The Most Important Shot in Pickleball

When it comes to winning in pickleball, understanding which shot is the most crucial can make all the difference. Is it the serve, the return of serve, or the third shot? While many might argue that the third shot is the game-changer, the true game-winning shot is the return of serve.

The third shot is often seen as a pivotal moment in the rally. Imagine you’re forced to hit a difficult third shot drop from the back of the court. Your opponents are already at the no-volley line, in a stronger strategic position, while you and your partner are still trying to advance. Conversely, if you manage an aggressive drive from around mid-court, you can put your opponents on the defensive. This makes the third shot seem like the most critical, but it actually depends heavily on the preceding return of serve.

Why the Return of Serve is the Key

The return of serve largely determines the outcome of the third shot. A great return of serve sets you up to control the rally. What makes a return of serve effective? Primarily, depth is crucial. A deep return, landing within three feet of the opponent’s baseline, makes their third shot much more difficult. Adding spin to your return or targeting your opponent’s backhand can further complicate their response, giving you a strategic advantage.

Practice Makes Perfect

To improve both your serve and return of serve, try this drill:

  1. Place tape on the court three feet from both baselines.
  2. Practice serving and returning with a partner, aiming to land the ball inbounds and beyond the tape.
  3. Score a point each time a serve or return lands in the designated area. Lose a point for any shot landing out of bounds.
  4. First to reach 11 points wins.

Mastering the return of serve will set yourself up for success in pickleball, making it the most important shot.

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