The Fifth Shot
In a classic pickleball rally, the serve is deep toward the baseline, the return is also deep, and the third shot is a gentle dink into the kitchen. If you’re like me, and you’ve hit that third shot well, you’re all proud of yourself. But the job isn’t done yet. Now, the opponents return the fourth shot as another dink into the kitchen. But, if you’re like me, you blast it back at them, they blast it back even harder, and you lose the point. What happened?
With good players, unless you have a definite advantage, they can return almost anything you try to drive at them. If you’re lucky, the situation escalates into a popcorn war. But more likely, you lose the point right away.
The better strategy is to dink the ball back into their kitchen, nice and gentle, and wait until they make a mistake that you’re sure you can capitalize on. As long as you are consistent about dropping that dink into their kitchen, they’ll have no advantage on you.
So, the fifth shot can really matter in pickleball. Put another way, you want to maintain your patience, just defensively dinking from the third shot, through the fourth, fifth, and beyond, until you have a distinct advantage.
While we’re talking about dinking, keep in mind that you have more room for error in diagonal dinking than straight across.