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Hit Your Spots! Why Placement Is More Important than Power

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 08-09-2021

Everyone loves to hit the pickleball hard. Power is impressive and, let’s admit it, it’s fun, too. However, hitting the pickleball hard can sometimes be counterproductive when you are looking to attack a pickleball. Hitting the pickleball hard without control can lead to hitting the pickleball out of bounds, which will cost you the rally. Hitting the pickleball hard without control can also lead to possibly hitting it in a spot that is easy for your opponents to return. What we propose is more important than power is placement.

This pickleball blog will breakdown some key spots to place the pickleball when you attack. Attack the pickleball, but attack with precision! Like in real estate, we are focused on location, location, location!

Where to Place Your Attack on the Pickleball Court

Placement of your attack will be dependent on what opportunities you have on the pickleball court. However, consider the following to determine the best placement for your attack on the pickleball court:

Hit Down at Feet

Hitting the pickleball down is usually a recipe for success. If you can hit down on the pickleball, it means that the pickleball was hit high above the pickleball net and you can be aggressive and offensive on your attack. When this happens, hit the pickleball down toward your opponents’ feet and down onto the pickleball court. These shots are more difficult to return and more likely to be hit for a winning shot, as opposed to shots that are left at shin-height or higher.

Hit Spots | Placement Over Power | Pickler Pickleball

Down the Middle Solves the Riddle

Down the middle usually “solves the riddle” of your opponents because the middle part of the court provides you with the highest margin of error, as the net is at its lowest point and you can miss a little to the left or a little to the right, while keeping the pickleball in play. Down the middle shots are also effective if there is too big of a gap between your opponents, or if you can get your opponents to fight with each other over who should take the middle shot between them.

Down the Middle Solves the Riddle | Pickler Pickleball

Find the Open Court

This goes without saying, but hit the pickleball to the open court. If you see space, attack and send the pickleball to that space. However, be careful when you go for down-the-line shots, as these are often do-or-die shots (i.e. win the point by hitting the line or lose the point by hitting the pickleball out of bounds).

Find the Open Court | Pickler Pickleball

Weaknesses of Your Opponents

Generally speaking, if you are playing doubles pickleball, attack the weaker of your two opponents. Further, if you determine that one of your opponents has a weak backhand or a weak forehand, target this weakness and send shots to that particular side of your opponent. Most pickleball players have weak backhands, so targeting backhands is usually an effective strategy.

On the flip side, avoid strengths of your opponents. For instance, imagine you are playing a left-handed pickleball player and a right-handed pickleball player. Now, imagine that their forehands are both toward the middle of the pickleball court. Typically, if you are used to playing two right-handed players, you may like to target the right-handed player on the even (right) side of the pickleball court, as that is the player with the backhand side in the middle of the pickleball court. Now, if you are playing a lefty/righty combo, this favored spot is now the left-handed players forehand, which is likely a strong shot. This favored spot is now a place to likely avoid.

Everyone has a different weakness, so challenge your opponents to find their respective weaknesses. Aim for various spots on the pickleball court and parts of their body (e.g., hips, shoulders, feet). Find your opponents’ weak spots!

Go for the Chicken Wing

Find your opponents’ paddle-side shoulder and hit the pickleball toward that spot, which will have the effect of causing your opponent to “chicken wing” in order to return the pickleball. The paddle-side shoulder is a difficult spot to defend as it is the point between a backhand shot and a forehand shot and is hard to react to and otherwise defend.

Chicken Wing | Placement Over Power | Pickler Pickleball

Aim for Hips

Try targeting your opponents’ hips – both on the left side and the right side. By targeting hips, you will generally be able to keep the pickleball low and in the court. Plus, you will be able to keep your opponent guessing as to which side of the body you will hit the pickleball. If you can pinpoint your accuracy, you will be able to force your opponents to guess and keep them off guard.

Body Shot for the Win

Consider going for the center of mass of your opponents. Go right at them and aim for their belly button or stomach area. Shots that have pace, but are hit right at you, are very difficult to get out of the way of, which reduces the risk of sailing long. If you are going to attack with pace, consider hitting right at your opponents’ bodies.

Also, to note, when attacking bodies, consider attacking your opponent that is directly in front of you. By attacking the opponent directly in front of you, your opponent will have less reaction time (as compared to attacking crosscourt).

Body Shot | Pickler Pickleball

Lastly, one trend on the pickleball court is to hit the pickleball hard, but high into your opponents’ shoulders and chest. This can be effective as high, hard shots are difficult to move out of the way of and will often result in a pop-up, as your opponent will raise his or her paddle to try to defend. The pop-up will result in an easy put away shot. However, these high, hard shots are risky if your opponents can get out of the way and this strategy is a bit of bold move and can be criticized as overly aggressive. So, proceed with caution.

Focus on the Depth of Your Opponents

If one or both of your opponents are back at the baseline, keep them back with an attack deep in the pickleball court. Or, if your opponents have poor mobility, try a drop shot into the Non-Volley Zone. The drop shot will have no power, but the location of this shot will be difficult for your opponents to reach if they are playing deep by or even behind the baseline.

Consider Your Angles

Shots with steep angles can be difficult to track down. Consider hitting your attacks with angles that cause your opponents to move and take your opponents off the court.

Also, if your opponents are on the move, consider hitting in the direction that your opponents started from (rather than the direction that your opponents are moving to), as it will be incredibly difficult for your opponents to stop and change direction in time to chase down your attack.

Angles | Pickler Pickleball

Focus on Placement Over Power on the Pickleball Court

Hitting the pickleball hard is not the most important factor in success. Rather, placement over power! These placements discussed above are all good options, but each are really dependent on where you are, where your partner is, where your opponents are, and where the pickleball is on the pickleball court. Every pickleball player and every pickleball point is different, so it is important to evaluate the players and point in front of you. You are solely in charge of your assessment of these factors and your shot selection.

To note, the most obvious shot is usually the right shot for you to take. Simplicity usually wins the point. And, 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 by either hitting with too much power or 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.

Pickleball Court | Pickler Pickleball

Make sure that you do not become predictable. Mix up your shot selection and placement of the pickleball. To help you master the different spots, so that you can be unpredictable on the pickleball court, get out there and drill. Practice, practice, practice, so that you can master placement and win the battle of location, location, location!


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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