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Variations of pickleball fourth shots and when to use each


By Dominic Catalano

on Jan 11, 2024

Dominic Catalano breaks down the importance of the pickleball fourth shot.

Every pickleball player who has advanced in their game knows the importance of the third shot. But an area often overlooked is the fourth shot, which can be a team’s greatest weapon. 

Generally speaking, the serving team is slightly disadvantaged because they have to work toward the net after the serve. As such, the receiving team has a slight advantage because they can start at the net. 

So, the fourth shot is crucial in maintaining and capitalizing on that advantage. In his latest high-level pickleball lesson, Dominic Catalano breaks down the strategies for fourth shots and how to use them. 

The pickleball fourth shot options

There are several choices players can make for their fourth shot, and each choice will garner a different play style for the remainder of the rally. 

Dominic breaks down the difference between a fourth shot punch, a fourth shot drop, and a fourth shot attack, and when players should use each. 

The fourth shot punch

As the name suggests, the fourth shot punch is a slight punch on the ball rather than a full swing. A fourth shot punch is typically hit with your backhand, but if you have enough time to slide, you can execute it with your forehand. 

This shot is especially useful when your opponent chooses to drive the third shot. If you don’t have enough time to react, and you want to keep your opponent back, the fourth shot punch is a great selection. 

The fourth shot attack

If a ball is high enough — either from a third shot drive or drop — you can also choose to make your fourth shot an attack. This is a more aggressive choice because an attack shot is more likely to speed up the game. 

If your attack is not a one-off winner, you will likely be able to keep your opponents scrambling back toward the baseline. However, if your opponents have faster hands or are in a good position to return the attack, you will likely want to stay away from this choice. 

The fourth shot drop 

The fourth shot drop is a rarer choice because it allows your opponents to get to the kitchen line, thus evening the playing field. 

However, if you can time the fourth shot drop correctly, it can be a great weapon for your pickleball arsenal. 

If you notice your opponent is hitting their third shot from behind the baseline, it might be time to try a fourth shot drop. Many players will not have the foot speed to get up to the kitchen fast enough to receive a great fourth-shot drop. 

Before using this shot in a game, make sure you assess your opponent’s foot speed and ability to hit a soft shot while on a sprint. 

Drills to practice your fourth shot

There are many ways to practice your fourth shot variations, but make sure you mix some of these drills in before your next match. 

Drill 1: Attacks or punches

Start with one drilling partner at the kitchen line and one at the baseline. The partner at the baseline should practice their third shots, mixing in drives and drops. 

The partner at the kitchen line should now practice either their attacks or their punches based on which balls come their way. If the ball is too high, attack it. If it’s a hard drive, try a punch. 

Take note of which selections were successful — which shots put pressure on your opponent? Which shots caused pop-ups? The more repetitions you get of the drill, the easier it will be to decide which balls are attackable and which aren’t. 

Drill 2: Adding the fourth shot drop

Once you are comfortable recognizing when you should punch or attack, it’s time to mix in the drop. Continue the drill as before, but this time, take note of where your drilling partner is located on the court. 

If your partner is well behind the baseline, try mixing in a fourth shot drop. Was it well executed? Did your partner have enough time to get the ball? Did they hit it but cause an attackable pop-up? 

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