Pickleball, America’s newest craze, is taking the country by storm. As a self-absorbed tennis purest, I fought the urge to play Pickleball for the longest time, thinking it was beneath me. After some friends coerced me into playing, I became a fanatic.
Tennis Vs. Pickleball
It took me a few games to realize that hitting a plastic ball was not the same as a tennis ball. It doesn’t bounce or spin the same, and it’s a lot harder to hit past an opposing player. After playing for a while, I realized that my tennis skills could be incorporated into a dynamic Pickleball style, and soon, I was the guy everyone wanted on their team.
Here are ten ways tennis strategies might really improve your Pickleball game.
Keeping the Ball Low
A good tennis player can hit the ball from anywhere on the court, just over the net and directionally, anywhere they want. It’s tough to do in Pickleball, but the secret is to squat down and level your swing instead of hitting everything from a standing position. Do your squats, and you’ll see the difference.
Spinning the Ball
Non-tennis players don’t realize the time and effort it takes to develop topspin and slice on a tennis ball. It’s not easy. It’s a little easier to spin a Pickleball because the ball hangs briefly after it bounces. Practice against a wall by pulling the racket across your belly as you strike the ball.
The hard, fast serve is one of the most prized skills in tennis, but it is not the same in Pickleball. You can’t really kill a Pickleball, but you don’t want to. The Pickleball needs spin to be effective, and nothing gets an opposing player off balance faster than a ball that doesn’t bounce true. Spinning the ball in on a serve can humiliate the receiver. Practice pulling up slightly as you make contact with the ball and develop an excellent topspin serve; you’ll be deadly
Capitalize in the Kitchen
The “In The Kitchen” thing was something I taught my dog and threw me for a loop when I first started to play Pickleball. Most Pickleball players treat the kitchen like sacred ground, giving the utmost care to the hallowed area. Forget that! In tennis, that part of the court is red meat, where victory is just waiting to happen. Don’t waste your opportunity. Consider a high volley if you have to play defensive and strike the ball from underneath to get it back over the net. I popped a ball twenty feet in the air dead center of our opponent’s court and watched as both players fumbled over each other in confusion while the ball bounced away from both of them; it was glorious.
I get so many points using the Magic Johnson glare. Magic Johnson of the L.A. Lakers basketball team destroyed his opponents with one special technique: his misdirection glare. Pickleball is played in relatively close quarters, and players instinctively watch each other’s eyes for clues as to where they will hit the ball. Practice looking one way while hitting the ball the other way. It’s not as complicated as it sounds and will get you easy points.
Cover your Partner
Pro circuit Pickle ballers do this instinctively, while club players rarely move from their spots. Don’t be afraid to back up your teammate if they get pulled off the court returning a ball. Make sure you both know where to go, and you’ll stop the opposing team from getting easy points.
I don’t understand why players constantly hit the ball back and forth to each other like a ping-pong game. If you want to get good, you must learn how to angle the ball. One of the easiest ways to angle is to adjust the racket in your hand. Just curl your wrist slightly while holding the racket perpendicular, and the ball will naturally strike to the left for right-handers and right for lefties.
Target The Feet
One of the hardest things for players is moving their feet out of the way when a ball is directed at them. Think where you want that ball to go, and if you have an opportunity to hit it downward at your opponent’s feet, take it. Automatic point.
Don’t Fear the Ball
There are risks in any game you play (and quite a few injuries are sustained in Pickleball), but rarely are they caused by the plastic ball. Don’t be afraid to stand toe to toe with your opponent and rally. Pickleball requires fast reactions, and you won’t develop the skills needed to compete at higher levels unless you get in there and fight.
Look for Weaknesses
One of the first things you do in a tennis match is move your opponent all over the court and make them hit different shots. You study them and look for their weaknesses. Unless you’re playing the Roger Federer of Pickleball, they will have weaknesses. If your opponent keeps running around to hit a forehand, you can take it to the bank that they can’t hit a backhand, and that’s where you hit. Watch to see if your opponents anticipate your moves; if they are, use the Glare and get easy points. Like chess, Pickleball players who win consistently outmaneuver their opponents and hold the high ground or the middle of the court.
The most crucial rule of Pickleball? Have fun! It’s a great game!
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