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Want to Play High Percentage Pickleball? Then, Avoid These Shots!

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 09-06-2021

The sport of pickleball enables players of all ages and skill levels to hold a rally and improve skills and abilities rather quickly—at least compared to other sports. This ability to get better and improve quickly is one of the most attractive aspects of the sport of pickleball. One way to improve your skills and abilities quickly is to improve your decision making on the pickleball court—notably, improve your shot selection and reduce your unforced errors.

One way to improve your shot selection and reduce your unforced errors is to focus on playing what is known as “high percentage pickleball.” Although hitting an impressive winning shot is fun and makes you feel good, it may not be the best pathway to winning or success. If you can hit a difficult winning shot only 1 out of 10 chances, you are likely losing too many points and too many games. To play high percentage pickleball, and increase your likelihood of winning on the pickleball court—especially from the beginner and intermediate skill levels to more advanced skill levels—avoid hitting shots with high difficulty. High percentage pickleball is about hitting shots that give you the highest percentage of success and the lowest chance of making an unforced error.

Want to Play High Percentage Pickleball? Then, Avoid These Shots | Pickler Pickleball

This pickleball blog breaks down some shots to avoid in order to play high percentage pickleball. Before we dive in, it is important to note that high percentage pickleball does not mean highly predictable pickleball. It is important to remain unpredictable on the pickleball court. Rather, high percentage pickleball is about playing the percentages, which will still allow you to remain unpredictable.

Shots to Avoid to Play High Percentage Pickleball

With the benefits of high percentage pickleball in mind, avoid the following shots on the pickleball court:

1. Long shots to the sidelines or baseline

If you are deep in the pickleball court near the baseline or in the transition area, shots toward the sidelines or baseline on the opposite side of the pickleball court are quite difficult. As a result, these shots are low percentage and should be avoided if you are looking to play high percentage pickleball. In particular:

1. Drives down the sidelines Driving shots straight down the sideline on the pickleball court can be exciting shots if they land in. However, these shots have a small margin of error between a winner and a shot that lands out of bounds, either outside of the sideline or long beyond the baseline.
 
2. Drives or long rolling shots to the crosscourt sideline from deep in your own court – Crosscourt angles from deep in your own side of the pickleball court to deep in your opponents’ side of the pickleball court are difficult to execute. The crosscourt angles are exceptionally difficult as they can easily sail wide out of bounds. Also, your opponents will likely be moving into the Non-Volley Zone line, so the angles will be reduced as they are able to close the gap to the Kitchen, further making the risk of this shot not worth the reward. 
 

Want to Play High Percentage Pickleball? Then, Avoid These Shots | Pickler Pickleball
 
3. Lobs to the baseline from deep in your own court Lobs are generally effective, but difficult shots, as they require a delicate balance between height, power, and surprise. This difficulty increases substantially the further back you are in your own court when you try to execute a lob. If you lob from deep in your own court, the chances of hitting a lob short—so that your opponents have an easy overhead—or too long—so that the lob sails out of bounds beyond the baseline—increase.
 
Want to Play High Percentage Pickleball? Then, Avoid These Shots | Pickler Pickleball
 

2. Attacking shots below the pickleball net

Unless you are able to generate top spin on the pickleball (i.e., a shot with forward rotation), you will not be able to attack or speed up pickleballs that are below the top of the pickleball net. If the pickleball is below the net, you will need to open your paddle face toward the sky to get some lift under the pickleball. As a result, if you were to speed up the pickleball, the pickleball would likely sail long out of bounds because you would have to hit up on the pickleball. To play high percentage pickleball, continue to be patient. Do not attack the pickleball unless the pickleball is above the top of pickleball net. This will allow you to hit down on the pickleball to send the pickleball toward your opponents’ feet.

Want to Play High Percentage Pickleball? Then, Avoid These Shots | Pickler Pickleball

3. Highly difficult serves and returns of serve 

While a deep serve and a deep return of serve are critical to success on the pickleball court, do not aim for the baselines of the pickleball court. A serve that sails out of bounds causes you to lose your serve and your opportunity to score points. And, even worse, a return of serve that sails out of bounds causes you to lose a point! Instead, aim for a few feet inside the baseline to avoid any unnecessary unforced errors.

Want to Play High Percentage Pickleball? Then, Avoid These Shots | Pickler Pickleball

4. Other highly difficult shots 

As noted above, high percentage pickleball is all about playing the percentages. So, avoid shots that have a low percentage for success and hit shots that have a high percentage for success. In other words, avoid highly difficult shots, which include the shots described above, as well as other shots that may depend on the circumstances before you. Other examples of highly difficult shots include:

1. Attacking shots when you are on the defensive – If your opponents are on the offensive, and you are caught off guard or out of position (for instance, you are pulled out wide on the pickleball court), do not try to attack. Rather, reset your opponents’ shot by hitting a soft shot into the Non-Volley Zone and neutralize your opponents. Then, you can get ready to go on the offensive at your next earliest opportunity.
 
2. Going for too much – No matter the situation, what will really hurt you is if you make unforced errors by hitting the pickleball out of bounds—in other words, by “going for” too much and aiming for the baselines and sidelines of the pickleball court. To reduce your unforced errors, shrink the pickleball court in your mind by three feet on each side and on the baseline, and play within the “smaller” pickleball court.

Want to Play High Percentage Pickleball? Then, Avoid These Shots | Pickler Pickleball

You are solely in charge of your shot selection. Stay patient. Let the point build and play out. Stay consistent by playing high percentage pickleball, rather than becoming impatient and going to a “winner” too quickly. As you improve your skill level, and maybe even one day reach the pro level, you can consider adding these higher difficulty level shots, as you improve your ability to execute them.

And, again, remember that high percentage pickleball does not mean predictable pickleball. Make sure that you remain unpredictable on the pickleball court. Mix-up your shot selection among your high percentage shot options!

WANT MORE PICKLEBALL TIPS AND STRATEGIES?

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.

Online Pickleball Video Lessons | Pickler Pickleball

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