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The Three Fundamentals of Doubles Pickleball

the fundamentals of doubles pickleball
The fundamentals of doubles pickleball are all about the net.


Here’s a new way to think about your doubles pickleball game. How good are you at these three fundamentals of doubles pickleball?


THE NET. THE NET. THE NET. The three fundamentals of doubles pickleball.


Unlike other racquet/paddle sports, pickleball is all about the net. The three net-based fundamentals to master are: playing at the net; getting to the net; and, keeping your opponents away from the net. Here’s how:


1. Playing at the net.

Pickleball is a patience game played at the net. Because the court is small (size of a badminton court) and the net is low (slightly lower than a tennis net) having even one partner play back doesn’t work. It opens too much of the court for the opposing team to attack. Therefore, the ideal offensive and defensive position in pickleball is at the net. Playing there, means you can set up a barrier that your opposition has to work around. It also means you can drive their mistakes easily back into their court.


Patience and discipline are key while playing at the net. You are waiting for the chance to hit a winning shot, usually off a mistake by your opponents. Patient, consistent dinking is a necessary skill. So is hitting hard and soft volleys and returning drives back to you opponents’ feet. (Skills to master: dinking, volleying, driving the ball)


2. Getting to the net.

At the beginning of a rally only one player is at the net – the partner on the returning team who is not returning the ball. The challenge for everyone else is to get to the net.


If you’re returning the serve, return it long – then RUN! Not running is one of the most common mistakes we all make. However, lolly-gagging our way to the net often means ending up in no-man’s land. It wastes a great opportunity to get to the net!


If you’re the serving team, the dreaded third shot drop is the best way to get to the net. Your other options aren’t great. Driving the ball straight back just means it’s likely coming back to you even faster. You won’t have time to get to the net and you’re not going to hit a winner from the back. Finally, lobbing seldom works because a good, deep lob is tough to do. Usually, it just sets the other team up to slam the ball back at you – which also makes getting to the net nearly impossible.


Unfortunately, many people don’t learn or seldom try to third-shot drop. Some even say that third shot dropping is ‘old school’, and that modern pickleball is all about driving and speeding up the ball. That’s incorrect. Just watch the pros. As hard they rip the ball, dropping and resetting are fundamental to their games. It’s a guarantee you won’t get beyond 3.5 level without a consistent third shot drop. (Skills to master: long serve; long return; third shot drop and dropping at other times during the game)


3. Keeping your opponents away from the net.


Keeping your opponents at the back of the court is fundamental pickleball strategy. From the back it’s almost impossible to hit an offensive, winning shot. Most shots from the back are defensive. They help return a drive or smash or help reset a team up to the net.


There are a couple of strategies for keeping your opposition away from the net – at least for as long as possible.


The first is a long serve. Waiting for a long serve to bounce before returning (bounce #1 of the two-bounce rule) keeps the receiving team away from the net. A short serve brings them to it.


The second is a long return. Waiting for the return to bounce (bounce #2 of the two-bounce rule), keeps the serving team away from the net.


The third strategy for keeping your opposition from the net is to keep driving balls back at them as long as they cannot or do not come forward. There’s no point in helping them come forward, by hitting something short. Keep them back there! (Skills to master: long serve, long return, drives and smashes)



Playing Double Pickleball? Play at the Net.


Fundamental doubles pickleball is all about playing at the net. It’s the best place to be for attacking the other side…and for blocking up yours.


Playing at the net is a game of patience. If you stay patient, you will get an opportunity to attack an opponent’s mistake. Guaranteed!


Getting to net means giving yourself time to move forward – either with a deep serve, return or a drop shot. Keeping your opponents from the net means keeping the ball deep when you have the chance – either serving, returning or driving.


If you get good at these three fundamentals you will win at pickleball.


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