The third shot drop is a crucial technique in the game of pickleball, but it can also be quite challenging and frustrating to execute successfully. If you've ever struggled with this shot, don't worry, many players have faced the same challenge.
The good news is, if you can perform a dink shot, then you have the foundation to learn and master the third shot drop by yourself.
Let's delve into the explanation of this shot, breaking it down step by step, and I'll provide you with practical tips that will help you quickly implement it in your game and elevate your performance to a higher level.
|How to Practice Third shot drop by yourself
What is Third shot drop?
The third shot drop is a soft and delicate shot that is aimed further away from the net, landing in your opponent's kitchen (the non-volley zone). As the name suggests, it is the third shot played in a point, following the serve and return. The mechanics involved are quite similar to executing a dink shot.
Why is the third shot drop so important in pickleball?
1. Neutralizing Your Opponent:
The primary purpose of the third shot drop is to neutralize your opponent's aggressive play. By hitting a precise and well-placed drop shot, you force your opponent into a defensive position, buying yourself valuable time to move from the baseline to the kitchen. This strategic positioning puts you in a better position to control the game.
2. Setting Up an Offensive Opportunity:
An effective third shot drop can put your opponent under pressure, making them pop the ball up. This gives you an excellent chance to execute a powerful fifth shot attack. By creating these offensive opportunities, you take charge of the rally and increase your chances of scoring points.
How to Hit a Successful Third Shot Drop yourself
If you're new to the third shot drop, don't start practicing from the baseline right away. Begin at the kitchen with dinks – these are soft shots close to the net. Once you're comfortable hitting dinks, take a few steps back and practice hitting the third shot drop from a slightly farther distance. In this guide, we'll focus on the forehand aspect of the shot and explore how you can consistently achieve a successful third shot drop.
Step 1: Get Into the Right Position
Before swinging, it's essential to position yourself correctly. Ensure your feet are in the right place, your knees are slightly bent, and your head and shoulders are leaning forward a bit. Leading with your non-dominant foot can be helpful, and you should feel some weight shifting forward. This prevents you from leaning back on your heels, which could lead to loss of control, consistency, and balance.
Avoid leaning back or stepping back while hitting the shot, as it can hinder your performance. If you hear your footsteps during the shot, it's an indication that you're running through the ball, which might compromise your control.
Step 2: Hit the Ball Out Front, from Low to High
Now that you're in position, keep your focus on the ball and watch it bounce in front of you. Aim to strike the ball either at its peak or as it begins to descend. Your swing should follow the same motion as a dink – a slow, smooth, relaxed "push" or brush with your paddle. Think of it like tossing a cornhole bag over the net to get a sense of the shot's mechanics.
It's better to hit the third shot drop high rather than hitting it into the net during a game. Keeping the ball in play gives you a chance to recover if your opponent doesn't capitalize on the high shot.
Your first drop shot in a point might not always neutralize your opponent. Sometimes, you may need to wait until your 5th, 7th, or even 9th shot before you can gain an advantage and move to the kitchen.
Step 3: Adjust Your Grip Pressure
The third shot drop is essentially a long dink, so your grip pressure should be similar to when you execute a dink. On a scale from 0 to 10 (10 being very tight), aim for a grip pressure of 3 to 4 when hitting a drop shot or long dink.
Maintaining a relaxed grip is crucial for effective third shot drops. If your grip is too tight, you'll lose control, and the ball may go high or out of bounds. In a deep dive video about mechanics (linked in the description), you can learn more about grip pressure and how to get a feel for it.
Having an overly tight grip when hitting the third shot drop can cause the ball to bounce high off your paddle, setting up an easy kill shot for your opponent. If you find yourself popping up shots at the kitchen or hitting balls out of bounds more often than usual, it's likely due to excessive grip pressure. Remember to adjust your grip depending on your position on the court and the force of the shot you're dealing with.
Step 4: Apex on Your Side
The fourth step to mastering the third shot drop is to ensure that the ball's apex, the highest point in its trajectory, is on YOUR side of the court, and it begins descending before crossing the net. Don't worry too much about the height of the ball when you're just starting to practice this shot. The crucial thing is that it hits the apex on your side and drops into your opponent's kitchen. You can fine-tune the height of the shot later by adjusting your stance, grip, and swing.
As the ball goes over the net, it's essential to keep your focus on the shot and your opponent. This is a critical moment to decide whether you should move to the kitchen for a more offensive position or prepare for a potential fifth shot.
- Be patient and observant. Watch your opponent's reaction to your shot. If they can attack it aggressively, hold back from rushing to the kitchen. Wait for an opportunity to hit a more effective drop and neutralize their advantage.
- Avoid getting caught in the middle of the court, also known as "no man's land." This is the area where it's challenging to defend against aggressive shots. Instead, wait until you can execute a successful drop and neutralize your opponent's defensive position before advancing to the kitchen.
- It's not necessary to hit the perfect drop shot on the third attempt. You can aim for successful drops on the fifth, seventh, or even ninth shot in a rally. Be strategic and patient in finding the right moment to take advantage of the shot.
Step 5: Hit Intentional Drops
Now that you have the mechanics down and some consistency with your shot, it's time to focus on hitting intentional drops. Intentional drops involve carefully choosing where to place the ball to maximize its impact.
You can be intentional with placement by aiming for specific areas in the kitchen, such as:
- The corners of the kitchen: This forces your opponent to shift and cover more ground to return the ball.
- Your opponent's backhand: Targeting their weaker side can create opportunities for you to gain an advantage.
- The middle: This can cause confusion between your opponents, making it difficult for them to decide who should return the shot.
- Drop it to a person in motion: If your opponent is still transitioning from the baseline, a well-timed drop can catch them off guard.
Another crucial aspect of intentional drops is making them unattackable. An unattackable drop is a shot that your opponent can't hit back with pace and power. Even if they try to attack it, the ball is likely to go into the net or out of bounds, granting you an advantage in the rally.
Conclusion – Drilling the Third Shot Drop in Pickleball
- To put all of these techniques together, try the "INSIDE OUT" drill:
- Start at the kitchen and exchange a few dinks over the net with a practice partner.
- After hitting 2-4 dinks, take 2 steps back from the net.
- Repeat the process by hitting 2-4 dinks again and taking 2 steps back.
- Continue this pattern until you reach the baseline.
- Once you've completed enough repetitions from the baseline, start moving back toward the kitchen, taking steps forward after each exchange.
To add a game element to the drill, practice transitioning to the kitchen. Once you reach the baseline, focus on moving to the kitchen without making any errors. Each successful transition scores a point, and the first person to reach 5 points wins.