There are as many strategies and approaches to pickleball as there are players. One key to upping your game is to perfect your basic fundamentals, like footwork and essential shots (backhand, forehand, smash, dink, slice, serve) so you can put your attention on becoming more strategic while you play. The goal is to feel as comfortable as possible with your skills so that you can proactively maintain awareness of the court and your opponent to drive in-game strategies.
Strategy 1: Identify Your Opponent’s Strengths and Weaknesses
One of the most important strategies for upping your pickleball game is the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent. Watch your opponent warm up to see if you can identify any vulnerable aspects of their game. Then, once your match begins, keep an eye on their tendencies. Do they have a weak backhand? Are they a next-level dinker? Do they tend to try and smash any shot shoulder height and above? How do they grip the paddle? Are they slower moving backward than forward?
Noticing all of your opponent’s subtleties will allow you to find opportunities to exploit their weaknesses and avoid their strengths. The goal is to identify moments in the game to make them uncomfortable and take them out of their rhythm.
Strategy 2: Shot Variance
One of the keys to winning any pickleball match is the ability to play any shot with skill and confidence. Even if you have just one noticeable weakness, like a poor backhand, you can count on a talented opponent to sniff it out and exploit it at every opportunity.
The ability to utilize all basic shots allows you to focus your efforts on finding your opponent’s weak spots. The first few points of any match should be consciously used to explore your opponent’s skill by testing them with dinks, backhands, spins, and power shots. The better you are with the game’s main shots, the more likely you’ll be able to place the ball where you need to in order to test their abilities.
Once you find a weak spot, do everything you can to play shots that exploit their vulnerability.
For instance, if they have trouble going to the left, or have a weak backhand, try and angle your volleys to exploit that weakness as best you can. Oftentimes, if you successfully exploit a weakness point after point, your opponent will begin to try and protect their weak side or prevent the need to hit a certain weak shot. This will leave areas of the court open for you to exploit as well.
Strategy 3: Shot Placement and Approach
Regardless of your opponent’s weaknesses and strengths, there are some basic strategies you can employ to keep them running and guessing.
- Work on hitting the ball “down.” When you’re able to hit the ball downward in trajectory over the net, you’re naturally going to hit the ball with more force and more explosiveness. It sounds simple, but it can be harder than you think. It means getting really good at applying topspin to your shots to help control and send your shots plunging lower upon return. You should always be looking for opportunities to play shots with “downward” motion.
- Aim for the corners. In singles, when in doubt, aim for the corners of the court. This strategy will keep your opponent moving back and forth, needing to utilize a variety of shots to try and gain an advantage over you.
- Vary the depth of your shots. As important as it is to vary your shots from left to right, it’s equally important to vary the depth of your shots on the court. This means employing dinks and lobs to keep your opponent on the run. Even if they get to your shots, over time they will tire. All leading to a competitive advantage for you.
Practice implementing these strategies to take your game to the next level. And read more articles today throughout PickleballUniversity.com