Top Pickleball Shots: The Most Important Shots To Master

Top Pickleball Shots

Welcome to the exhilarating world of pickleball, where strategy, finesse, and skill converge to create thrilling moments on the court. In this post, we delve into the essential shots that every pickleball player should master. Whether you’re a beginner looking to improve your game or a seasoned player aiming to refine your technique, these top pickleball shots will elevate your performance and enhance your overall playing experience. Let’s explore the dynamic array of shots that make pickleball such a captivating sport.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mastering various pickleball shots, especially the third shot drop, is key to progressing in the game.
  • Effective pickleball involves strategic shot selection, varying your play between offensive drives and soft touch shots.
  • Top players continuously refine their shots, maintain a good position, and employ advanced techniques to gain an edge over their opponents.

Essentials of Pickleball Shots

Mastering the essentials of pickleball shots is crucial for elevating your game. Knowing which shot to use and when can give you a significant advantage on the court.


The serve is the most important shot to start a pickleball match; it sets the pace of play. Serve deeply and aim for the opponent’s baseline to push them back and limit their return options. A deep return can force the receiving team into a defensive position, giving the serving team a huge advantage early.

Return of Serve

For the return of serve, you want a shot with depth perception and a soft landing. Hit a return that’s deep and gives you time to reach a good position near the kitchen area. A low shot that bounces near the opponent’s non-volley zone forces a difficult shot, creating an opportunity for a third shot drop or third shot drive—either can be very important shots to control the game.


The dink is one of the most brutally effective shots in pickleball. The purpose of a dink is to create a sudden change in the pace, possibly causing your opponent to make a common mistake.

Imagine standing at the net in a tight game of pickleball, each player waiting for an opening. This moment is where the dink becomes your secret weapon. It’s a soft shot, gently arched over the net, designed to drop into the opponent’s non-volley zone, the kitchen. The dink is a finesse shot; it requires touch, patience, and precision.

Employing the dink effectively hinges on your ability to control the paddle’s angle and the pace of your swing. Your aim is to send the ball just over the net with enough backspin so that it lands softly on the other side, making it difficult for your opponent to return with aggression. It’s a shot that delicately balances aggressiveness with restraint.

Remember, there are tons of different types of dink shots, from the regular cross-court dink to the deceptive dink fake. Use them to mix up your game and keep your opponent guessing.

When should you use this shot?

The dink is especially useful when the opponent is positioned at the baseline, and you’re close to the net. It’s also a tactical move in a volley exchange when both players are near the net, and you’re looking to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm or draw them out of position.

It’s crucial, however, to avoid common pitfalls. Overhitting the dink can send the ball flying into the opponent’s strike zone, turning a defensive opportunity into an offensive one for them. Not giving enough lift can result in the ball catching the net. Practice is key to finding that sweet spot where the ball arcs just right.

As you integrate the dink into your pickleball repertoire, remember it’s as much about outsmarting your opponent as it is about physical execution. Awareness of your opponent’s position and anticipation of their next move make the dink not just a shot, but a strategic ploy.

Offensive Shots

Mastering offensive shots in pickleball is the key to keeping your opponents on the defensive and seizing control of the pace of play. The drive, smash, and third shot drop are among the most brutally effective shots that can push the receiving team out of a good position and give you a huge advantage.

Forehand Drive

A drive is a low shot that travels fast and close to the net, typically used as a powerful cross-court shot or directly at your opponents.

Imagine you’re standing on the pickleball court, paddle in hand, and the opportunity arises for a forehand drive. This is your moment to add power and speed to the game, to push your opponents to the back of the court, and dominate the play. Understanding the forehand drive’s mechanics is essential to executing it effectively.

A forehand drive is more than just hitting the ball hard. It combines precision, body positioning, and timing. You’ll want to turn your shoulders and hips while keeping your eye on the ball to strike with accuracy.

When executing a drive, it’s essential to use minimal wrist action and rely more on your upper body strength. The best way to make the most of your pickleball paddle is to hit the ball right after it bounces, making the drive one of the best pickleball shots to put your opponents under a lot of pressure.

The right situations for unleashing a forehand drive include a high ball that’s bounced in your favor or when you want to take the offensive and apply pressure. It’s not a one-size-fits-all shot, but when used correctly, it can be a game-changer.

A common temptation is to overemphasize power at the expense of control. That’s a risk you don’t want to take. Balance is key.

