5 Tips for Intermediate Pickleball Players to Improve Your Game
by KEVIN M. CRUZ
Tip #1 Go Deep
Your serve and return of serve must and should always be deep. With a deep shot, you are providing time for you and your teammate to reach the net. Conversely, the deep shot prevents your opponent from getting to the net for as long as possible. As a server, pushing the return team back as deep as possible is a crucial strategy.
By hitting a deep baseline hugging return of serve, you make it harder for the serving team to get to the kitchen line. The longer it takes the serving team to get to the net, the longer the return team has a big advantage.
This same strategy also applies to in game shots. Players should always hit toward the opponent who is furthest back. When your opponents are not lined up next to one another, immediately hit at the player who’s furthest back. This is not a difficult strategy to implement, but depending on the pace the of the game, it is a difficult error to quickly recognize and expose.
Tip #2 Be Active
An advanced player should never look stationary or inert in one or two positions while playing. Make sure your body is relaxed and ready to adjust to any situation especially sudden changes in ball trajectory. Stationary players tend to play stiff and have delayed reactions to plays. An active or dynamic player with better body language is readily able to make unique plays on the ball. A good example of this would be shading in the kitchen while your teammate is dinking. Your eyes, body and paddle should be always moving and shuffling with the ball. If you are standing upright while your teammate is dinking, the opposing team may decide to speed it up while your paddle is down.
Tip #3 Ball Tracking
Being in the ready position means having your paddle up and in front of you.
Additionally, once you have your paddle up, players should be tracking the movement of the ball with your paddle. This does not mean you should be waving around the paddle like you are a wizard with a wand. Rather, players always track the ball and mimic its path with their paddle. If your paddle is in the ready position and following the ball trajectory you will always be ready to strike. This tip also applied if the ball is not being hit at you.
One common mistake is anticipating where the ball will go, this could be costly because shots altered by wind, spin, and net cord contact.
Tip #4 Go for the legs.
Hit at your opponents feet. Makes for a difficult return shot. Easy right? No. Think about how often you have seen shots be hit accurately when the opponent is imbalance and generating power while backwards. This is a very low percentage shot. Odds are if you hit at the opponent’s feet, it is not being returned!
My brother, a tournament level player, taught me this one. It’s never a bad shot if your opponent has to back up to accurately hit it back. Players should almost never back up to hit a shot. Just hit it off the fly. However, when the ball is hit hard and at your feet you don’t have any other choice but to back up.
Tip #5 When you go for the legs, also go for the backhand
Again, the idea here is to make your opponent hit a difficult shot. Any backhand shot, even for an intermediate player, is a more difficult shot. The more difficult the shot, the more difficult it is to win. If your opponents are having to hit difficult backhands and you’re hitting forehands, you’re going to win more points.
If your opponent is left-handed, then hit every shot low at their right foot. A backhand shot of any kind while stepping backwards is an awkward and extremely difficult shot for even the best players to hit.