The Most Dangerous Place
The most dangerous place on the pickleball court
The most dangerous place to return a serve is right on the centerline and a few inches in front of the baseline. Actually, if you can put the ball right on the baseline, that’s great, but a few inches forward prevents sending it too deep. It also insures that the opponents won’t call it ‘out’ when it is actually in.
First, this keeps you opponents back. They will not be at the non-volley line too soon.
The other thing this does is put them immediately off-balance. With beginning and intermediate players, they may miss returning the ball entirely, as each thinks the other is going to get it. Or worse, they may crash into each other and if they hit the ball at all, it will go way out of bounds. With more advanced players, assuming they are right-handed, the player on the right will take the ball, but both will have to concentrate on what to do, and the return may be short, giving you a big advantage.
For advanced players, assuming they are both right-handed, you might place the ball a bit to your left of the centerline. This will make it difficult for the opponents to know who should return it.
If you are fairly new to pickleball, you might think this degree of precision is difficult, and you’re right. It is. However, with practice, you can usually return a serve fairly close to the middle, and close to the baseline. Oh sure, as you learn this return, you’ll send some balls too far back, and others will be so short that the opponents can return it severely diagonally, or in some other tricky manner. But, you’ll find it is easier to learn than dropshots from the back court.
When playing up to approximately the 4.0 level, you can send most of these deep returns with a strong, fast, and low slice or backspin. At higher levels of play, that will not have much effect, but will make it harder for you to get to the kitchen in time, so while returning deep and to the center is still important, a high, loopy return is just fine, and probably even better.
It is interesting to watch intermediate opponents with a deep, center return-of-serve. They wonder what you are doing, that they are having so much trouble with the third shot, and often don’t figure it out on their own.