Consistency with your forehand drive is developed through practice. Work on your footwork and stances, and practice driving the ball from different court positions. By doing so, your muscle memory will kick in during actual play, allowing you to execute this shot with confidence.


The overwhelming power of an overhead smash is one of the most flashy shots in your arsenal. Perfecting this shot requires a great sense of timing, depth perception, and a lot of upper body strength, especially for tall players with huge wingspans.

When you see a semi-high ball on your side of the court or an opponent’s pop, it’s the right time to strike with a smash. Aim for precision to ensure a soft landing in your opponent’s non-volley zone, forcing them into a difficult shot.

Third Shot Drop

The third shot drop is a very important shot that serves as a transition play, allowing the serving team to move closer to the kitchen line. This soft shot needs an enormous amount of touch, aiming for a soft landing over the net but in the opponent’s non-volley zone. This results in a shot that’s difficult to return with power and gives you a good position to move forward.

For aggressive plays, a third-shot drive can be the best pickleball shot for making the opponent mess up, especially if the ball bounces low. It’s a good time to go for this move when your opponents are not prepared for a fast-paced return.

Remember, the common mistake here is not giving the ball enough arc; the right angle and soft hands can elevate your pickleball game to the next level.

The third shot drop is a fundamental part of a successful strategy against the best pickleball players, as it counteracts their pickleball power and can make an opponent mess up their return shot.

Defensive Strategies

Executing effective defensive strategies is a cornerstone in any pickleball match, as it puts you in a good position to counterattack and can often lead to your opponent making errors. Let’s focus on two types of shots that can significantly elevate your game: the lob and the reset shot.


The lob shot is a very important shot and could be considered one of the most frustrating shots for your opponents, as it can shift the pace of play and create a sudden change in the dynamics of the game.

To perform an effective lob, you typically want to aim for a deep return to the backside of the court, which can overextend opponents, especially if they prefer staying near the kitchen line.

A common mistake is underestimating the lob as merely a defensive tool, but when used strategically, it can force your opponent to make a difficult shot, like an overhead smash, from a less-than-ideal position.

  • When to Use a Lob:
    • Your opponents are at the kitchen line, giving you space to hit over them.
    • You’re in a defensive pose, and a high lob lets you regain your composure.

Reset Shot

The reset shot, like the lob, is another indispensable tool in your defensive arsenal. It’s a soft shot aimed mostly at the opponent’s non-volley zone with the goal of neutralizing the opponent’s power. It allows the game to reset to a neutral state, giving you time to get to the best position.

The reset shot can be confusing for opponents as it looks quite similar to a dink, but instead of engaging in a dink rally, it halts the opponent’s attack. One of the best ways to perform a reset shot is by using soft hands to gently return the ball so that it lands softly, ideally at the kitchen area or near the opponent’s non-volley zone line.

  • Key Characteristics of a Reset Shot:
    • Depth: Aim for a shot that is not too deep, to prevent your opponent from hitting a powerful cross-court shot.
    • Pace: The slow pace of a reset shot adds a lot of pressure on the opponent, forcing them to generate their own power.

Through mastering these defensive strategies, including the lob and the reset shot, you’ll see that the right shot at the right time can have a huge impact, propelling your game to the next level and turning you into a better player who can keep up with the best pickleball players.

The Backhand Stroke

If you’ve ever found yourself hustling to return a shot to your opponent, you know how vital a backhand stroke can be in pickleball. It’s not just a defensive maneuver; a solid backhand stroke can be a formidable offensive weapon in your arsenal. Mastering this shot requires precision and control, which come with understanding the technique and consistent practice.

To add variety to your backhand, consider incorporating slices and topspin. A backhand slice, achieved by a high-to-low paddle motion, can reduce the speed of the ball and skid it off the court, making it tough for your opponent to return. Meanwhile, a topspin backhand, with your paddle brushing up behind the ball, creates a downward arc that secures the ball back into play.

Advanced Techniques

To raise your game to the next level, mastering advanced pickleball shots is essential. These shots offer a mix of power and finesse that can keep your opponents guessing and give you a huge advantage during the match.

Spinning the Ball

Adding spin to your pickleball shots increases the difficulty for opponents to return. The topspin lob shot creates a deep return that can push your opponents back while the backspin, also known as a “cut” or slice, can cause the ball to skid and stay low, often leading to a weak return shot. To effectively spin the ball, the movement of your pickleball paddle is crucial.

