When pickleball pro Hurricane Tyra Black (with her partner Christian Alshon) faced off against Julian “Andiamo” Arnold and Meghan Sheehan-Dizon, she knew she had to find a way to frustrate Arnold, who is known for his fiery, animated play and “hot” streaks on the court (in other words, when Arnold is “talking and yelling” on the pickleball court, he is in the zone and playing his best). Black wanted to find a way to cool Arnold’s momentum and keep his “Andiamo” screams between rallies to a minimum. So, Black came up with a plan that was based on a strategy used during a women’s match the year prior at the same venue. Black identified that the elements—notably, the sun—made this pickleball strategy effective the year prior, and she and Alshon could have success implementing it again. Black’s pickleball strategy to frustrate her opponent Arnold was—the high lob!
The high lob can be frustrating as it:
- Is generally an untraditional and uncommon strategy—especially at the pro level. So, the high lob can throw off pickleball players because they are not used to seeing it and can throw off their rhythm on the pickleball court.
- Is disorientating, as pickleball players are required to look high into the air (almost straight up and for a longer period of time) and track the pickleball; and
- Can force pickleball players to have to fight the sun to see the pickleball.
The high lob can be particularly effective if your opponent has a weak overhead and/or you have strong defensive skills (like Black does) in order to counterattack any overhead shot. The high lob can be incredibly frustrating particularly if you are able to consistently keep getting the pickleball back over the net to the other side, so that your opponents have to hit multiple overheads on the high lob over and over again.
So, if you are struggling to find a way to “cool down” or frustrate your opponent that is going on a run, consider a high lob to throw off the rhythm and change the dynamic on the pickleball court—particularly, if your high lob causes your opponents to look into the sun and you are able to consistently keep hitting one after another to wear down your opponents. (But, be conscientious—particularly, in recreational or open play—when using the lob against players where the lob could be dangerous (for instance, against less mobile players that backpedal (as opposed to drop stepping) to retrieve the lob). And, if this pickleball strategy is being used against you, learn how to beat the “high lobber” with Pickler’s article, Sun’s Out, Pickleball Lobs Out? What Is the High Lob Strategy?