This 12-common-mistakes column began after playing with some very excited, highly-motivated, new pickleball players at our community courts recently. After playing a couple games, this question was posed to me, “What should we do to improve and become 3.5 players?” Last month, we reviewed the first two mistakes. This month, we take a look at two more.
3. Not getting to the non-volley zone line. Pickleball is primarily played and won at the kitchen. It is generally not played at the baseline or in no man’s land, a topic we discussed last month. It’s important to get to the kitchen as quickly as you can, but this doesn’t mean you should run crazily to the line. Work your way there as quickly as possible. If the ball is coming to you before you’re at the non-volley zone, stop moving, stabilize your position with your feet shoulder-width apart, then strike the ball. After you hit this shot, move your feet again and get to the kitchen line, once again establishing your ready position.
4. Hitting to your opponent’s strength. One of the basic concepts of the game is to reduce unforced errors. At almost every level of play, the team who makes the fewest errors wins. Determine ahead of time if your opponent’s strength is their forehand or backhand. Most players’ strength is their forehand, but don’t make this assumption. Study their play and determine if this is true. Many players favor their backhand. Hitting to your opponent’s strength makes it easier for them to avoid errors. Make it harder for them by hitting to their weakness. Knowing your opponent’s weaker side, you can target where to hit your serve, your return, your third-shot drop, and your dinks.
Case in point, I play against a good buddy who has a stronger backhand than forehand. I move my serve around on him, but when I really need a rally to go my way, I start the rally by serving to his forehand. I know a soft lob is coming back. If I serve to his backhand, I’m sure to see a much tougher drive return.
Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at email@example.com.