So there you are having a nice, soft little rally in the non-volley zone. You hit it softly, possibly diagonally to your opponent. Your opponent hits softly back. You are both waiting for the other to make a mistake. The mistake might be that you’ve driven your opponent too far out of position. More likely, the opponent hits the ball just a little too high, enabling you to smash it to his feet. But not this time. Sorry. Your opponent is just too consistent. If this rally doesn’t end soon, it will be you who makes the mistake. So what can you do?
You can try some rotten pickleball.
Here’s the trick: When the ball comes to you just a bit too low to smash offensively with a forehand swing as a passing shot or to your opponent’s shoes, there is still a powerful thing that you can do. You can purposely slam the ball to your opponent’s upper body. Purposely hitting a player is called “tagging.” This might be a shot that could go way out of bounds if the opponent wasn’t in the way. The opponent probably can’t get out of the way fast enough. The opponent almost certainly can’t get the paddle in a position to return the ball. As the ball bounces randomly off your opponent, you win the point.
However, besides being just plain rotten (but often executed in pickleball anyway), this move is a bit dangerous. You could hit the opponent in the eye with the ball. The opponent could hit himself with his paddle, pull a muscle, or fall down. I have even seen a player get cut on a finger by a ball sufficiently to draw blood. That’s right, the balls can develop sharp edges, especially if used outdoors on rough surfaces. A caveman before the iron age would be happy to have such a sharp tool as the edge of a hole on a worn pickleball.
Although hitting a player on purpose is not good citizenship in recreational pickleball, it is just ‘business as usual’ in competitive play.
In case hitting people isn’t rotten enough, another tactic is to rally exclusively with the weaker player on an opposing team. If the opposition consists of a strong player and a weak player, give all your attention to the weak player until you win the rally. The strong player will not have to work very hard, only staying alert in case you make a mistake and actually give a ball to her. At the same time, the weaker player will get lots more practice. So, you could say that this rotten tactic quickly strengthens the weaker player. And that’s a good excuse to use this technique, don’t you think?
Again, this is not a friendly strategy in recreational play, but considered just fine in serious competition.