End of the Kitchen Rally
Many of the advanced games have long rallies with continuing dinks into the kitchen until the ball finally hits the net, someone returns a ball high enough for a smash, or the rally escalates into a rapid airborne popcorn war. The popcorn war is most peoples’ favorite ending. It is also rather rare. Quite often, a single good forehand with a topspin will end the kitchen rally. This is a good move to learn, and easy to practice in warm-up exercises. The idea is to take a ball that has bounced just high enough, and hit it with a rapid topspin, with the paddle angled forward, and an upward wrapping motion. This will impart topspin. This forehand will tend to lift the ball over the net, but the topspin will cause it to fall rapidly to the opponents’ feet. The topspin has one other useful effect: If the ball hits the tape at the top of the net, it will tend to climb over, rather than falling on your side.
Did I say it has one useful effect? There is one more: When the forceful ball with topspin nicks the top of the net, it will bounce high, often over where the opposing player is holding her paddle, and cannot be returned. If someone manages to return your topspin forehand, at that point, you generally have a fun popcorn rally.
Note that you want to practice having the forehand topspin land at your opponents’ feet. If it sails long toward the baseline, not only is there a good chance it will land out of bounds, but it is more easily returned by the opposition.
In practice, you can start with an ordinary kitchen dink rally, and as soon as you have a ball that bounces high enough, practice a forehand topspin shot. At first, you’ll want to keep the power moderate, to learn the move, and to allow the person standing on the opposite side of the net some opportunity to return it. Ideally, both players will mix moderate topspin forehands into their practice kitchen rallies.
One of the best places to send a forehand topspin is right down the middle between the two opponents. This is true for many pickleball shots, but especially for short forehand topspins from the kitchen line.
You’ll want to know that one of the things that separates 4.5 level players from the 5.0s is patience. While this forehand topspin can be definitive, it can also backfire if you try it on a ball that is too low, or if you have good opponents who are ready for it. So, it is better to continue soft rallying defensively, until you have a clear opportunity.