitting toward the sideline where the receiver is moving toward. To do this:
- If you are straight on to the sideline that your opponent is moving toward, drive the third shot down the sideline; and
- If you are crosscourt to the sideline that your opponent is moving toward, consider hitting an aggressive drop toward the sideline (for instance, a rolling drop). To note, a drive will be more difficult to execute because of the angle—in other words, a drive crosscourt may be more likely to sail wide out of bounds.
These aggressive third shots will be especially effective if you start the point with a deep, wide serve, as your opponents will have to take a few extra steps to get across the pickleball court.
A receiving team that is “unwinding” the stack is prone to make a lot of errors, especially if you put additional pressure on the receiving team with these tips above. So, if you step onto the pickleball court with a team that likes to stack, challenge them and break them down to win extra points.