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What Is a Drop Shot in Pickleball?

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By Jacob Jackson

The drop shot is an important strategic shot in the sport of pickleball. It allows players to mix up the pace of a rally after a series of fast-paced baseline exchanges. Executed properly, the pickleball drop shot can be used both offensively to win a point outright or defensively to extend a rally and reset to neutral.

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How Drop Shots Work

A drop shot in pickleball involves gently tapping the ball just over the net so that it lands shallowly in the opponent’s court before they have time to retreat backward. This is achieved with a short, compact swing downward on the ball with an almost punching motion to create backspin. The backspin, when combined with the delicate power on the drop shot, causes the ball to stop and even reverse direction upon bouncing instead of taking off at a sharp angle.

Ideally for the player hitting the drop, the opponent will still be positioned near the non-volley zone line or baseline when the ball floats over the net. If they cannot sprint forward fast enough, they will be unable to make solid contact on what is essentially a changeup pitch in baseball coming in slow and sinking compared to standard drives. This either forces opponents into weak return attempts that can be smashed for winners or causes unforced errors when they cannot adjust in time.

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When to Execute a Drop Shot

Pickleball players will usually set up a drop shot by first establishing consistent, deep drives back and forth. After this baseline attrition pulls opponents backward and settles them into expecting pace, mixing in a drop shot can toy with expectations. The main opportunities to attempt a drop shot include:

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  • After multiple long rallies where fatigue sets in and reactions get duller
  • On higher bouncing balls near midcourt that can be redirected gently
  • When opponents are unbalanced after being pulled wide by the previous shot
  • On balls sitting up begging to be smashed hard…and then feinting a smash before dropping

Essentially any scenario where the opponents seem entrenched in defense and retreating is ripe for a drop shot intervention. Pulling them into no man’s land and handcuffing their mobility is the end goal.

Proper Drop Shot Technique

Correct technical execution of drop shots includes:

  • Keeping the grip loose to feel the delicate touch required
  • Using very little backswing and letting the ball drop at contact point
  • Making clean contact out in front with paddle face angled slightly downward
  • Maintaining symmetrical balance and body control throughout motion
  • Following through softly with precise directional aim toward open spaces
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Mastering touch, finesse, and responsive hands takes repetitions of drop shot practice to groove muscle memory. But once engrained, this shot provides welcome surprises to counterpunchers.

Risks and Rewards

Attempting drop shots does entail risks, which is why mixing them opportunistically into rallies at calculated moments works best. By floating the ball slowly over the net, players intrinsically increase chances of hitting the net or popping the ball up as a sitter. So avoiding overusing drops against adept opponents who will pounce on any midcourt gifts is wise.

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But executed with precision against defense-leaning opponents, a drop shot unleashes substantial upside in scoring chances. The sight of rivals flailing at change of pace deliveries for futile reactions or exasperated expressions from being toyed with is satisfying. More tangibly, even 50% conversion of drop shot attempts into weak returns that can terminated is a healthy ratio. Sneaky drop shots are all about disrupting expectations and transitions.

FAQs

Are pickleball drop shots more effective from the baseline or non-volley zone?

Generally drop shots work best when hit on the move from near the baseline, as deeper positioning hides intentions and makes it tougher for opponents to respond in time.

What paddle or grip helps most with pickleball drop shot control?

Paddles with composite faces – especially those textured to grab the ball – give best control on pickleball drop shots. Using a paddle altered to your grip style also assists fine touch.

Conclusion

Among pickleball’s array of strokes, the drop shot stands out as singular in its ability to interrupt pace and transition gameplay from offense to defense or vice versa. Deft directional changes off high bouncing midcourt balls can toy with expectations when mixed craftily into rallies. While mastery of drop shots takes honing soft hands, this finesse shot is a staple pickleball players use to catalyze scoring opportunities against defensive opponents. Much like a pitcher with an elusive changeup, drop shots make power hitters overcommit as they struggle adjusting to spins and speeds outside their comfort zone.

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