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Can’t Dink Into The Kitchen

Every pickleballer goes through a phase during which learning to return that third shot into the kitchen, known as the “dropshot,” is very difficult. The idea is after a serve, and then return-of-serve, the ideal shot when against good players is to drop a soft shot into their kitchen that barely clears the net. Until you reach the highest levels of pickleball, this may not make a lot of sense, especially when they’ve pinned you at the back of your court with a deep return, making dinking it into the kitchen all that much harder. Yet any other response can usually be handled offensively by good opponents, and you don’t want that.

But, you still have trouble dropping it into their kitchen. The usual problem is that it so often hits your side of the net and dies. So what’s the solution?

First, change your posture. Many people try to stand fully upright, keeping their knees straight, and scoop up the ball with the paddle held low. You’ll find it more successful to bend your knees, get very low, and use a forehand swing, rather than an upward swing. This can be done as a backhand as well, but it generally works better to position yourself so you can take it as a forehand.

Of course one thing is to practice the dink from the back court as much as you can. A good exercise during warm-ups is to work with one other player. Have that player face you, standing just past the far non-volley zone. You stand toward the baseline at the back of the court. Rally with that player in which that player sends the ball deep into your court, and you drop it into her kitchen – over and over, as much as you can stand. In time, it becomes a honed skill. Assuming the other player wants to practice dropshots also, you can each do ten in a row, then switch positions.

In the meantime, you’ll find this very worth knowing: The ball doesn’t have to be as low and as shallow as you might imagine. It doesn’t have to clear the net by just a couple of inches, and it doesn’t have to land on the inside of the non-volley-line. If you are working with good players, they will dink a slightly high, or slightly long shot back. That’s because if you’re good, and they try anything offensive with a slightly high or long ball, you’ll blast it back. If you are all just intermediate players, they will often fail with a too-high dink, smashing it into their side of the net.

Another thing you might try, although it is almost equally difficult, is to go for the diagonal. For safety, the best bet is to place your dink directly between the two opponents. However, the option is to place it well diagonal into the kitchen, driving them off balance in response. This works especially well if you drop the ball to a right-hander’s left side.

If you have a choice between a high dropshot and a long one, go with high. Sure it may bounce high enough to be returned with a powerful forehand, but that’s something you can usually defend against. On the other hand, if it is high, but short, it may cause the opponent to hesitate between letting it bounce or not, may pull the opponent into the kitchen before it has bounced, or cause the opponent to try a forehand or smash that’s not successful.

The ideal dropshot from the back of the court reaches the top of it’s arc a few feet on your side of the net, and is dropping by the time it crosses the net.

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