Q&A – Why Is Thirds Shot Drop So Important?

The third shot drop is so important because it usually determines which side will be the first to establish offensive momentum and thus, improve their chances to win that point.  The third shot drop is probably the most difficult shot in pickleball, so your opponents will try to hit their return of serve deep to force you to execute this shot.  I say “force” you to hit this shot because you should almost never hit a drive return from the back of the court.

A deep return of your serve typically gives both of your opponent time to position themselves at their no-volley line and become prepared to return your third shot.  Attempting a third shot drive from the back of the court, given this situation, is definitely not advisable.  This only reasonable option you have is a third shot drop.  Unfortunately, this shot will likely provide three opportunistic shots for your opponents – if you cannot quickly move forward they can hit a soft dink shot, or they can hit a deep drive shot to force you to execute a second drop shot from the back of the court, or if you can move forward about halfway to the no-volley line, they can hit a ball at your feet.  All of these are good offensive options that can force you to make a great defensive shot to stay in the point.

On the other hand, if your opponent’s return of serve is relatively shot, you can move forward and hit a third shot drive that allows you to take the offensive momentum – assuming your drive is effectively targeted.  You can now appreciate why the third shot is so important. For a simple “rule of thumb” you should consider hitting a third shot drive if the return of serve lands less than two-thirds of the way back toward your baseline. Alternatively, when the return lands in the back third of your side of the court, then you should attempt a third shot drop. One exception to this rule comes into play when your opponent’s return of serve is very short, requiring you to rapidly move forward a hit a return of a ball that is at a level below your waist. You must execute a drop shot when the ball is this low to the ground, because a drive shot will likely either go into the net, out-of-bounds, or produce a pop-up your opponents will easily slam for a winner.

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