Dead Dinks – Love to Get Them, Hate to Give Them

First, what is a dead dink? This is simply a dink that drops into the Kitchen with no spin that you can easily hit without reaching. You will like receiving these because you should be able to return these easily with an 80% or better probability.

Should you return this dink with another similar dink? Absolutely not! This presents a fantastic opportunity for you to launch a somewhat offensive attack.  The important word here is “somewhat” aggressive – so do not go crazy here! Basically, you have three different options here to make your move when you receive a dead dink (and none of these include simply hit a dead dink in return).

In this photo, I've captured a drill I use to encourage players to volley aggressive dinks that opponents are targeting deep into the kitchen. We don't want players to back up to hit their return shot, but lean forward and volley the ball before it bounces. Quickly backing up makes a pop-up more likely and leaves you vulnerable to an aggressive return. This drill uses strips of yoga mats placed in the kitchen so the ball will not bounce when balls land in this area.

Option #1

Make your opponent move by returning hitting a return dink far enough away from them they must move their feet or stretch (or both) to return your shot. You are doing this for two reasons. First, this could create a “gap” between your partners, into which, you can target your next shot. Second, this shot is more difficult for your opponent to return. Want to make it even more difficult for him/her to return? Read on.

One thing you can do is add a little spin to your dink. Some slice on your dink will increase the probability your opponent will hit their return into the net. Some top spin will increase the chances of a pop-up. The second thing you can do is target your dink at your opponent’s feet. This will force your opponent to
either back-up (which is good for you) or hit a half-volley or lean-in volley, both of which are more difficult to hit successfully.

Either of these two options are much better than simply hitting a dead dink return. 
Whether you add spin or change the targeting of your return depends on which shot you can execute most reliably – unless you are focusing on skill development. If you are playing to win the point, then go with the shot you can make most reliably. If you are playing to get better, try something that’s just a little outside your comfort zone 

 Option #2

If the dead dink bounces too high (near or above your waist) you should be more aggressive by adding some power to your return with a rolling motion (low to high) to add top spin to your shot. The top spin will help you to keep your shot from going out of bounds and will more likely cause a pop-up return from your opponent. For targeting this shot, you have two choices – a body shot (at the paddle-holding shoulder of your opponent) or into an open area between your opponents.

If you presently cannot make this shot 80% of the time, you really need to develop this shot.  The best way to develop this shot is through repetition. That means drilling that is not going to be all that much fun, but that is what you need to get better at this shot.

Option #3

This shot requires a bit of disguise, finesse, and should be reserved for the third or fourth shot in a dink rally to produce the greatest amount of surprise. Just like the previous option, you should wait for a dink that bounces a bit higher. Position your feet just like you would for any other dink but bring your paddle back a bit more and lower (not too much because you want your opponents to think you are going to hit a simple dead dink return). Now instead of a normal dinking motion, you add more power and lift to hit an offensive lob over your opponents’ heads. As you hit this shot, add a good bit of top spin so the shot “runs away” from your opponents as they run after it. The top spin will also make it less likely you hit this shot out of bounds.

There you have it. Three ways you can return a dead dink shot. You should master all three of these shots if you want to succeed at the 3.5 level and move up. 

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