  • Topspin Lob: Brush up on the ball using a semi-high ball trajectory, aiming deep into your opponent’s court.
  • Backspin Shot: Slice under the ball with a low shot, aiming for a soft landing near the non-volley zone line.


The Erne shot is a dynamic move where you, as the serving team, jump from outside the court to hit the ball in the air before it bounces. This shot is permissible as long as you do not touch the kitchen area or the non-volley zone line while executing the shot. To be successful, time your leap perfectly, maintaining good depth perception to hit a powerful cross-court shot or a decisive block shot.

  • Position: Stand in the transition zone or near the sideline.
  • Execution: Wait for the right time, then jump across the corner, keeping your feet off the ground until after contact.


The Around-the-Post (ATP) is one of the most flashy shots in pickleball when executed right. You hit the ball around the outside of the post when it travels wide enough off the side of the court.

ATP shots work well when your opponent hits a wide but low shot which goes beyond the sideline but still inbounds. Positioning and precision are crucial, as you’ll have a good chance to hit the ball at the right angle without stepping into the kitchen or committing a common mistake by sending the ball too high.

  • Anticipation: Judge when the ball is heading wide and position yourself quickly, parallel to the sideline.
  • Shot Execution: With soft hands, reach out and angle your paddle to direct the ball just around the post and back into the opposite side of the opponent’s court.

Practice Drills and Exercises

For advancing in pickleball, mastering a variety of shots is key.

Third-Shot: Begin with the third shot drop, a very important shot, as it allows you to transition from the baseline to the kitchen line. Practice this by aiming for a soft landing in your opponent’s kitchen area, making the ball bounce only once. The best way to perfect this is through repetition, focusing on depth perception to ensure the ball arcs over the net with precision.

Soft shots play a crucial role. The dink is the most common shot that requires soft hands and an enormous amount of touch. Drill by sending the ball just over the net to the opponent’s non-volley zone, practicing from different sides of the court. The main characteristics of a dink should include a low trajectory and soft landing, usually achieved with little to no wrist action.

Third shot can also be a third shot drive, a more aggressive approach. It involves hitting a low shot deep into the opponent’s court, pushing the receiving team onto the defensive. Combine practice of the third shot drop and drive by alternating between these two during drills to keep the serving team guessing.

Lob Shot: Don’t forget the lob shot, a great way to move your opponents away from the non-volley zone line, and the overhead smash, one of the most brutally effective shots. Practice lobs by aiming for a semi-high ball trajectory, forcing the opponent to move back. For smashes, focus on upper body strength and hitting from a high dink; timing is everything.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When mastering pickleball shots, keep in mind the third shot drop is a very important shot, but a common mistake to avoid is using too much wrist action, which may prevent a soft landing in the opponent’s non-volley zone. Instead, aim for a drop that barely clears the net, forcing your opponents to lift their next shot.

Remember, a third shot drive can be powerful, but without depth perception, you might end up hitting it too hard, making it one of the most frustrating shots for you instead of your opponent. Use this shot sparingly and only when you see a clear opportunity shot.

Striving for pickleball prowess? Remember, when executing a dink stroke, the main characteristics of a dink include a gentle arc and placement, rather than power. A high dink might seem like a good chance to take control, but often it gives your opponent an easy overhead smash. Focus on soft hands and a gentle touch for the ball to land softly in the kitchen area.

In doubles, if you’re on the receiving team, don’t rush to the kitchen line. Move together with your partner from the transition zone to gain a good position. A hasty approach can lead to a loss of balance and a poor response to your opponent’s shots.

The lob shot is a cool little shot and a great way to elevate pickleball play. However, lobbing from a low shot position is risky and can result in giving your opponents a huge advantage. Instead, choose the right time when you see your opponents close to the non-volley zone line for an effective lob.

Conclusion: Elevate Your Pickleball Game

As you continue to hone your skills and explore the intricacies of pickleball, remember that mastering these top shots is a journey rather than a destination. With dedication, practice, and a willingness to learn, you’ll unlock new levels of proficiency and enjoyment on the court. So, grab your paddle, embrace the challenge, and let the exhilarating world of pickleball propel you to new heights of skill and excitement.

Do you have a favorite Pickleball shot? Comment below and let us know if you have any tips when executing them.

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