Pickleball Strategy – Lobs
The lob is a high shot. Intermediate players tend to rely on it heavily, but advanced recipients can return most lobs.
Lobs are hard to control accurately. They almost always need to land far back in the opponents’ court, otherwise, the lob will be smashed back to you.
There are five situations in which lobs are effective. They are:
With beginners. They have a surprising amount of trouble getting the positioning right to return a very high (but not slightly high) lob. That’s because it forces them to look up, and in doing so, they lose track of their position on the court. That’s why when you give your recipient a lob, they often hit it out of bounds. They also struggle with the timing. The patience needed for a lob is somewhat unnatural. One must wait and hit it at the right time.
On a windy day. If you feel you can send a lob up into the wind, and have it land in your opponents’ court, they may have trouble returning it because the wind will have blown it off course, often in the last split second. However, the downside is that it is difficult to place a lob accurately when you’re dealing with wind. Most lobs sent up on a windy day will land out of bounds or too close to the kitchen. Our brains are good at calculating the curve a ball will take on a calm day. The wind adds another layer of calculation that only experienced players can sort out.
In a dink rally, you can suddenly lob the ball up over your opponents’ heads. This requires a degree of finesse, since if it doesn’t go high enough, or far enough back, they can smash it back to you. On the other hand, if you try to get it high and over their heads, it may land behind the baseline. The lob to end a dink rally is not usually a high lob, just high enough to get past the opponents. If you make it very high, they’ll have time to run back and return it. However, that will drive the player back and away from the kitchen, giving you an advantage.
You can use a lob in response to something that takes you out of position, giving you time to get back.
And finally, one of the best answers to a high, deep lob is to return a high, deep lob. You’ve had to run back, and you’re probably quite off balance. You’re certainly out of position, not at the kitchen line. So, you need time to get back, and the lob will do that for you. I have seen rallies with as many as six lobs in a row.
The most common injury in pickleball happens when running backward in response to a lob. Us humans aren’t designed to run backward, and so we tend to lose balance or trip over our own feet. A fall when running backward often results in a head injury, because we aren’t as good at breaking our fall with our arms and hands when falling backward.
So, the correct response to a lob is to turn around so you’re facing the back of the court, then turn back around to hit the ball. You follow sort of a C-shaped path. In most cases, that’s actually faster than trying to run backward.